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Nimble Storage’s PLM Manager Shares PLM Best Practices

Based in San Jose, California, Nimble Storage designs and manufacturers flash-optimized hybrid storage solutions that integrate the speed of solidstate storage with the efficiency of high-capacity hard disks. Michelle Lee is Nimble Storage’s product lifecycle management (PLM) project manager; she’s involved in the entire product lifecycle from engineering design to end of life with customers and contract manufacturers domestically and overseas alike.

She is a PLM superstar.

Her ability to foster a tight-knit culture of innovation — focused on reinventing storage for the next-generation datacenter — has been a driving force for the company’s great success.

To enable the company to continue developing groundbreaking storage, backup and protection solutions, Lee required a PLM solution to solve the company’s key growth challenges. To do this, she needed to demonstrate company compliance with a system that could generate “evidence files”; she also needed a way to designate auto-numbering attributes by category to ease the integration with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system; and finally, Lee needed to ensure contract manufacturers (CM) were working from the most current bill of materials (BOM). While true, Lee chose Arena PLM to succeed; however, to maximize her investment in Arena’s PLM solution, Lee employed some best practices that any manufacturer could benefit from.

We recently sat down with Lee and asked her to elaborate on her secret PLM best practices. Below is the first of a three-part series.

Arena: One of the best practices I’ve heard you discuss is related to Item Numbering and Category Association, which gives you the ability to set up special attributes to those categories.

Lee: Not every category is a finished good. Not every category is a raw material.

I am able to put the fields required for those types of materials so that when they go through the integration to my ERP system it is automatically populated in a corresponding manner. So I don’t have to touch it again. It goes right to the ERP system, picks up the part, and functional attributes within the item master reporting to finance, sales, logistics, procurement, and planning.

Bill of materials product information that you have to build the product from also contains references of process instructions and test instructions. These items that are referenced don’t have any material impact for planning and the product themselves. People can search within a category and find things a lot easier because each is associated to their corresponding category part number. I have a three-digit item number that is assigned to the category itself. There may or may not be special attributes for those. Some items might need ECCNs (export control classification numbers) or weights, or dimensions. Sometimes I might need their pertinent logistic information–like weights or dimensions. So when we ship, we know exactly what is going out the door.

Arena: How does this benefit the transfer of data from your PLM to your ERP system?

Lee: The logistic information, with the tariff numbers for example, comes right out on our sales order. This way people know what tariff number is associated so that when it goes through exporting or importing, all that pertinent information is already on our sales order for easy reference. Simplicity equals being efficient and smart.

For some of the information assigned to our top-level products their matching information populated within Arena PLM. It then moves seamlessly over into the ERP system, so it populates the sales order, which of course goes out as the product is shipped. All that information is already there—right at your fingertips. Nobody has to do any investigation or digging around to understand which ECCN it is. What tariff number it is. How much it weighs. It’s all right there.

Tune in next week for more best practices from Michelle Lee. In the meantime, if you’re interested in learning how Arena PLM helped Nimble Storage achieve business success check out our case study.