A Look at the PLM Process for Electronics

May 12, 2022 Cadence PCB Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • PLM software does not follow a single process or methodology.

  • Companies need to make PLM processes fit their particular product design and the tasks performed by specific functional groups.

  • A PLM solution should help align teams across an organization.

PLM Process

Companies use product lifecycle management (PLM) software on premises and in the cloud to manage their design, production, distribution, and customer success efforts. Companies that use these platforms know that all products follow a particular lifecycle, meaning they will eventually experience peak adoption followed by a slow decline until the product is retired from the market. PLM systems do not enforce a specific process, but they allow industries to implement management processes that work best for their company.

Whatever PLM processes are implemented using a standard enterprise-level PLM solution, it’s important to note that PLM software does not implement a specific workflow. Rather, these platforms provide the tools companies need to enable an efficient PLM process across multiple functional groups. Successful PLM is a collaborative effort between multiple functional groups in a company, and PLM software helps align these processes through data visibility and collaboration.

How Companies Develop a PLM Process

Some prospective PLM users may wonder at the process or workflow that is implemented in a PLM solution, but this misses the point of a PLM platform. A PLM process should be built around the tasks to be completed by multiple groups within a company, it is not something that defines a specific list of tasks. With the goal of extending the lifecycle clearly defined by an organization, and with the various risks clearly identified by the product development and marketing teams, a PLM system can become the primary tool used to implement and execute a PLM process.

Assess Life Cycle Risks

In the electronics industry, product life cycles are getting shorter and there is more competition, especially in the consumer electronics space. More advanced products may have smaller addressable markets or different technical requirements, but they can fall victim to the same set of obsolescence risks as other electronics:

  • Component obsolescence - This primarily affects individual electronic components. In some cases (e.g., passive components), this is trivial and replacements are immediately available, while in other cases it requires major product redesigns.
  • Assembly obsolescence - An entire assembly could be marked obsolete due to the availability of more advanced processes, newer mechanical components, or a redesigned enclosure.
  • Application obsolescence - Just like individual components can go obsolete, so too can a product’s application. This frequently occurs when dependencies are added or updated, or when bugs are targeted and fixed.

Because no two products carry the same technical requirements or risks, the PLM process used for each product will be different. However, the overall goals are largely the same: to extend a product’s lifetime as long as possible, and ultimately to determine when it is appropriate to retire a product and move on to an updated version.

Aggregate Product Data

The technical, production, sales, and marketing data associated with a product comes in many forms. This could be in the form of CAD files, simulation models, manufacturing files in standard formats, or word processor documents. No matter how that data was created or what format it is in, all the data related to a product should be aggregated within the PLM system so that teams can build their functional processes around the entire set of product data. The PLM platform should act as a single point of reference for all data related to a product so that stakeholders can implement any product data into the PLM process and their functional processes.

PLM software makes this possible by integrating data across multiple enterprise systems:

  • CAD programs - ECAD/MCAD programs include some PLM features for managing components within a local database, but the best products can pull data from multiple systems.
  • Version control systems - All PLM systems should include or grant access to a version control system so that product design revisions can be tracked throughout the product’s lifecycle.
  • Documentation control systems - These are specialized version control systems for documents that may also include some editing or sharing features. Google Docs is a great example, but there are other systems that perform similar functions.
  • Supply chain and inventory management - These products focus on managing and tracking inventories for parts in the BOM, including lifecycle statuses on critical parts in the product assembly.
  • Quality management systems - Manufacturing data from production teams can be compiled and analyzed with a QMS. PLM systems should give manufacturers, product managers, and designers access to this data.

This list is not exhaustive; there are other systems that can provision data access to a PLM system. On-premises and cloud PLM systems can pull data from these systems, either by accessing standard file formats or through an API. Once data is pulled into a single location and can be accessed by product stakeholders, it’s possible for the product management team to implement all the tasks involved in a PLM process.

Project Management

Executing the required tasks in a PLM process requires project management in each phase of a product’s life cycle. Companies with a robust project management system are well-suited to implement any of the important tasks required to maintain product lifetimes and stay competitive. Such tasks involve redesigns, sourcing, release to production, documentation creation, marketing, customer engagement, and much more.

When you need to manage all aspects of the product lifecycle for electronic products and assemblies, use Allegro Pulse, the industry’s most comprehensive PLM platform from Cadence. The scope of PLM features in this platform help teams move through the entire development process, push products to production, and access the data needed to distribute and maintain products. Keep your products competitive and maximize your product lifecycles with the industry’s best PLM solution.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to our team of experts or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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