Analyst Insight: Since the advent of product lifecycle management, the methodology has had the vision of managing the entire lifecycle of a product. PLM software, however, hasn't come as far as the methodology advocates. But as vendors keep pushing the envelope, PLM solutions are becoming more capable of harmonizing activities beyond product design. PLM's involvement in the supply and demand chain is an area worth significant attention in the years to come.
-Kurt (Yu) Chen, research analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers
There are different angles to the advancement of PLM solutions in the supply and demand domain. From the perspective of functionality coverage, PLM continues to expand its footprint to pre- and post-design processes. In the meantime, PLM has also become a more mature platform for cross-function product collaboration.
The Expansion of PLM Functionality
PLM is expanding both upstream and downstream from the core areas where it originated. In the upstream direction, main PLM vendors keep adding functionality modules to their solution portfolios. These capabilities include ideation, requirements management, system engineering, portfolio management, and so on. Such functionality allows professionals that focus on capturing and analyzing market demands - and optimizing offerings to meet these demands - to perform their tasks based on a common data model that can be shared and reused in subsequent activities.
On the downstream side, the fusion between product development and sourcing is becoming the new norm for PLM solutions. In industries such as fashion, consumer packaged goods and retail, supply chain collaboration is now a prerequisite for a competitive PLM solution. In addition, PLM is expanding toward the ability to manage the configuration of physical products (or production variances), in order to streamline design, quotation, building and servicing activities.
A Better Platform for Product Collaboration
Today's PLM application is not only capable of doing more but also strives to perform tasks better than its predecessors. In order to obtain more cost-efficient and faster collaboration among various product stakeholders, a number of emerging technologies have been injected into PLM applications:
• Web 2.0
PLM vendors are adopting Web 2.0 technologies to facilitate informal communications within organizations, as well as to gather and distribute product knowledge from and among external parties. As a result, companies are more capable of "listening" to customers, consumers and supply chain partners.
The PLM industry has shown interest in providing better search capabilities with respect to both enterprise search and computer-aided design (CAD) model search. The significance of stronger search capabilities in a PLM setting is that product definition information is further unlocked in order to be available whenever it is needed.
• CAD visibility and interoperability
CAD data is now more accessible to a wider audience range, and friendlier to different vendors and genres (e.g., direct modeling versus parametric modeling). In the near future, supply and demand professionals can expect inexpensive CAD tools that have everything - and just enough - for them.
While some large enterprises and early adopters in smaller organizations are already enjoying the benefits of PLM penetration into the supply and demand domain, the majority of users still keep their PLM systems locked in a cage. Nevertheless, PLM is steadily heading in the direction indicated by its name. Collaboration in the supply and demand chain will be better catered to when it is powered by PLM and plugged into a holistic product collaboration platform.
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