PLM is about Continuous Improvement

Lionel Grealou PLM, Strategy 1 Comment


PLM (Product Life-cycle Management) is a popular strategy to deliver improved business performance and achieve competitive advantage. In broad terms, PLM is about getting access to the right information needed to support process execution and helping people make informed and timely decisions to carry out the life-cycle of the product (whatever their role is and across all enterprise functions). It is more about process, data and people than purely enabling software. Gartner defines PLM as “cultivating a discipline for guiding products and product portfolios, from ideas, through retirement and across generations of products, to continuously create the most value for businesses, their partners and their customers.”

Many have embarked onto deploying a range of solutions to eliminate waste, reduce time to market, accelerate Product Realization, improve collaboration, manage product and process change and open innovation.

Business value typically comes from:

  • ‘Enablement’, e.g. introducing new capability or capacity, enabling new business, delivering new products, etc.
  • Improvement, e.g. improving existing products, removing non-value-add, reducing administration, focusing on creation and innovation, improving throughput, optimizing delivery, etc.

Most PLM challenges reside in project implementation:

  • Like many other business improvement initiatives, most PLM implementations are in the form of multi-step continuous improvement Kaizen projects (as per Deming’s PDCA cycle: Plan-Do-Check-Act).
  • PLM implementation planning is not different from any other business change initiatives; planning is important to prepare all the necessary pre-requisites for the implementation phase. Nevertheless, the main challenge is not with the planning, but with the execution.
  • Many argue about the ‘reasonable’ amount of planning required before the implementation starts; too much detailed planning can also be a burden… At the end, PLM benefits are realized from successful implementations, no matter how accurate or detailed the plan was at the beginning.
  • The plan is likely to evolve during the PLM implementation, no matter how complex or detailed the initial business case.
  • Planning is not just a one-off and continues during the implementation phase (part of change management).
  • Implementation entails doing everything that is supposed to yield the desired result.

PLM transformational projects typically focus on more ‘radical changes’ (Kaikaku), hence require more planning and stakeholder engagement than continuous improvement initiatives. Nevertheless, they might also encompass successive PDCA cycles during their implementation, such as in an ‘agile’ approach. However, Kaizen is not a goal in itself, only a mean to get things done in an incremental manner.

What are you thoughts?


This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 2 February 2015.