PLM Won't Solve Your Team Design Challenges

CoLab Team

October 26, 2018


min read

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) technology has become a universal platform for creating a streamlined product development process, particularly at the enterprise level. PLM is a powerful, and largely effective tool for storing official documentation, managing cross-functional workflows, and ensuring secure access to information, but its creating challenges for companies that rely on it: PLM is rarely effective for collaboration on day-to-day tasks, reviews and iterations.

A study by Valery Merminod and Eric Blanco for the International Product Development Management Conference concluded that “...PLM facilitates project management but has a limited value for daily collaborative work especially during the preliminary design phase”.

Why? Well it all comes down to the fundamental structure of PLM. PLM software creates and defines standard workflows, but design is a fluid process, and in an attempt to introduce standardization, PLM becomes rigid and cumbersome for use on a daily basis. The early stages of the design process involve rapid iteration, and the tools that support this process must allow for that same agility. According to a post from WhichPLM, “One of the biggest drawbacks of PLM tools for creative design teams is the restrictive nature of the underlying structure… The end result is that designs are not put into a PLM system until they are almost complete, creating extra work for the design teams, while preventing other teams from offering assistance early in the design process”.

So how do technical teams respond? They look outside PLM for their daily collaboration needs. Merminod and Blanco’s study found that “there are few iterations on the preliminary draft objects through PLM...We often observe in design teams 5 or 6 pages (of) email that supported a specific problem resolution.”. When daily use of PLM breaks down, design teams turn to lightweight, simple tools for day to day like spreadsheets, screenshots, and emails, which in the moment, can often get the quick response they need, but in the long term, results in problems.

The use of spreadsheets, screenshots, and emails are staples in the preliminary stages of design, and are often a means to bypass the structure of PLM, but they can cause serious problems for transparency, collaboration, audit trials, and more. As a result, they lead to wasted resources, and detrimental mistakes.

PLM is powerful, but there is an opportunity for a lightweight, complimentary tool for day to day that integrates into PLM to empower design teams to effectively collaborate.

Gradient, a design and issue management platform, can enable engineering teams to collaborate on their design process, and get real-time insight into issues and progress in a simple, lightweight environment. The platform acts as a common place for users to create markups, issues and action items directly on their native CAD files, with quick reference to all supporting project information. No emails. No spreadsheets. Gradient is built for collaboration, making it simple for users to share projects with all stakeholders - internal and external. Gradient will soon integrate with CAD, PDM and PLM such that it ties the information silos together in a seamless way.

PLM is essential to effective product design, but there is room for a lightweight design tool that eliminates the challenges of working from spreadsheets, screenshots and emails. Integrate your PLM with a collaborative platform built for the early stages of design, and supercharge your design process.

October 26, 2018

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