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Set your PLM implementation up for success in three easy steps

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Three easy steps to take when gearing up for PLM implementation

If you’re in the process of adopting a PLM system (or an ERP system, or a CRM system for that matter) you may be feeling a mix of excitement and apprehension.

Getting people to adopt new systems is notoriously difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. We have worked with hundreds of organizations as they embark on their PLM journey, and have three steps you can take to make your implementation stick.

Communicate the vision, early and often!

In some companies, crisis is the motivator of PLM adoption. This can actually make things easier in some ways, because the vision is clear and motivation is high as people are still reeling from lost clients, lost money and lost sleep.

But if you’re adopting PLM because of an edict from on-high, it’s much harder for busy engineers to understand why established processes and systems are changing.

Communication leads to buy-in

If you can clearly communicate why PLM will help the team, you will never have problems securing buy-in. But clear communication isn’t just something to check off your list—it must continue throughout the entire process. In a recent LinkedIn conversation about PLM implementation, Ryan McVay from Delivering Learning Solutions put it best:

“Imagine you bought the biggest and best entertainment center with a 60″ LED screen, a $1,500 receiver and a 7-speaker Bose system. Once you have defined your wiring scheme, gotten the components wired up, tested the sound settings and programmed the universal remote, all that’s left is to turn it on. Right?


Your family and friends need to be informed of what you are doing, why you are doing it, accept the changes, and get trained on the benefits and functions of the new system. If this doesn’t happen then you can count on everyone walking up to the TV, hitting the power button and completely bypassing everything you did! If this happens, your benefits, all your hard work, initial investment and future ROI are gone, gone, gone.”

As goes television set-up, so goes PLM implementation.

Cross-functional communication is key

Remember, it’s not enough that your management team understands the ‘why,’ as you move through the implementation process, make sure everyone else understands it too. When the organization as a whole knows the vision behind PLM implementation (whether it’s cost-savings or improved efficiency) people will be much more willing to make the change.

When moving your business online, start with the easy win

One of the benefits of adopting PLM is that the software automates your decision process and minimizes errors. So as you’re moving forward with your implementation, you should take a few minutes to consider what that process is before you decide how you want to capture it. (And a good vendor can assist you in this process.)

Defining your process is usually simpler than you think—start small, and continually refine as you go along.

Start with the item master and expand from there

An obvious place to start is with your item master. Once your product record is documented in a consistent and universally accessible place, it’s easier to look at measuring change, then adding request processes, then moving forward from there. Getting a single version of the truth and the correct version of all your BOMs in the system is also a great way to get the few remaining doubters to buy in.

If you can take a measured approach in phases, where you bring aspects of your business online as you are ready, the implementation will feel much more comfortable to everyone involved. Set your sights on achievable milestones, and look for an easy first win—again, in our experience, that is almost universally getting the item master in your system.

Remember—implementing a new system is a work in progress. Start small with something, and you can always change your mind later as your business grows and requirements change.

Define your process, but don’t reinvent the wheel.

While PLM implementation forces some organizations to formalize their processes, if you have a process and it’s been working for you, don’t throw it out just because you’re switching from paper to software.

Moving your current processes into your PLM system is as simple as taking your paper system and replicating it—there is no need to start over from scratch.

Don’t create bottlenecks by re-engineering your process

When moving to PLM, many organizations decide to re-engineer their change board routings because they think the software will make it easier for twice as many people to be involved. This is a reasonable idea (PLM does make it easier to quickly make changes) but adding people who don’t really need to be involved leads to hold-ups and bottlenecks.

If it’s common knowledge that the VP of engineering signs off on projects through his or her admin, set your PLM system up so that process can continue.  Always ask—when we had the paper system, who did it then?

Want more information?

I hope these recommendations from our in-house team are useful to you, and help you feel a little bit more comfortable as you move toward adopting a system to manage your product data.

If you are still evaluating systems, and are interested in getting more information about Arena BOMControl, try it out today.

About the Author

Alex Gammelgard

Alex managed social media marketing and communications at Arena from 2011 to 2012. Although coming in fresh to the manufacturing industry, Alex is married to an engineer and is well ...

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