PLM for Manufacturing Keeps Operations Streamlined

Key Takeaways

  • Manufacturing and distribution phases are in the later portion of a product’s lifecycle.

  • PLM software is used by manufacturers, or by design teams that interoperate with manufacturers, to ensure yield and quality.

  • Budgeting and resource planning are two sets of tasks that can be handled with a PLM system.

PLM manufacturing

Manufacturing anything is a difficult prospect, including advanced electronics. Within a factory, there are fabrication steps to orchestrate, multiple materials and parts to procure, data and specifications to check and re-check, and quality control measures to put into place. While everyone rightfully focuses on the processes unfolding inside a factory, sometimes less attention is paid to everything that ensures a new product gets manufactured successfully.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) software is used by many companies to coordinate product development and distribution efforts, but the same software platforms can be used in a manufacturing setting to help streamline production. PLM used in manufacturing operations helps align the manufacturer and their customers through a collaborative platform, where all project stakeholders have visibility into development, sourcing, production, and distribution.

Manufacturing in the Product Lifecycle

All products go through a specific set of stages in their lifecycle, beginning with an initial design and ending with the retirement of the product from the market. Manufacturing occurs in the later stages of a product’s lifetime, during the growth and maturity stages shown in the graphic below. These ideas surround physical products like electronics as well as virtual products like software suites.

 PLM manufacturing stages

For modern products, engineering and manufacturing teams are involved throughout the product lifecycle, even after a design is complete and the product has entered distribution. Manufacturing engineers, front-end engineers, and physical design teams need to engage in a constant feedback loop to help ensure defects are addressed and prevented, a product is improved to extend its lifetime, and the entire production and sourcing process is managed. Today’s most advanced electronic products can’t be developed and produced in isolation; collaboration across functional domains is needed to ensure quality, yield, and continuous improvement.

The Role of PLM in Manufacturing

Remember that manufacturing involves multiple activities: analyzing design data, creating tooling, sourcing components, implementing all of this in the fab/assembly line, and quality control. PLM in manufacturing enables all of these tasks and the associated data to be tracked throughout a single manufacturing run and over time throughout the product’s lifetime. In the electronics industry, lifecycle statuses are assigned and tracked across multiple pieces of data, including:

  • ECAD and MCAD data for the assembly
  • Individual components used in the assembly as called out in the BOM
  • Manufacturing data, tooling, and programming for automated equipment
  • Yield and process data acquired during on-the-line inspections or testing

By tracking all of these components during the manufacturing process, engineering and manufacturing teams can create an optimal outcome for their products, ultimately increasing their lifetime and ensuring they remain competitive. The main role of a PLM system as a PDM tool also helps streamline processes by consolidating data into a single location. Overall, this creates four high-level benefits for contract manufacturers and their customers as well as OEMs:

1. Track Production Costs

Other enterprise management software platforms, such as ERP and inventory management systems, help project costs but they do not always track them throughout the entire course of a manufacturing run. They also do not break down costs by process, component, rework, material, or other factors that drive production costs. A platform for PLM in manufacturing allows these costs to be tracked alongside the overall design and development costs to help ensure accurate accounting can be performed. The best systems will allow users to organize the data by cost so that causes for budget overruns can be identified and addressed.

2. Gather and Track Quality Data

PLM systems implemented in a manufacturing environment allow critical information about the manufacturing process to be held alongside all the other necessary product data. This means more than just tooling; this can include results from SPC software, electrical or environmental testing results, and yield data. Anything that might be needed when evaluating quality and targeting redesigns with a change order can be held and accessed inside of a manufacturing PLM system. In this way, manufacturing PLMs function as quality management systems (QMS), but with data accessible alongside all the other important documentation needed to ensure quality in the product’s design.

3. Integrate With Other Enterprise Systems

Some manufacturing operations might question why they need a PLM system at all when they have PDM platforms, inventory management systems, MES, ERP systems, CRM systems, and good old-fashioned paper forms. Today’s PLM platforms can act as the centralized single source of truth for all the information associated with a product’s design, manufacturing, and distribution. This allows other functional groups in an organization to access the important information they need to push the product to market.

4. Extend Lifetimes

All products will eventually need updates and redesigns, otherwise they will be retired early in favor of more advanced alternatives. A PLM system can be used to pull data from an external source so that component obsolescence can be tracked throughout the product’s lifecycle. When specific components or materials are found to be reaching their end-of-life, the engineering design team can update the product before obsolescence affects the entire assembly.

If you are looking for a scalable solution to manage design data, consider Allegro Pulse. Pulse integrates seamlessly into many design tools, with features including a workflow engine, data management, security protocols, and search capabilities. 

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

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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