how-to-choose-the-ideal-plm-solution

How to Choose the Ideal PLM Solution?

PLM software implementation is a resource-intensive process, which requires long-time commitment towards the solution and trust in the software vendor. 

This implies that selecting the ideal PLM requires preliminary activities. Before you can settle on the final solution, you must do intense research on the possible systems and find the ones that meet the pre-set group of requirements. It is important to emphasize, that as each enterprise and PLM software are different. There are generally better PLMs, but no such thing exists as “the best PLM”. A PLM solution might be the best for a given enterprise, while could not meet the requirements of another one. This is the reason why some companies tend to hire specialists for this task. 

However, you can also do this yourself by setting up some directives to guide you through selecting a feasible solution, while also saving some money on not paying external consultants. Here are 5 things to consider when selecting a PLM: 

1. Budget

First things first: what can you spend on the software and its implementation? The final prince range of PLMs can vary on a wide range, depending on different several aspects, such as: 

  • system’s base functions and features; 
  • selected additional PLM modules or add-ons;
  • number of active users in the system;
  • amount of support provided by the vendor;
  • system deployment (on-premise, cloud-based or hybrid); 
  • on the vendor itself.

It is important to decide upon the project budget early in the project, so you are not wasting time on analyzing possible solutions that the company cannot afford. Furthermore, bear in mind that most PLM implementation projects tend to exceed the estimated budget, so do not forget to calculate with some surplus when selecting and configuring the system. The same can be said about the project’s timeframe. When talking about costs, one cannot skip mentioning the difference between on-premise and cloud-based PLM solutions: 

  • For on-premise PLM software, you have to buy the software license from the vendor, then install and use it in your own system environment. This means that the user company has to invest in IT infrastructures such as servers to run. IT specialists are required too in order to maintain these software solutions. This results in high up-front and maintenance costs, but can worth it if used for 10+ years. 
  • Cloud-based PLM requires a smaller startup investment, as you do not have to buy the software license and the hardware to run it. However,  you only have to pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, depending on the used resources, such as the number of users. It is easier to plan the running cost for a cloud-based PLMs.

2. Integration Specification

One of the key features of PLM systems is the ability to be integrated with other business apps, such as ERP and CAD. This integration can allow the creation of seamless data flow from design through sales to service. However, not all PLMs are compatible with all ERP and CAD systems. It is crucial to make sure that the selected PLM supports your ERP and CAD if you want to avoid implementing a new ERP system as well. Furthermore, there are different levels of system compatibility

  • PLM software can be only connected to the ERP system with a separated connector tool;
  • Other PLM solutions are built to be compatible with most ERPs; 
  • PLMs are embedded within an ERP, meaning that they only work in that environment. You can read more about these possibilities in the whitepaper 10 Reasons Why You Need ERP-Based PLM paper. 

3. Industry Specification

Can the same PLM be a feasible solution for the food and the aerospace industry? Actually, yes: while some PLMs are specialized in a single industry, such as fashion, pharmaceutical or defense, most PLMs are rather generic solutions that are suitable for a wide range of applications. This does not mean, that these cannot be configured to fit a given industry more, but you might have to invest in different modules for that. It is still advised to ensure that the particular PLM is applicable to your company to prevent later compatibility issues.

4. Must-have functions

After excluding PLMs based on expenses, integration, and industry-specification, it is time to have a look at the functions. Although most PLMs share the same basic functions, they are scalable and modular solutions, which allows the customers to have a rather simple or a more complex system. However, more functions, modules, and add-ons mean higher system and maintenance requirements, and higher costs; thus, try to find a solution that can be customized to meet your requirementsThe more is not always the merrier: selecting a system that even exceeds your needs might not be a better solution, as having unused functions do not add value to the solution but can increase its resource needs. 

5. The Vendor itself

It was mentioned before multiple timesthat implementing in a PLM is a resource-intense investment that has high time and financial needs. Thus, when you select a PLM vendor for a long time, it is essential to find one that you can work with and which provides sufficient support during and after the project. Nowadays it is easy to find reviews and user feedbacks about nearly every vendor online. You can also get in contact with one of their partners or previous customers. However, as firsthand experience is beneficial, it is also recommended to participate in webinars or requests a demo before the decision. 

Nobody is born knowing how to use a PLM, so do not forget about the training. When selecting a vendor, do not forget to gather information about the training provided by them: some of them only provide basic material for self-training, while others might have a full e-learning system or classroom training possibilities. Furthermore, keep in mind that the system handover is not always the end of the PLM project. The contact with the vendor may be followed by after-sales servicesThese services are either provided by the vendor as a base-service (for a couple of months) or are available as an extra. Nevertheless, always be informed about your possibilities. 

Afterword

Choosing the ideal PLM solution might be a tough and stressful project. However, as PLMs are optimizing the product lifecycle by automating the non-value adding processes and increasing productivity while lowering product-related costs by providing a centralized database, it is definitely worth the investment. If you would like to work together with a PLM vendor that ensures a smooth and well-planned implementation, while also receiving a PLM solution fully embedded within your Microsoft Dynamics ERP system that also provides integration with the market-leading CAD systems, you should take a look at Bluestar PLM, by Microsoft partner vendor PDM technology.

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