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Don't be fooled into thinking PLM is a simple project.
If you thought getting everyone on board was tough, wait until you get to the technical implementation. "It's not the type of thing where four boxes of shrink-wrapped software show up on your desk and you're up and running," says Loewen's Segal. Just populating the database with the necessary product information could take years. And it's not only about digitizing mountains of paper-based datathe tough part is developing universal standards.
"Definitions are a dicey issue," adds AMR's O'Marah, "and as mundane as figuring out a parts-numbering scheme sounds, that's where people end up spending time and money."
There are plenty of software vendors out there willing to give you a handmore than 100 at last countbut many tend to be niche players, catering to specific markets and focusing on only one or two areas of PLMdesigning and planning manufacturing operations, for instance, or product portfolio management. So choose carefully. "The first thing we did was some initial vendor analysis," says Segal, "because we had some ideas in terms of what we wanted to do, but we wanted to actually see what was possible. That helped us target an RFP that vendors could respond to."
Many vendors are beginning to offer more complete PLM packages, but a full-range offeringone that really can track a product from conception through retirementwon't appear until at least 2005, says Gartner's Halpern. Until then, integrating PLM with your other systemssuch as the supply chain and ERPwill continue to be tough. If you're already working with SAP for your ERP needs, for example, you may consider them for a PLM implementation. On the other hand, you may prefer to go with a best-of-breed vendor with proven expertise in your industry. Many vendors have agreements with other software companies that can help ease integration woes, so it's important to ask the vendor about such partnerships.
Finally, Halpern says, hosted systems are emerging for smaller companies that can't make a large investment in PLM: "Instead of going through these deployments, which are very costly, it may be more cost effective for small and medium-size companies to go with a hosted system such as Arena Solutions or CoCreate Software."
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