PLM - Facilitating Easier Flow of Information

By Ranjith Radhakrishnan K.C, GM - IT, TVS Motor Company

PLM solutions are very critical to organizations as speed of delivering new products is the key to successful business. In automotive space, customers always want to try new products. Hence, Auto OEM has to deliver new products once in six months, and after that demand for tools and technology increases in this space. 

Tools used in new product development vary from collaborative tools with suppliers to Styling tools to FEA analysis tools. Hence these tools need to work seamlessly and integrate with other tools if necessary.

Product Development Process involves various processes – starting from gathering market/customer requirements, conceptualization, modeling by various teams like engineering, styling etc., prototype design, production process finalization and mass production. All these are done by different teams and visibility of other activities and time lines are crucial for over project delivery. The project planning consists of various activities which are interdependent on multiple functions. Hence any delay in any function affects the overall project time line. PLM tools enable all the team members to use the same integrated system and enable them to work in tandem.

Prior to adopting any centralized system, different teams used different local systems to do their work. This led to many information silos within the organization. With the adoption of PLM system, the process has been digitized starting from idea creation stage to mass production. The reusability component will be 50% in most of auto industry. Learning from earlier projects and making sure that the learning is adopted in the future products is very essential. As new team members take up projects, knowledge from the earlier learning will help them perform their job much faster. They can work on incremental benefits from the earlier learning.

Emerging technology like social media is used to gather new customer preferences, behaviors etc. These are not directly used as of now, but taken as one of the sources of market research. Analytics is used extensively in new production. All data related to earlier product development, production process parameters or existing products, usage information of existing products from various CRM systems is widely used to give vital inputs to new product development process. As mobility adoption is rapidly growing, any new product should have mobile integration, either app based or connected vehicles are the way forward.

PLM solutions are key focus area for top management of organization as they are enablers for faster new product development. But the challenge is on usage by these PLM tools. Most of the other IT solutions deployed in organizations like ERP need to be used mandatorily, as without these solutions, activity will not happen, i.e. without invoicing, material cannot be dispatched. But in the case of PLM, activities happen without using these systems. Hence usage of these solutions takes a back seat.

New product development is a team activity, and hence transparency of information across all the groups is important to deliver on time. Any delay in project time lines will affect our sales and hence our profitability. PLM brings in planning, transparency and collaboration. These are essential for execution of projects as per the plan. 

PLM will expand from the current scope of solutions within R & D and will evolve as a combination of various solutions like Machine Data, Customer Usage Information etc.

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