Too Hard to Adopt PLM? Find Ways to Make It Easier

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Product lifecycle management (PLM) systems are too complicated, too expensive, and take too long to implement. That’s what I said last month in a blog post. However, more and more companies find that adopting PLM is an unavoidable route to take regardless how many obstacles ahead. Can companies find ways to adopt PLM more easily and faster? After listening to Lectra’s introduction to its Easy Start PLM implementation approach, I think I’ve found some answers.

Late last month, I had a chance to visit Lectra’s development center. Amongst many introductory sessions I was given, there was one for Lectra’s PLM implementation approach—Easy Start. The presentation was given as if I was a Lectra customer on the pre-implementation stage. Below is my reflection on the presentation in the context of how to make PLM adoption easier.

Realistically define the project scope

The life cycle perspective has made PLM a complicated system with so many functionality modules that perhaps no single organization has ever implemented all of them. It is true that the full potential of PLM can’t be achieved unless you can manage the entire life cycle of a product. However, to early adopters, I think the 80-20 rule might be applicable here—the crucial 20 percent of the PLM functionality may bring you 80 percent of the benefits of adopting PLM and help secure the bottom line of your business. The remaining 80 percent of functionality delivers 20 percent of the benefits and helps differentiate excellent companies from the rest.

Although Lectra Fashion PLM is a quite comprehensive solution, I had the feeling that for the first stage of PLM adoption, Lectra didn’t want to push its customers to buy everything it is capable of offering. Instead, Lectra is more interested in prioritizing customers’ system requirements and creating a clear and relatively small implementation scope.

Look for the right expertise

It is quite obvious that you need to select the right PLM provider with the expertise that you need. However, this task might not be as simple as you thought. Today’s PLM solutions have become more industry specific. On top of generic PLM frameworks, many PLM vendors are now working deeply in industry verticals to address the specifics related to product features and business processes. Besides industry expertise, implementation resources (codified knowledge in the forms of documentation and tools to facilitate implementation) and experiences (tacit knowledge accumulated through implementation projects) are also critical to a successful adoption.

As for Lectra, the company is able to embed the expertise acquired through its long-time involvement in the fashion industry into its implementation services. Within the Easy Start package, Lectra’s data preparation and process configuration tools, as well as pre-loaded libraries for colors, care symbols, stitches, and so on are all quite impressive. In addition, Lectra is very prudent in selecting implementation partners. Last year, Lectra established an exclusive, worldwide partnership with Walter Wilhelm Associates LLC (WWA)—a unique consulting organization that specializes in streamlining processes and assessing and optimizing PLM in the apparel, footwear, and associated retail industries.

Foresee and keep your commitment

Another aspect being emphasized during the Easy Start introduction was the commitment that Lectra recommended its customers should make. Lectra wants to make sure that at the very beginning of the implementation, customers already know who should be involved and to what extent.

Unlike the “turnkey” approach, heavy customer involvement throughout the entire implementation cycle is quite demanding to adopters. The benefit, however, is that lifetime engagement facilitates the knowledge transfer from the implementer to the user in an incremental manner thus shortening the implementation cycle and benefiting the post-implementation improvement.

Since Lectra’s PLM solution focuses on the fashion and retail industries only, it is not representative of the entire PLM field. However, I think that the above three points are applicable to PLM adoptions in other industries as well.  What do you think? What else you have done or you think should be done to ease the PLM adoption?
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