engineers in workshop

How PLM Process Experts Contribute to Improving NPI

Lionel Grealou Operations PLM 3 minutes

engineers in workshop
Image Credit: PEXEL

Every industrial manufacturer has their New Product Introduction process framework to control how product are developed: from design to engineering, manufacturing and transition to service or maintenance repair and overhaul. NPI / NPD processes are more than just project or program management frameworks; they are a blueprint of how to bring an idea to life through a structured approach to manage complexity, from ideation to market launch.

NPI processes are cross-functional and vary based on the industry, the product and the company. PLM process experts play key roles in designing new processes, translating business requirements into functional requirements. They contribute to align expectations and maximize value from using a given PLM platform. 

In this post, I elaborate on how industry process experts contribute to defining and improving NPI.

By design, out-of-the-box PLM solutions are the product innovation ‘data backbones’ for NPI process realization, and how it connected to the wider enterprise (there is no such thing as “standalone PLM” tools).

PLM is an operating model and a platform covering across many business needs, dimensions, functional, integration, technical and non-technical layers.

(virtual+digital, 2015)

These elements, mapped to PLM platform capabilities, represent the foundations of product development and manufacturing engineering; and beyond reaching to many other business functions. They cover integrated processes to manage requirements, BOM, materials, documents, CAD, systems engineering, risks and issues, digital manufacturing to supplier collaboration, quality control, non-compliance, CAPA, FMEA, etc.

It is essential for business teams to understand how new products are introduced in industry, comparing OOTB platform capabilities in order to align to core operating principles of the selected platform:

  • Logical structure and object relationship: understanding data modularity and traceability
  • Embedded workflows and embedded processes: understanding process flexibility and adaptability
  • Licensing model: understanding how to combine business capabilities
  • Learning curve: understanding transition complexity

Understanding data modularity and traceability

Process experts are well aware about the importance of data traceability to foster innovation and collaboration. Each PLM and ERP platform rely on a number of inter-related “objects” with business and technical attributes to identify them in context of a given product usage. Some business logic is typically pre-embedded in such processes and tools; such logic relies on data modularity with the ability to adopt the relevant capability and adjust certain parameters or behaviors based on the industrial and organizational context.

Process experts typically work on this topic with business SMEs and solution architects.

Understanding process flexibility and adaptability

Process experts are industry-minded: they understand the importance to assess how an organization currently operates and its culture towards change. They can assess how flexible and open minded an organization can be, whether it is likely to change it processes to align to OOTB processes or likely to expect tool changes. Functional experts play a key role in helping business and implementation teams to align on the required trade-offs and understand education requirements to maximize value from the change.

Process experts typically work on this topic with business SMEs, HR representatives, and solutions architects.

Understanding how to combine business capabilities

Process experts can align business process requirements to PLM tool capabilities and how they relate to the required licenses: this is a critical point to understand product licensing cost and balance with value from such capabilities. Most exhaustive PLM platforms have pricing models based on capability scope usage, which can also combine with data usage or user access (pricing models differ based on the vendor, rental vs perpetual license model, the scope of the solution, infrastructure and cloud models, etc.).

Process experts typically work on this topic with business leads and SMEs, vendor SMEs, product owners and project managers.

Understanding transition feasibility

Process experts must also understand data and other implication from functional changes: from initial data quality, current adherence to process and delivery governance to data-process alignment post improvement. This typically relates to how data is migrated or how historical data is used in context of new processes; there could be data gaps or process changes which imply that the old and the new processes might need to co-exist for a transition period. Data cleansing expectations must remain realistic, especially with historical information that is business frozen and linked to compliance regulation.

Process experts typically work on this topic with business leads and SMEs, vendor SMEs, solution architects and project managers.

This post is not an exhaustive list of activities or duties of process experts, neither was it intended to review in detail all process elements that constitute NPI frameworks.

What are your thoughts?


This post was originally published on Momentum-PLM on 27 November 2020.

Disclaimer: articles and thoughts published on v+d do not necessarily represent the views of the company, but solely the views or interpretations of the author(s); reviews, insights and mentions of publications, products, or services do neither constitute endorsement, nor recommendations for purchase or adoption. 

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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