Part 1 of this blog series established that the product lifecycle management (PLM) software market for process industries (food & beverage, life sciences, chemicals, paints, consumer products, etc.) has not been well-defined as compared to its counterparts in the discrete manufacturing and fashion (apparel) industry segments. Indeed, the process PLM solution market is currently a mosaic of specialized vendors with solutions that cater to only a part of the entire process PLM flow.
My post then analyzed typical workarounds to solve the puzzle of integrating these silo-based solutions with their focus on structured data, which is insufficient for creating adequate product specifications in this day and age. Part 2 will analyze other typical constraints of these solutions, such as the level of process PLM vendors’ global enterprise support as well as available solution configuration options and ongoing change capabilities.
The Level of Global Enterprise Support
Similar to the functional boundaries mentioned in Part 1, most process PLM solutions are designed to provide a certain level of enterprise support (see Figure 1). As a concrete example to illustrate this situation, Infor Optiva PLM customers are typically global corporate-level research & development (R&D) departments, whereas Selerant, Advanced Software Design (ASD), and Enginuity PLM have only a few or no enterprise-wide implementations (i.e., they are mostly used on a regional department or division basis).
For its part, SAP Process PLM, although global in theory, is more focused on add-on integration to SAP ERP. Finally, while large discrete manufacturing PLM solutions can be configured to support global product data management (PDM) needs, they lack the required process industry PLM features. If a process PLM solution is not designed to support business unit- and product-specific rules or processes, or if it does not support global vs. local experimental requirements variations, this will limit the company’s ability to roll out new products to other strategic business units (SBUs) or departments.
The Level of PLM Systems’ Continual Change
Last but not least, there is the constraint (or shortcoming) of the level of configurability of the process PLM solution, with its accompanying ability to minimize total cost of ownership (TCO). The process PLM solutions with a global enterprise level of support (i.e., Infor Optima PLM) are generally highly configurable over time via workflows, business rules, and tables (see Figure 2).
The discrete manufacturing PLM vendors have robust development tools and their customers have essentially customized (and costly) implementations. The department- or fast start-oriented point solutions (i.e., Oracle Agile Process PLM and ASD) tend to box-in users by their limited ability to be configured or limited fuctional breadth. The cost of the effort to change them later often hinders the company’s ability to roll out these rigid PLM systems to new departments or business units.
What Could Process Manufacturing Enterprises Do Better in PLM?
As mentioned in Part 1, with a new crop of service oriented architecture (SOA)-enabled and hybrid software as a service (SaaS)/cloud-based solutions entering the market, companies should not have to incur the cost and risk of complex integrations, rip-and-replace conversions to a new vendor, or forced upgrades to the current version of the their vendor’s solution. With hybrid add-on solution environments (i.e., on-premise and cloud applications coexisting), process companies can minimize their time-to-value, reduce their upfront costs, and not stretch their already overtaxed IT departments.
For companies that prefer on-premise or a hosted solution in a private cloud, SOA and composite applications concepts can eliminate the hassle of traditional inflexible point-to-point interfaces. Moreover, with the ability to incrementally deploy, IT departments can more effectively respond while minimizing costs. With each of these lightweight PLM add-on solutions companies can reduce lead times, support costs, and eliminate the hidden costs of supporting standalone systems. With improved data completeness and accuracy, fewer product launches or batches will be delayed. In addition, there will be improved product quality and reduced compliance risks, which should all result in improved top line (revenue) and bottom line (profit) benefits.
These novel applications also bolster a process company’s ability to respond to changing business or compliance requirements, without re-implementation or extensive custom coding of their existing PLM systems. Examples of add-on process PLM applications and their respective benefits include the following:
Process companies that are getting value from their existing IT systems, and whose existing process PLM solution has a good shelf life, could benefit from a new wave of add-on PLM solutions. Separate postings will talk about some concrete process PLM add-on products that are already generally available (or will be available soon).
Also, these posts will tackle other process PLM gaps, such as the processes to accommodate artwork, computer aided design (CAD) for packaging, customer briefs or sample management, regulatory applications and regulatory content providers, formula and process optimization, high volume rollup engines, supplier collaboration with intellectual property (IP) protection, product and information exchanges, six sigma and lean PLM, and product configurators. Dear readers, what are your views, comments, opinions, best practices, etc. about the abovementioned process PLM issues and suggested solutions?