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What Is the ROI for Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?

For CFOs, as Bob Dylan once sang, “The times are a changing.”

In today’s fast-paced bottom-line driven economy, there’s an increasing trend for CFOs to vet and even drive technology investments. The return on investment (ROI) of a smart technology is too impactful for CFOs not to be involved in these conversations.

To demonstrate why product lifecycle management (PLM) systems have increasingly caught the attention of CFOs and senior executives, we are sharing our proprietary analytics based on thousands of customers along with aggregated ROI metrics derived from studies from Aberdeen, Accenture, AMR, CIMdata, Gartner, IBM, and Oracle to provide a guideline for determining a potential range of measurable financial benefits of PLM.

Let’s take a look at ROI metrics that make a compelling business case for investing in PLM.

Manufacturing and Internal Operations

Internal operational efficiency improvements offer the clearest ROI analysis. The ability to monitor processes against milestones, including reduced engineering change order (ECO) and new product development (NPD) cycle times, accelerated time to market (TTM), and performance goals are very important to the CFO.

How so?

These process efficiency improvements are all tangible, demonstrable proof points that can be analyzed as true “financial benefits.” Here is a cross-section of some industry-specific internal efficiency ROIs:

Industry Manufacturers Internal Efficiency ROIs

Consumer Electronics

ECO cycle time reduced from 33 days to 5 days

Personal Computers

ECO cycle time reduced by 50%

ECO admin expense reduced by 60%

Medical Devices

NPD cycle time reduced by 20%

Quality efficiency increased by 40%

FDA document cycle time accelerated by 90%


Engineering admin efficiency increased by 80%

However, even after a persuasive engineering or operations manager presents these compelling findings to executives, the prudent CFO may be unlikely to open the purse strings until he or she understands explicitly how product lifecycle management ensures streamlined internal process improvements across the enterprise cross-functionally.

The answer is as simple as two words: “synchronization” and “collaboration.”

New product development (NPD) and new product introduction (NPI) require synchronization of efforts among engineering, operations, quality, manufacturing, and global supply chain teams, making sure all are on the same page—a nontrivial challenge considering the frequency of product design changes. PLM solutions provide a collaborative environment for centralizing, controlling, and analyzing complex and constantly changing product information.

Optimizing the Supply Chain

PLM not only benefits internal processes but streamlines supply chain efficiencies as well. Unfortunately, a recent report by Ernst and Young discovered all too often “too many manufacturing executives disregard supply chain optimization and its immediate and lasting impact on growth and profitability.”

But smart, strategic-minded CFOs are making a more concerted effort to team up with their supply chain counterparts to maximize efficiencies. These new allies—despite having different roles and priorities—each shares the responsibility to beat the competition and make decisions that lead to increased market share and improved profitability.

Arena has seen thousands of product companies turn to cloud-based Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) to streamline processes and optimize their supply chain for maximum business benefits. But the business value of PLM is particularly powerful when a single product development platform, which unites product development, quality management, and the underlying product record is used.

 A list of these measurable supplier optimization benefits follows:

Industry Manufacturers Supply Chain Optimization ROI

Personal Computer

Reuse improved from less than 2% to 59%

$500M savings over 3 years on direct materials

Consumer Goods

Costs for packaging reduced by 10%-20%

Direct materials spend reduced by 5%-10%

Industrial Products

$640M in materials acquisition savings potential


Material cost reduced by approximately 2%-3%

PLM enhances supplier relations and supply chain collaboration. It enables buyers to make informed purchasing decisions to comparatively shop for quotes on parts and find alternatives to expensive components with long delivery times. In addition, PLM empowers CFOs with greater visibility into their company’s key performance indicators and identify potential risks that may impact their supply chain and, ultimately, their company’s finances.

For example, Dodd-Frank, a regulation that includes strict SEC filings, will make high tech companies and their suppliers more accountable to prove they do not use any conflict minerals in their electronic components. PLM enables manufacturing executives, including CFOs working with their supply chain counterparts, to improve access and management of key contacts at every company across a high tech supply chain to better ensure compliance.

It’s a happy enterprise manufacturing world when supply chain executives and CFOs work together, jointly leveraging PLM solutions, to transform their supply chains into collaborative information-driven value chains. This world does not have to be a fantasy.

Customer Satisfaction

Rarely discussed—even by solution providers themselves—is PLM’s ability to streamline efficiencies that result in greater customer satisfaction. A list of these measurable customer satisfaction benefits follows:

Industry Manufacturers Customer Service ROIs

Wireless Transmissions

Order to manufacture cycle time reduced from 4 weeks to 1 day

Electromechanical Machinery

Customer order errors eliminated by 100%

Purchasing order cycle time reduced by 30 minutes per transaction

Sending out-of-date product records to customers eliminated by 100%


Customer RFQ to prototype cycle time reduced by 50%

CFOs and CXOs know that shipping quality products on time to customers returns higher dividends than the revenue generated by the product itself.  And that’s something that even a numbers-driven CFO can appreciate. To learn more about the total cost of ownership and ROI, check out our white paper.