Manufacturing is a complex industry and in the latest industrial revolution requires enterprise software solutions to support complex operations. When it comes to PLM, manufacturing companies sometimes consider it a “nice to have” application rather than the essential tool it is.

The confusion partially stems from PLM’s overlap with other enterprise software solutions. For example, ERP and PLM both offer Bills of Material (BoM). MES and PLM both have routing capabilities. A QMS system may include product specs, just as PLM does. Why not just use these other systems and forget the hassle and expense of PLM?

The answer is that none of these other systems truly offers that tools that PLM does, despite the superficial similarities. ERP’s primary mission is to manage short and long-range inventory planning. MES is designed to optimize shop floor resources by maximizing throughput and eliminating bottlenecks. QMS helps ensure regulatory compliance and audits. None of these systems is designed to optimize profitability and manage product introductions and retirements, but that’s exactly what PLM does. PLM optimizes manufacturing processes and costs stay low. Here’s how PLM improves manufacturing operations in ways your other systems can’t.

PLM includes the same tools as other manufacturing solutions but also optimizes processes and helps keep costs low.

Manage New Product Introductions

Even if your ERP offers an engineering Bill of Material and a Manufacturing Bill of Material, you don’t have the tools to truly manage new product introductions.

PLM provides tools that foster creativity and collaboration, so your team’s best ideas can be captured and shared quickly. PLM also includes simple, effective project management capabilities so you know your product introductions are on schedule—critical when time to market means the difference between profit or loss for many new products. You know if your cost estimates are on target, and your team can take the time to ensure the right components are spec’d in, without worrying about ERP accidentally ordering items before they’re locked in. The most effective PLM solutions, like PTC Windchill, are integrated with 3D CAD systems as well as ERP so your stakeholders can easily visualize the product even before it’s prototyped.

Maximize Margins and Profitability

While ERP systems do a good job of cost accounting, their role is to track costs during the manufacturing process. They don’t track costs during the design phase, and they don’t offer tools to help make tradeoffs between reliability, market demand, and costs.

PLM, on the other hand, allows you to set cost targets for new products and provides reports on whether current designs achieve the goal. Even better, they offer tools for managing and reducing costs throughout the product’s entire lifespan, and for optimizing price so you sell the most units at the highest possible price.

And when it’s time to retire a product or introduce a new generation, PLM helps you decide on the most cost-effective time to schedule the phase-in / phase-out. PLM manufacturing systems calculate the remaining inventory and show whether it’s more cost effective to order more of certain components, so you have complete sets, and continue building, and at what point you minimize obsolescence. No other enterprise solution offers similar capabilities.

PLM manufacturing systems help calculate the perfect time to phase-in / phase-out new products including when to order new components to ensure perfect transition.

Adhere to Cost and Quality Standards

When you set the targets for your new products, PLM manufacturing systems help ensure that designs adhere to those standards. You’ll know up front that margins are in line with expectations, warranty and service costs will be manageable and products and processes follow industry mandated regulations.

While an MES or a QMS system may do some of this, neither system has maximizing margins as its key driver. QMS focuses on regulatory compliance and minimizing the hassle of audits. MES focuses on eliminating bottlenecks so you maximize throughput.

In either case, you may optimize cost—but you may not. Wouldn’t you rather know? A PLM manufacturing system will provide you with a clear answer.

Increased Customer Satisfaction

PLM systems let you easily capture customer requirements, so your product designs hit the needs of the market. Working with PLM, manufacturing and engineering ensure that the process produces reliable products at a predictable pace, so when you make delivery promises in your ERP or CRM system, you know they’re accurate based on well-designed processes.

Learn More About PLM Manufacturing’s Most Essential Tool

Far from being a “nice-to-have” enterprise application, PLM is arguably the most essential of all the software your manufacturing company needs to operate effectively, and we think PTC Windchill is the best PLM system available. We’ve created an eBook comparing PLM solutions like Siemens Teamcenter, Dassault Enovia, and PTC Windchill so you can learn more about the benefits of each. Download our free PLM eBook or contact us with any questions you have about PLM or other enterprise manufacturing software.