If You Have Design Data, You Need PLM

The most important tool in the design and engineering world is not what you might think. 

It’s not terribly sexy and some people consider it an inconvenient waste of time.  But make the devastating and costly mistake of losing revisions and data once, and you'll see why Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tools are essential for the design process. 

Plm Wordle Orig

We all have stories of lost (or confused!) revisions and data: Someone accidentally deletes some of your data files while you're on vacation. Or the wrong revision gets distributed for an important meeting without a record or indicator in any system that changes were taking place or even approved. Or even worse, an old revision makes it out onto the shop floor, parts are manufactured and subsequently scrapped—because they're obsolete. Poof! Months of work goes down the tubes. 

"The lifeblood of successful product development is the collaborative, unified management of this information. When it goes missing, time and money do too."

These are the simple facts for any PLM system: 

  • PLM is a software application aka “tool” that helps manage all the processes, applications, and information required to design, manufacture, and support a product throughout its lifecycle.   
  •  The goal is to provide a single, common interface for managing and accessing all data within an organization.  In doing so, you will be able to maintain a single source of design data, which will reduce errors and rework, produce accurate BOMs and quickly view models, (which is especially useful for verification when reviewing changes).   Basically, one software application to manage everything for a project.  One login and password that gives you access to the information you need depending on what “Group” and “Role” you have in the system.   
  • You will also simplify finding and distributing data to those who need it along with, most importantly, having revision control and assurance of latest data.  In a PLM system, you CANNOT duplicate a part number.  Once it’s created in the system that will be the only number like it that you can search and find.  Unlike an unmanaged environment where part numbers and files are copied over and over again across the network in multiple locations that creates confusion on which file is the “latest and greatest”.  Stop the madness! 
  • Other beneficial attributes are being able to manage data from multiple CAD systems in a single, integrated environment and transitioning more successfully from 2D CAD to 3D CAD.   Many designersand engineers are very fluent in many CAD systems these days and depending on the project and customer partnership you may be working with all kinds of CAD data.  A good PLM system can manage all the flavors of CAD data and make collaboration very easy. 
  • And finally one of the most important traits of any PLM system: securing design data while facilitating access by authorized personnel and maintaining the history of a product’s development evolution.  Each user accessing the database is assigned a “Group” and “Role” and can only access the data and do the tasks that are defined for the Group and Role.  There is always sensitive information in a database that needs to be restricted to certain users.  But there’s also so much information related to a project and you want to control what people see.  Especially on the shop floor, when you only want the user to see the latest drawing revision that is released for manufacturing.   This is one of the big reasons to have PLM. 

The dust is flying, ideas are coming fast and they need to be captured and implemented.  Prototypes need to be made and tested.  Drawings need to be redlined in the workshop, changes made in engineering applications, digital files approved and then--- the cycle begins again until the product is idealized and ready for mass production.  Sometimes it happens later than sooner because of avoidable data management blunders.  
The time is now to lay down a good foundation for your design process.  

So, designers and engineers, do yourself a favor and get with it.  PLM that is!  Things are moving too fast these days to think you can keep everything straight in your head for any period of time.  Product Data Management: Love it and squeeze it and call it your own.  Give some PDA to PLM and with some TLC there will be no more SNAFUs.   

In the end, something that sounds so boring will be celebrated as the reason you were able to work so fast and nimble and beat the competition.  

Brian Garcia

With more than 17 years on the Acuity team, Brian brings a deep expertise to helping clients select their software, deploy it and ensure that it’s working well for their needs. He is a Siemens Certified Professional on I-DEAS/TDM to NX/Teamcenter migrations, as well as a Siemens Certified Professional on Teamcenter.