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PLM 101: An Intern’s Perspective on Product Lifecycle Management & Other Navel Gazings

Hazing interns is strictly prohibited in many firms. Activities rivaling fraternal rituals that were once so much fun—covering understudies with honey and staking them near a mound of fire ants—no longer are looked upon with favor. Sad, huh?

Luca Pasquesi is a college intern. Heck, he’s our college intern. He previously possessed a chaste, unspoiled view of the virtues of PLM. Sequoia tall, with brutish good looks further chiseled from years of collegiate water polo, his quiet demeanor belied his incandescent intellect. In a moment of weakness however, and after much taunting, HR allowed us to force him to write a blog and undergo the follow-on humiliation, which accompanies all first-timers. Upon removing his mouse from the Jell-O mold from which it was entombed, he began writing a refreshingly, non-prejudiced perspective on PLM. Here’s his story.

Arena_InternWhen I arrived at Arena, I had little knowledge of the actual impact that Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) had on product companies. And, precious few ‘care’ lines crossed my face. If truth be known, at first glance it all seemed a bit boorish—but hey—I’m fresh out of college so most things bore me.

Product companies all have goals. Good companies set the bar high, but great ones continually attain their goals and set new ones, ever improving, leapfrogging their way to success. A major strategic goal that would probably make everyone’s list is reaching a global scale.

A cloud-based PLM solution’s ability to help companies scale was one of the first of many benefits I discovered. A serious ‘Bwa-Hah’ moment, mind you. Some less obvious, but equally beneficial impacts a PLM solution has on a product company can be found within its supply chain.

Before the advent of the cloud, communication across the globe had been extremely difficult, like a giant game of old-school ‘telephone’. A cloud-based PLM has world flattening implications. Since all players are connected in the cloud, distance doesn’t matter anymore—as long as an Internet connection exists. Boom. You’re doing business.

The connectivity allows for not only unprecedented information visibility throughout the company but additionally permeates to suppliers… and the suppliers’ suppliers. I would have gotten my chops busted big time in college English for using the same word twice in a row like that—but in some strange way it all makes sense in the mystical world of PLM. Go figure.

With a cloud solution, personnel and resources can be deployed globally in a way that significantly reduces monetary and quality costs. Quasi instantly. When these barriers are broken down, or eliminated, ambitious companies that set out to reach a global scale do just that.

The formalization of change processes allows suppliers to stay updated on the myriad of engineering changes so they can better prepare to iterate and round out a prototype. It should come as no surprise that making life easier for suppliers strengthens relationships, and eases the pains associated with outsourcing.

Next, I asked myself how does a PLM solution strengthen the relationship with the key players that really keep a product company in business? This question occurred to me at the conclusion of a lengthy lunch on ‘Thirsty Thursdays’. I started to think in terms of a metaphor.

Basically, a product company is one big machine. Sometimes machines experience hitches, or hiccups that delay production, and really frustrate whoever is waiting for the end result. Like sand in the gears. In the case of a product company, it’s the customer who is waiting. Think of a PLM solution as the oil that keeps the company’s internal machinery running smoothly. Customers get exactly what they want. Exactly when they want it. What a concept.

After exploring the benefits of PLM to the supply chain, I was curious to learn more about how a company employs a PLM solution. My copious learnings produced two words: streamlined processes. As I read case studies and poured over the many testimonial success stories (sometimes as late as five o’clock) I learned every customer’s story highlighted how Arena’s PLM solution streamlined not just one thing—but everything. Simultaneously. It was the glue. The glue that kept things from otherwise becoming a flying garage sale.

One case study noted how PLM solutions slashed ECO cycle times by as much as 90%. With reduced ECO cycle times, time to market for a product is also cut down, significantly reducing long product development cycles. Companies that can introduce a cutting edge product fast and without errors have a distinctive competitive advantage. That whole ‘First Mover’ thing they harped on in school.

In addition, come to find out—quality is kind of a big deal. Apparently that just doesn’t happen on its own… like my bed being made when I’m at home for example. PLM streamlines an OEM’s ability to meet compliance standards. Many product companies face the looming impediment of regulatory compliance. The rigor and automation involved with a PLM solution streamlines the compliance process, saving time and allowing focus to be placed on more pressing, core business tasks.

I found that a PLM solution allows a product company to overcome the burdens of time consuming manual processes, minimizing administrative work and eliminating the need for an IT management team.

That’s it. That’s my perspective. Now. Can someone please unlock the bacon smoker door and let me out.