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Reduce Technical Overhead With PLM & BOM In The Cloud

Company XYZ is a relatively young manufacturer of a smart watch. While they developed their first iteration of their product using a homegrown product lifecycle management (PLM) system, based on a combination of Excel spreadsheets and paper documents that get input by the summer intern, they are quickly realizing that to take on the likes of Apple and Samsung, they need to figure out ways to iterate faster and ensure top-notch quality in not on the hardware, but also the firmware that helps run it.

XYZ needs better PLM, but they’re struggling to wrap their minds around the various options, what features they need and what are nice value-adds, the cost of implementation and maintenance, and the complexity of implementing something new versus keeping their old (outdated) system.

In years past, the standard option was to find a PLM provider that could offer traditional software that XYZ would install on their internal servers and access via their intranet, or, perhaps, a VNC. When set up and maintained properly, these systems operate brilliantly, and allow businesses to engage the product lifecycle faster and more accurately than ever before. But set up and maintenance are some of the biggest problems. XYZ’s staff, for all their technical expertise, aren’t experts in databases and security, which means they would have to hire additional staff to make sure their IP is secure and the PLM actually works.They could also train-up current staff to meet those demands, but classes are expensive and startups only have so much time. Some PLM providers would provide technical support and maintenance for a fee, but that means waiting for technical support to field concerns, and, in the worst-case scenario, having to wait for someone to show up at XYZ’s office to engineer a fix.

If XYZ went this route, everything might work out swimmingly. Costs might be higher than they’d like, but they would get a PLM system that would help them iterate faster and more accurately through bill of material (BOM) management. Might is a critical word, however—the system could equally fall apart, or cost enough as to be untenable.

The more modern-day solution involves finding a cloud-based PLM solution that offers everything the standalone version does, but without the need for installation. In fact, the cloud-based solution operates is a software-as-a-service (SaaS), which means it can go live as soon as XYZ and the PLM provider come to an agreement on the plan that works best. There are no downloads or .exe’s to install on company hardware. Because all the technical aspects of running the software—think security and managing data bases and other critical infrastructure—is offloaded to the PLM provider, XYZ won’t have to hire new people or train anyone beyond the basic functions of BOM management tools.There’s almost no maintenance or cost of ownership, because the platform is maintained by the provider—if the plan includes upgrades, XYZ will receive them automatically as they’re made available.

How are cloud-based PLM vendors able to offer these benefits? It’s primarily because they can take advantage of economies of scale by partnering with other cloud providers and large data centers, and have hired key talent in security and database administration. Instead of managing many different individual installations, their software engineers can focus on delivering meaningful updates to the PLM in the form of security patches and new features.

If XYZ goes with the cloud-based PLM solution, and they’ll find that they’re actually reducing technical overhead because of the greater efficiency to BOM management and engineering change orders. That intern, who was wasting their summer doing data entry, could start spending their time doing research on fashion trends to help design a swappable band with different designs that customers will love.

But the technical benefits of cloud PLM are greater than the installation and maintenance process, however. Because the chosen solution resides on the cloud, it’s infinitely more flexible—XYZ might choose, for example, to implement PLM for a specific change process, like engineering change orders, which would be less expensive than the full-on system that a bigger company might require. In addition, the PLM comes with more options for the number of software licenses, subscriptions, which lowers the cost to XYZ but also gives them the flexibility to expand if need be.

What about mobility? A traditional PLM system could be made mobile-capable, but that would require additional infrastructure and more skilled technical staff. A cloud PLM is automatically mobile-friendly, because it’s device-agnostic, and users access it the same way, no matter where they are or what device they’re using—even, let’s say, a prototype XYZ smart watch.

No business is too early in their lifespan to start thinking about the benefits that PLM can offer—from low cost to the capacity to help push to market faster, it’s a clear solution that will ensure getting a solid product in front of not only more venture capitalists, but more happy customers.

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