How PLM enhances the product development lifecycle

March 6, 2023

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A typical hardware product development lifecycle involves several phases and many moving parts. You will need to define the product requirements, procure materials, evaluate time to market, and anticipate any engineering or design changes that may occur along the way.

The various aspects of the hardware product development lifecycle can be difficult to manage. Thankfully, there are software tools out there that can help teams more effectively execute each aspect of the product development lifecycle, ensuring that each stage moves forward without a hitch.

But what, exactly, is that process? Below we discuss how product lifecycle management software and related processes can enhance your product development journey.

Duro’s cloud-native Product Lifecycle Management platform helps streamline your product development processes. Schedule a demo to see how Duro can benefit your team.

Defining the product development stages

Let’s begin by defining the stages that occur throughout the product development of a typical hardware product.

Concept and design

The first product development stage is the new product’s concept and design. In this stage (also referred to as the ideation phase), the product’s first requirements are documented based on customer needs and any noticeable gaps in the market that need filling.

Development and validation

Next is the development and validation stage, where the actual design for the product is created and approved. Here, your teams create a detailed product design along with any supplemental designs.

To validate the product design, there needs to be several rounds of analysis and prototype development to ensure feasibility as well as high product quality. Feedback from stakeholders helps to refine the product and make sure it’s ready to go into production.

This stage can be broken down into three sections:

  • Engineering validation and testing – Here engineers aim to prove that the product meets the requirements listed in the product requirements document (PRD). This involves rigorous testing to make sure each feature meets its predetermined performance metrics in order to reduce any potential risks. It can take weeks or months and the product cannot move onto the design stage until it meets all its functional requirements.
  • Design validation and testing – After the functionality is secured, attention turns to the final product’s appearance. In the design validation and testing (DVT) phase, the materials and mechanical elements that match the aesthetic described in the PRD should be chosen. Feedback from possible customers is extremely helpful at this step. It allows you to evaluate the product-market fit and make any essential design changes (shape, fit, materials) before giving the product the go-ahead for the last manufacturing stage.
  • Production validation and testing – The purpose of production validation and testing is to guarantee that the product can be produced at the specified volume and price. This includes conversing with manufacturers and suppliers, and making design changes if necessary. Additionally, the supply chain will be established through a pre-production run in order to identify any potential flaws in the production process.

Production and launch

In this phase, the final design (after making all adjustments) goes to manufacturing teams for production. The market-ready version is finalized, and a plan is established for how to scale production. All the steps of the production and manufacturing processes leading up to distribution are defined in this stage.

Distribution

Once the product has been launched, it’s time to distribute it. Here you’ll choose distribution channels, set prices, and establish a reliable system of delivery. Depending on your buyers (i.e., wholesalers, retailers, online stores), you may require more than one distribution strategy.

Services and support

After the distribution stage comes the services and support stage. Here, your customer service teams offer support directly to customers. Change orders might be required  to address issues uncovered during customer usage — or make improvements to maintain the product’s quality.

Retirement

The final stage is retirement. In this stage, the product has reached its end of life, served its purpose, and is now coming off the market.

This can happen for many reasons. For example, new versions of the same product may be ready for release or perhaps the company has decided to exit a market.

When the product reaches this stage, it’s withdrawn from the market and archived, with any plans and documentation being saved for future reference.

How PLM software enhances product development

PLM software is beneficial at all stages of the product development lifecycle. It incorporates tools for storing product information, managing documentation, managing change, and much more. PLM benefits product designers and engineers by helping them improve their decision-making.

Here’s how PLM software can be leveraged to enhance each stage of product development:

Utilize BOM management during the concept and design stage

Bill of materials (BOM) management is  fundamental  to the product development lifecycle. During the concept and design stage it’s important to track all components and understand availability in order to adapt the design. Changes to the BOM are common as revisions to the design are made to ensure that the final product aligns with the initial concept.

Since product designers, suppliers and manufacturing teams utilize different systems, they require a centralized and accessible BOM management system. Accurate data simplifies communication, and accelerates development. This helps with managing change orders or altering parts later on because all teams can refer to a single, unified record with an up-to-date BOM.

Electrical, mechanical, and software teams can collaborate better with a full understanding of how changes to their BOM will impact other parts of a design. The ability to compare BOMs across revisions enables everyone to understand what’s changed and why. 

Implement change management during development and validation

Change management is another process, facilitated by PLM software, that gives teams better visibility into their product data. PLM software can serve as the bridge to ensure that everyone understands changes to a product design and what their role is in reviewing or approving a change.

During the development and validation stage of the product development lifecycle, PLM software records any changes made to a product. The product may undergo several rounds of analysis and prototyping before it’s ready for production. Change management can become complex without established processes and systems. Consider the seven R’s of change management:

  1. Who raised the change?
  2. What is the reason for the change?
  3. What is the expected return from the change?
  4. Are there any risks by executing this change?
  5. What resources are required to implement this change?
  6. Who is responsible for driving this change?
  7. What is the relationship between this change and past changes?


By asking these questions and documenting the answers, design teams can better calculate the risk-to-benefit ratio of a proposed change. However, without a single reference for this information, stakeholders may struggle to gain visibility into product changes and delay development. PLM software can help ensure that none of this information falls through the cracks.

Accelerating the product development lifecycle with PLM software and process

Having a PLM system isn’t just about making product development easier to manage; it also helps to streamline and improve the process as a whole.

A software solution like Duro can make your product development process faster, more efficient, and easier to replicate. Here are a few key benefits of PLM software.

Centralizes product data and design revisions

PLM centralizes your data and design revisions into a single tool that can be referenced by any team member. It can also pull in data from business tools (e.g. CAD, ERP, MES, etc.) via integrations. In this way, you can achieve data continuity across your organization and avoid miscommunication or data errors. Everyone understands their role in change management and there are no misunderstandings about which is the latest revision.

This also helps you prepare for audits, mergers, and natural growth — with much less work than having disconnected systems and data.

Leads to faster innovation and time to market

One of the best ways PLM systems like Duro can help is by helping you evolve your product designs faster and by decreasing your time to market.

By bringing together traditionally disconnected engineering and manufacturing processes, PLM helps you manage the data required for creating products. Out-of-the-box integrations mean less time spent manually updating BOM records or inputting computer-aided design (CAD) files.  Engineers have the ability to spend more time engineering rather than managing disparate data. This decreases the time it takes to move a product through the first few stages of the lifecycle, ensuring that it reaches the market faster before any competing products.

Additionally, PLM helps with visibility into supply chain data. Factoring in sourcing early in the design improves time to market, as you can select in-stock parts for your design and reduce the likelihood of later rework to change a component.

Connects teams for improved collaboration

Duro and other PLM platforms can connect teams for improved collaboration. This leads to better business results across your organization as you streamline data sharing and processes.

Rather than living in separate silos, designers, engineers, and manufacturing teams can all access the same information. Integrations between CAD, PLM and ERP tools enable faster data sharing. This cuts down on the back and forth between engineering and manufacturing to help products reach production quicker.

Improves data accuracy

Another important benefit of PLM systems like Duro is improved data accuracy and continuity. PLM validates that your data is accurate. Synchronizing information across disparate platforms reduces the risk of errors exacerbated by manually transferring data from your CAD tools to ERP.

Supply chain data is kept up to date via integrations to off-the-shelf parts distributors.

PLM systems also help ensure that you can quickly find revisions and product records to respond to audits or customer issues. Thorough, standardized documentation is essential.

Traces the product from concept to production

PLM allows you to trace a product from initial concept to the final production run. This helps you to understand what happens to as-built products and match them back to a revision.

Designers may not have visibility into manufacturing limitations and aren’t always able to capture or incorporate cost efficiencies into the products they design. This can lead to quality issues that take too long to resolve — or issues that repeat over multiple manufacturing runs. Engineers need a better way to link reported issues to a particular revision and this is where PLM software systems can help.

Additionally, when customers report issues, it can be difficult for designers to know exactly how to adapt a product. This can result in delays while teams try to map disparate data and figure out the best approach to move forwards. With Duro’s search and where-used functionality, designers can better understand how widely components are used and the impact of a potential change on other product lines.

Elevating your product development process is easier than ever with Duro

Streamlining your product development process is important to bring products to market successfully. Without PLM software, your processes can be convoluted, confused, and inefficient.

Duro is a powerful cloud-native PLM system that can help you manage processes and centralize data. From BOM management to integrations with ERP systems, Duro helps you improve your product development process.

To learn more, schedule a Duro demo today and see how this PLM tool stands above the rest.

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