Organisations face the increasing need and requirement for granular oversight and control of the entire lifecycle of the products they take to market. With dedicated skills and technologies needed to meet cost targets, evolving market conditions and the growing demands of regulation what are the core strategies needed for successful product lifecycle management?
The key to successful product life cycle management is to constantly evaluate the product’s performance, adapt to changes in the market, and implement appropriate strategies at each stage of the product’s life cycle. The product life cycle contains four distinct stages: introduction, growth, maturity and decline.
Each stage is associated with changes in the product’s marketing position. You can use various marketing strategies in each stage to try to prolong the life cycle of your products, including: Identifying product requirements; coordinating production; testing the product in different markets and strategising to meet supply needs.
PLM encompasses a product’s design, manufacturing, production, marketing, updates and more. Effective management of a product’s life cycle connects and organises the different parties involved in creating a product, improving efficiency and developing a measurable, goal-oriented process for taking an idea to market.
Product lifecycle management ensures that each product a company develops has optimal quality, profitability and customer impact. The main functions of PLM are: managing documents related to a product such as design blueprints and the bill of material; storing project data and electronic files; identifying and streamlining a specific workflow; assigning tasks to team members and controlling who has access to different product information.
PLM is one of the four key elements of a product-based company’s information technology processes, making it a prevalent concept in a range of fields such as engineering, manufacturing, transportation and sales. Administrators, team leaders and account managers all use PLM concepts to ensure they can move a product to the next stage in its development successfully.
Three stages of product lifecycle management
Product lifecycle management involves overseeing all workflow processes concurrently while also accounting for where a product is in its life cycle. Companies can implement different PLM methods that suit their particular business model, but most have three stages:
The beginning-of-life (BOL) phase oversees all activities related to conceptualising and manufacturing a product. In this phase, businesses anticipate high costs and focus on educating the consumer about their product. Some of the PLM strategies used in this phase include: identifying product requirements; coordinating production; testing the product in different markets and strategising to meet supply needs.
Middle-of-life (MOL) involves a product’s distribution, advertising and maintenance. Businesses start to experience profitability and can focus on refining their supply chain, customer interaction channels and internal human resources processes. Middle-of-life PLM methods may involve: Analysing shipping methods; generating leads for retail space or online sales channels; creating consistent and recognisable branding; maintaining customer support processes; servicing products and collecting data on customer satisfaction and product issues.
The end-of-life (EOL) phase of PLM identifies when a product stops being useful to a consumer. This phase can address whether a customer may re-purchase an item and develop strategies to make repeat purchases easier. It can also identify why a product is becoming obsolete and guide a business as it scales down marketing efforts and either reduces its investment in the product or reconfigures it to meet customer needs.
All stages of PLM are intertwined. A business’s processes for transitioning from one phase to the next, is just as important as each stage on its own. Having a clear framework in place for each stage and determining a timeline for launching new efforts creates a comprehensive product lifecycle management system and improves overall project coordination. One product undergoes the product lifecycle management phases multiple times as the conditions of its production and demand change.
Measuring the success of a PLM system
Once you have a PLM framework in place, it is important to continually evaluate its effectiveness and how it impacts the bottom line of the company. You can use a range of data points to assess whether your PLM system is contributing or detracting from company success, such as:
Lead time – The time it takes between a customer placing an order and receiving it can help you analyse delivery methods and determine how well you can meet customer demand. Product waste – Measuring how much financial, labour or material waste is associated with each product gives you an idea of your supply chain’s efficiency. Returns and claims – The volume of customer complaints, product returns and warranty claims indicate customer satisfaction and product defect rates. Excess raw materials and inventory – Identifying when you have over-ordered materials or parts can help you find places to cut costs or adjust product offerings based on actual vs. projected demand.
Benefits of product lifecycle management
All products go through a life cycle that describes their development but using product lifecycle management allows you to guide this process and exercise control over its success. Having a product lifecycle management process benefits a business in all phases of a product’s development and distribution and allows employees to stay organised and goal-oriented. Some of the primary positive impacts of product lifecycle management include:
Assisting in scaling – your PLM infrastructure keeps track of all the essential functions a company performed or may perform to get a product to the end-user. This creates a good guideline to use when scaling a business. A strong PLM process identifies any limitations to sales volumes so that businesses can predict when they may adjust their supply chain to sell more products to wider audiences.
Overcoming engineering issues – understanding the exact process and timeline for product testing and re-design allows you to identify and correct engineering problems quickly and efficiently in response to customer feedback. PLM allows companies to optimise their resources to refine their product. It also allows them to solve customer problems and differentiate themselves from competitors through high-quality engineering innovations.
Making the supply chain more efficient – one of the key functions of product lifecycle management is organising the supply chain involved in producing inventory. Identifying each step in the process through PLM allows you to identify inefficiencies and waste and seek out different supplies, manufacturers and transportation methods when needed. PLM gives businesses an overall strategy for setting up, maintaining and improving the physical movement of raw materials and finished goods.
Forecasting costs – companies estimate the costs associated with each part of a product’s life cycle during all phases of PLM. This produces a comprehensive repository of cost data that they then can use to forecast future expenses. You can use PLM processes for many types of price forecasting, from predicting seasonal fluctuations and modelling different scenarios to improving your pricing structure and identifying possible challenges.
Identifying revenue streams – comprehensive product lifecycle management has a tested framework for generating possible sales leads and new opportunities in the market. PLM facilitates the process of qualifying leads and pursuing opportunities to increase company income. This can help businesses pursue expansion more efficiently.