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Maturity level 1 PDM to level 5 PLM

In this featured blog our founder and MD, Mark Harrop, takes us through what he believes to be the various levels of PDM/PLM maturity, from a basic PDM solution all the way to a level 5 integrated PLM solution.

Over the past six years the team at WhichPLM has continuously sought to improve the maturity performance levels of PLM; in our first survey, back in 2010, we put a wide range of questions to over 500 PDM/PLM customers, designed to help our analyst develop KPIs linked to varying levels of PLM implementation and adoption maturity.

The outcome of this survey? What, today, we refer to as PLM solution maturity deployment successes, which can be broken down into the following 5 levels:

the initial stages, the 
focus of an organisation
 is aimed primarily at implementing the Tech-Pack (Technical Specification), or what we see as a standard PDM solution, e.g. a set of basic processes held within a PLM database, that are documented and understood by all departments, key stake-holders and users within the organisation (Headquarters).

To achieve the level 1 status, a company and their PLM supplier will implement the solution using a narrow scope that includes a basic technical specification comprising the use of external image files coming from CAD & Adobe (as two examples) solutions in the form of generic file formats – PNG, JPEG, PDF etc. The solution incorporates libraries of core data types, including colour, materials, components, packaging, images, measurements, grade increments, how to measure, testing, and supplier listings.

At level 1 the priority focus is the development of a standard method of operation that results in a Tech-Pack and is shared via a standard PDF output.

Now, an organisation begins to take full advantage of the PDM solution, but is having to manually push data between departments and Supply-Chain partners.

Once the solution is settled and in full use, the next step is to define a set of C.P. (Critical Paths) that is linked to each product type and that is now benefitting from a new way of working (re-engineered to match current best-practices). The next level of maturity is the inclusion of C.P. & Workflow automation. Once the new C.P. milestone targets have been established, it’s time to link each milestone to the product lifecycle status updates (approval process and automation triggering); once complete the business will then have progressed to a pull-push level of maturity, transforming the PDM maturity level to a fully operational PLM solution. (PLM = PDM + Critical Path + Workflow).

Advancing to a level 2 maturity will provide most businesses with significant ROI (Return On Investment) and, based upon our own implementation calculations, can expect to improve the product administration time by a factor of 15-25%: 15-25% less time wasted searching and sharing product development related data around the business.

At level 3 an organisation will have moved from a PDM solution to the deployment of a true PLM solution. The next stage is to broaden the core operating processes that we expect to see in a modern PLM solution.

At this point, the organisation must continue developing new processes, with the key focus shifting to Merchandise Planning and Creative Design execution. We would expect this level to include the ability to upload merchandise planning objectives within a PLM planning solution and to offer bi-directional integration to creative CAD tools (Adobe Suite) – or at least one-way integration once the design teams are ready to release their creative designs to the development teams.

Each organisation will have its own way of operating but they will all follow a similar process. The organisation must, at this point, start to consider a broader strategy and vision that includes all processes used within your organisation, including: Merchandise Planning – Trend Analysis – Creative Design – Marketing – Product Development –  Supplier Management – Compliance – Testing.

At this level, we would expect that the organisation will have mapped the entire end-to-end process and that they will have re-engineered each department’s processes to take advantage of a modern PLM solution.

At this level, an organisation must start to execute PLM dynamically across the entire Supply-Chain. We would expect that the organisation maintains and develops its use of PLM within its headquarters, brands, departments, offices, agents, and sourcing partners.

The organisation must start developing a differentiated approach to PLM, ensuring maximum usage across all vertical and horizontal retail operations, brands, and locations; a focus on the entire enterprise is critical in maximising overall efficiency and ROI (Return On Investment).

At this stage an organisation will have achieved the status of “best-in-class,” having moved from a basic PDM solution all the way through to a fully operational Enterprise-level PLM solution. All processes will be fully re-engineered, configured, trained, deployed and operating across the entire end-to-end Supply-Chain. The organisation will now be using B.I. (Business Intelligence) tools, developing comprehensive measurements and monitoring the solution’s continuous performance levels. And, the business will deploy an internal PLM team that will constantly optimize all processes across the entire Supply-Chain.

PLM is a multi-year journey for any and all organisations and, although we believe that every organisation should strive to attain level 5 maturity, we except that it is critical to take a step-by-step approach and focus on the areas and challenges of your business you deem priorities. This will, of course, also be dependent upon the overall process maturity of the company or its market. For instance, you cannot easily turn a basic PDM (level 1) user into a truly optimized organisation in a short period of time. You must keep in mind that any successful PLM journey includes a mix of what we like to call the 3 Ps –  People, Processes, and Products. Added to this, a business will also want to aspire to reach a level 5 maturity across all dimensions.

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