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Arena Takes the Screams out of PLM Implementations

Arena SullyFor many manufacturing companies, the nightmares associated with product lifecycle management (PLM) implementations can keep operations managers up late at night. Haunted by the screams heard across the organization as teams struggled to manage a monstrously complicated PLM implementation, operations managers often shudder in remembrance of these horror stories.

Think this is a ghost tale?

PLM blogger Oleg Shilovitsky reveals, “One of the most painful topics in PLM is related to implementations. Let me be more specific. PLM implementation is combined with several steps – installing a system, setting up data model, importing legacy data and implementing business workflows…where things are getting very complicated.”

In the movie Monsters Inc., Sully, who is the factory’s top “scarer”, soon realizes that children’s laughter — not screams — are many times more powerful (and beneficial) to the company’s success. Similarly, Arena with our own Sully (solution consultant Mike Sullivan) have long since strived for easy PLM implementations that make customers smile instead of cry. And that’s resulted in better business.

Arena’s patented laugh extractor is a cloud-based SaaS solution that has completely removed the horror from implementations. Cloud PLM is so easy to implement that in many instances, you can be up and running in days rather than months, which elicits giggling and tears of joy  through an organization.

What follows is part one of a two-part interview with Arena’s Sully, who is less blue and hairy than his Monsters Inc. namesake. Arena’s Sully offers thoughts about the key best practices for PLM implementations.

Arena: When implementing a PLM system should you have a project lead?

Sullivan: Absolutely. Select an overall Project Manager to lead the implementation. This person will work closely with the PLM vendor’s Project Manager/Solution Architect to clearly communicate goals, tasks, resources, priorities, and schedule. Having a good Project Manager is one of the keys to a successful implementation.

Select other core team members to actively participate in the implementation. These should be “subject matter experts” for the functional areas and processes alike, that will be affected by the new PLM system. Possible representation should include Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Procurement/Sourcing/Supply Chain, Project Management, Quality, Manufacturing, Regulatory, and Document Control. Some team members may represent multiple disciplines.

From the core team, identify who will be your initial PLM Administrator and ‘Super-Users’.  These people will not only be intimately involved in the implementation but also learn its administration and usage. They will be your champions of this initiative to aid in the assimilation process and selling it internally. These will be “go-to” people involved in end-user training and ongoing internal support for the new PLM application.

Arena: How important is it for a company to sell PLM internally?

Sullivan: Very important. Another key to success is managing Organizational Change Management. PLM may replace another commercial system, an internally developed system, or be a brand system that fills in critical gaps in your existing processes (or lack thereof). Communicating status and selling the benefits of the new PLM system from the beginning will be key to garnering internal acceptance, usage, and minimizing resistance to change.

Decide at the beginning of the project what your internal communication strategy will be, how to communicate (email, newsletter, intranet posts), frequency, and content. Selling the new system along the way will grease the skids to short and long-term success.

This, of course, goes hand in hand with end user training, discussed in the next blog post.

Arena: Discuss the best of the best practices when implementing PLM.

Sullivan: Implementing PLM will not in itself solve all your problems. A PLM system implemented with poor practices or processes may only serve to highlight the pain and/or automate the creation of the same types of problems you had hoped to address. As part of the implementation, take to time to review all processes for areas of improvement. Your key team members should learn all they can about the new PLM system to evaluate how it can be deployed to emulate “best practices”.

Your PLM vendor has years of experience working with customers in your industry, and will be knowledgeable in best practices vs. worst practices. Leverage their experience as much as possible during the project for the best possible result.

Hear those laughs? That’s the sound of innovative product companies — both large and small — expressing joy over the easy implementation of their cloud-based PLM solution.