Mastering Agile Product Development with Cloud PLM

Sophia Barnett

Technical and Content Writer

April 29, 2024

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Agile product development has become essential in today’s competitive market due to its focus on flexibility and customer-centricity. These principles enable manufacturers to develop products closely aligned with ever-changing market demands and user preferences. 

Agile methodologies provide a structured yet flexible framework for software development, enhancing workflows from initial concept to product launch. The iterative nature of agile workflows promotes continuous improvement and readily adapts to changes, ensuring responsiveness to dynamic project requirements.

However, hardware development has unique challenges that require careful planning and precision. Complex supply chains, stringent quality controls, regulatory compliance, cost constraints, and extended lead times can impede innovation. Traditional hardware development depended on manual processes, static bill of materials, and spreadsheets, leading to inefficiencies, errors, and miscommunication among teams.

Product lifecycle management software (PLM) offers a modern and flexible solution to addressing these processes. Cloud-based PLM systems centralize product data, facilitating real-time collaboration and maintaining a single source of truth accessible to all stakeholders involved in the development process. 

In this article, we’ll examine how cloud PLM software and agile methodologies can enhance hardware development for today’s manufacturers and disruptive hardware teams.

What is agile product development?

Agile product development is an iterative approach that emphasizes flexibility, customer collaboration, and swift responses to change. Rather than following a rigid, linear plan, this approach uses pre-determined agile methodologies to break projects into smaller cycles called “sprints.”

At the end of each sprint, project teams review progress and adapt upcoming tasks based on completed work and stakeholder feedback. This approach ensures that development aligns closely with customer needs and market changes, allowing teams to work swiftly and efficiently. 

By focusing on iterative testing and revision, this agile approach can facilitate a dynamic development environment where innovations can flourish without the constraints of traditional waterfall methodologies

Benefits of agile methodologies

Agile methodologies enable swift product delivery, allowing products to reach the market quickly and gather early customer feedback. This rapid cycle promotes quick adjustments based on real-time insights, enhancing the ability to adapt to changing market demands and client feedback efficiently. Agile fosters strong collaboration across clients, developers, and departments, accelerating problem-solving and product improvements through continuous testing and feedback loops.

An agile early-release model can increase profits by initiating revenue generation sooner and reducing the overhead associated with extensive planning. Integrating tools like Duro with Jira into agile workflows help manage tasks effectively, ensuring that all tasks are tracked and updated in real-time. This type of integration optimizes efficiency and ensures that workflows are continuously adapted to meet team dynamics and project needs, supporting ongoing improvements and quality enhancements.

Challenges with adopting agile workflows

According to Forbes, the best teams embrace agile methodologies. However, embracing agility comes with challenges. Some of the most frequent obstacles include resistance from employees who may be apprehensive about a change in their workflow. Unclear agile concepts can lead to misunderstandings and hesitation in empowering team members. 

To avoid this, it can help to prioritize processes over customer focus, as this can lead to inefficient development cycles. A lack of support from leadership can undermine the transition, making executive buy-in and training for project teams and leaders crucial for agile to thrive in an organization. One way to address these challenges and ensure a smoother, agile implementation is by carefully managing the scope of projects. 

How Cloud PLM improves agility

Cloud PLM enables hardware teams and manufacturers to adopt and use agile methodologies. By providing a centralized, accessible repository for product data, product lifecycle management software promotes collaboration and visibility across the entire product lifecycle. This allows teams to rapidly iterate on core designs, customize solutions for specific clients, and seamlessly manage revisions—all without sacrificing quality control. 

PLM software offers built-in automation, seamless collaboration, real-time design control, streamlined operations, and significantly faster time-to-market. By integrating these benefits into a centralized platform, Cloud PLM dramatically enhances efficiency, more rapid product revisions, and responsiveness throughout the product lifecycle. This empowers businesses to maintain agility, innovate quickly, and thrive in today’s fast-paced markets.

Advancing agile development with Cloud PLM

Cloud PLM has been crucial for Rapid Robotics, enhancing its subscription-based automation model by enabling efficient management and rapid customization of robotic systems. Integrating with CAD tools like SolidWorks, PLM ensures that all Rapid Robotics team members can access and update the latest designs in real time, supporting continuous iteration of the core product configurations.

Rapid Robotics uses Duro PLM to centralize a repository of product designs and revisions. This allows them to customize robots to meet specific customer needs swiftly, ensuring accuracy and consistency across manufacturing settings. This streamlined approach speeds up the adaptation process and reinforces Rapid Robotics’ capability to innovate rapidly in response to evolving market demands.

Why ECOs are essential for agile workflows

An engineering change order (ECO) is a formal process that documents and controls necessary modifications to an existing product design, ensuring that all affected teams understand and approve the change. ECOs detail the specific parts or materials to be altered, the reasons for the change, and the steps for implementing it. 

A well-managed ECO system promotes clear communication, minimizes errors, and maintains accurate records of product changes throughout the development lifecycle. ECOs are important in the agile product development lifecycle as they help teams understand and approve the proposed updates. This speeds up the iteration process and enables changes to be made promptly.

Engineering change orders promote agility and responsiveness within product development strategies by enabling businesses to quickly address issues, adapt to customer feedback, and seize new opportunities. The formal ECO process provides a structured way to evaluate and approve changes, streamlining decision-making and accelerating the implementation of necessary updates. 

This allows product teams to respond promptly to market trends, regulatory changes, or production problems, maintaining the product’s competitiveness and ensuring it remains aligned with evolving customer needs.

Cloud PLM and Change Management

Change management has a significant role in mastering agile product development. Cloud PLM simplifies the change management process with several powerful features:

Customizable Change Order Templates: PLM software eliminates busywork by providing pre-built change order templates that you can tailor to your specific workflows. This ensures all necessary information is captured from the outset.

Flexible Approval & Notification: A built-in approval/notification system makes it easy to assign approvers and keep stakeholders informed. Additionally, these allow you to collaborate seamlessly with internal team members and external partners or suppliers.

Mandatory Approvals: Enforce your change control processes by requiring approvals from designated individuals or groups. This helps prevent unauthorized changes from slipping through.

Comprehensive Revision History: The right PLM software maintains a complete historical record of each change order. This provides full visibility into understanding who was responsible for past decisions.

Embracing cloud PLM in the age of agile

In modern manufacturing and product development, agility is not just a benefit—it’s a necessity. Powered by cloud PLM, Agile methodologies provide the structure and flexibility necessary to keep pace with market changes and evolving customer demands. By breaking down projects into manageable sprints and enabling continuous iteration and feedback, agile practices ensure that products are developed efficiently and effectively.

Adopting agile practices in hardware development can be challenging due to the traditionally manual and disjointed processes involved. By centralizing product data and enhancing collaboration across all product lifecycle stages, Cloud PLM facilitates real-time updates and seamless integration, overcoming the common pitfalls of outdated methods. Cloud PLM’s automation, collaboration, and real-time data management dramatically reduce time-to-market and improve product quality.

By centralizing data and simplifying processes, Duro’s approach exemplifies how integrating Cloud PLM with agile methodologies can transform hardware product development. Companies like Rapid Robotics have already experienced the substantial benefits of this integration, from streamlined procurement to enhanced customization capabilities. 

As more organizations adopt these advanced tools, the agility and responsiveness of hardware development will continue to improve, driving innovation and success in an increasingly competitive market. Embracing Cloud PLM is not just about keeping up—it’s about leading the way in the new era of agile product development.

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