Reducing the Risks when Switching PLMs

Sophia Barnett

Technical and Content Writer

March 22, 2024

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Many different operational pain points can drive the decision to transition to a new PLM. From a lack of flexibility or the absence of a critical integration to requiring extensive development time or scalability issues. Before deciding to switch PLMs, you’ll need to understand what isn’t working and deduce the best approach for your team. This blog covers a few of the reasons why a PLM implementation might fail and provides some considerations for migrating to a new platform.

A carefully considered PLM transition can significantly enhance operational efficiency, foster innovation, and strengthen the organization’s competitive edge, provided it is approached with a strategic understanding of the company’s specific requirements and long-term aspirations.

Read on to learn why your PLM solution should support both current operations and future business objectives. Plus, learn how to reduce risk when you do decide to switch platforms by managing data and implementing a clear communication plan.

Reasons why PLM implementations fail

PLM platforms are designed to enhance efficiency and streamline engineering workflows, such as change management or centralizing BOMs. Sometimes, however, they fall short of meeting initial objectives. Here are a few of the biggest reasons engineers end up looking for new PLM platforms:

  • Lack of clear objectives
  • Overly ambitious, overly complicated
  • Data inconsistencies and inaccuracies
  • Integration difficulties
  • Setup takes too long
  • Hindering innovation

Lack of clear objectives

When implementing a Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system, the absence of clear project goals can lead to significant misalignments with business needs, making the system inefficient and frustrating to use. It’s imperative that company management identifies concrete objectives of what they would like to accomplish to get the best results from their PLM

Here are a few valuable tips for success, which we’ll explore further in the sections below:

  • Speeding up change processes and reducing rejections
  • Ensuring consistency and accuracy of product data
  • Improving employee productivity by reducing manual data input
  • Ensuring full product traceability for compliance, or
  • Improving quotations and timelines for production

 

Without goals, it will be difficult to understand how the PLM system is impacting the business and whether the implementation is successful.

Overly ambitious, overly complicated

Conversely, setting an overly ambitious vision for a PLM system introduces its own set of challenges. For example, extensive customization for complex workflows can lead to governance issues and challenges in system management later on. The ambition behind the project often results in significant cost overruns, with organizations spending considerably more than expected in an attempt to fulfill the original vision.

Complex PLM systems can significantly impede training and adoption. Employees, particularly engineers may struggle to integrate time-consuming workflows. Resistance to changing established work methods, and the daunting nature of integrating complex new processes can slow down informed decision-making. 

Data inconsistencies and inaccuracies

The integration of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems can be significantly hindered by the presence of inaccurate, incomplete, or inconsistent data. This can be caused by typing errors, missing values, clashing formats, inconsistent decimal places, varying units of measure, or corrupted text. Having numerous CAD tools (e.g., NX, Onshape, or SolidWorks) with different versions or file types can also lead to challenges in uploading data into the PLM platform. A practical example of these challenges is the integration of 50-year-old paper drawings with digital CAD models. The different formats involved make it difficult to move forward with new designs without a lot of manual data input.

Moreover, challenges like siloed data across various platforms and version control issues exacerbate the situation. These can cause confusion, duplicated efforts, and frequent missed deadlines, thereby undermining the very issues PLM systems are designed to address.

Confidence in the platform suffers

Failure to cleanse data before uploading it into a PLM product library makes data visualization messy and hard to work with. Ultimately, this undermines the PLM’s functionality and reliability. Consequently, this can cause a lack of confidence among engineers and other users in using the PLM. This both deters its use and leading to the continued reliance on less efficient, decentralized methods of data management such as spreadsheets. Ultimately, this not only further compromises the accuracy and consistency of data but also counteracts the very purpose of PLM systems, which is to centralize and streamline data management processes across the product lifecycle.

Integration difficulties

Everyone in the company needs to be able to access accurate, updated product data. That means design engineers and manufacturers must work from the same revision and be alerted when the other team makes an update. While this sounds simple, it can be complicated by the fact that each team relies on a different application. Engineers work in CAD, and manufacturers rely on Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) for work orders.

Each team needs an easy way to share the latest revision without having to add each component to another platform manually. That’s where integrations are essential. It’s important to be able to export data from your CAD tools into the PLM system and then push it downstream to an ERP or MES system for manufacturers. If this flow of information is obstructed or takes too long, there’s a risk of errors. 

While PLM solutions all come with integrations, most require complex consulting projects to set up and maintain. Additionally, some integrations come with complex processes. This means it can be time-consuming to export a Bill of Materials (BOMs) from CAD tools to share with procurement or manufacturing teams. Engineers could find themselves mired in an endless cycle of troubleshooting with their manufacturing counterparts when data isn’t consistent between teams.

Setup takes too long

If the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system requires heavy customization or third-party systems integrators, setting it up can take a considerable amount of time. Custom modifications require extensive programming effort, halting team productivity or perpetuating disorganized processes until the solution is ready. When this process takes too long, the team can face delays in getting to market. Additionally, the extended duration of the onboarding process can incur significant costs, impacting both project timelines and budgets.

Hindering innovation

Heavy customizations can also inhibit innovation. Complex PLM systems impose stringent regulations regarding permissible actions, methodologies, and timing. Furthermore, they specify strict guidelines on the sources from which data can be obtained. While restrictions benefit established and highly complex products by ensuring compliance and quality, conglomerate PLMs do not design for experimentation. Fast-paced teams looking for new solutions, don’t necessarily want to rely on existing inventory or processes. As a result, they may either bypass the pre-set rules to get what they need, which means not following documentation and processes, or they may try to work with existing product content and miss the opportunity to test bold new functionality.

Tips to reduce risk and ensure a seamless migration

Faced with these difficulties, organizations may be compelled to search for a new PLM solution that better aligns with their actual needs. They may prioritize those that offer simplicity in implementation and management and provide a clearer, more attainable path to achieving their PLM goals. This shift often stems from the desire to find a system that can be governed effectively, is easier for employees to adopt and use, and offers a more favorable return on investment.

However, transitioning PLM systems can be a complex and demanding undertaking that comes with significant risks and requires a team effort. High barriers to change mean that customers tend to stick with their current systems, investing in enhancements rather than switching. This is largely because PLMs are deeply integrated with numerous other tools and systems through custom connectors, making them challenging to replace or upgrade. Instead of switching systems, workgroups may look for add-on functionality that supports their requirements or a streamlined PLM platform that enables them to move quickly. 

To ensure success when switching systems, transparent communication should always be a priority. This approach involves clearly defining the process workflows, customizations needed, and the specific data sets to be migrated to have a smoother and more efficient transition. Here are some tips for getting the migration process right.

1. Define ideal workflows

Before starting with your new PLM system, create a comprehensive list of processes that you currently manage. Figure out which are working well and determine whether you’ll want to implement the same processes going forward. This includes integrations with systems like CAD, ERP, and MRP. Clearly chart the direction of data movement. Will it flow one way, from PLM to an ERP system for example, or involve bidirectional exchange? Explicitly define the “source of truth” for Bill of Materials (BOM) data to avoid inconsistencies. 

Instead of tackling everything at once, begin with a well-defined workflow and expand gradually as needed, for example, change management. This minimizes complexity and allows for iterative fine-tuning. 

Defining integrations and PLM-related needs should be a collaborative effort. Involve your team to capture diverse perspectives and ensure a solution that caters to everyone’s requirements. Pre-defining these items simplifies configuration and evaluation processes.

2. Clean up data prior to transferring data

Transitioning to a new PLM system is one of the best opportunities to improve data sanitation. Migrating your entire dataset could not only be excessively time-consuming but also pave the way for flawed data to infiltrate and compromise the integrity of your PLM.

Instead, define which information is necessary. Conduct a thorough analysis of your existing data by collating a list of in-use products and components for import, archiving obsolete data, and addressing duplicate file or metadata issues. Duro’s internal validation rules may prevent conflicting information from entering your library, so checking prior to transfer ensures only high-quality, relevant data migrates to your new PLM.

3. Decide which customizations, configurations, and integrations your team needs

Define your preferences for customizations, configurations, and integrations. Duro customers can access customizations for Customer Part Numbers (CPNs), revision schemes, and variant structuring. Configurations in Duro include mandatory approver templates and mandatory comments for Change Orders, Documentation Change Orders (DCOs), default Change Order type, Change Order ERP Options Dropdown, and Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) enablement.

When it comes to integrations, prioritize the applications that you already have but make sure you can add more later. Make sure the PLM platform you choose either has out-of-the-box (OOTB) integrations or allows you the flexibility to connect with the applications of your choice. Duro believes in a best-of-breed ecosystem. We allow businesses to choose the best tools for their teams, whether it’s CAD tools or MES and ERP platforms. 

4. Start with a smaller workgroup for the rollout

When looking to roll out your new Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system, leverage a core focus group. This method provides a safe learning space. It enables users to grasp the system’s capabilities without risking widespread mistakes during full-scale implementation. Starting with a small group of experienced engineers accelerates knowledge transfer and efficiency, as training fewer people is quicker and selecting experts minimizes setup errors.

Then, once they master the system, you can move forward with the rollout. The initial core group can also serve as a resource for the broader user community and address queries and concerns of their coworkers in the post-pilot phase. The benefits? An accelerated learning curve and a stronger culture of peer-led training. Overall, this is significantly more effective than an indiscriminate, all-encompassing rollout with a directive to ‘figure it out.’

5. Engage effectively with stakeholders and users

Secure buy-in from key stakeholders for the decision by illuminating the intrinsic value of the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system. Oftentimes, the operational nuances and efficiencies gained through PLM remain obscured to senior management. While they are aware of the engineering team’s design and development efforts, the granular details, such as the time-intensive process of correcting a Bill of Materials (BOM) or the number of hours it takes to review and approve an Engineering Change Order (ECO) within the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, go unnoticed. Although invisible to stakeholders, it’s everything to engineers. By highlighting these pain points, you’ll underscore the strategic value of PLM in enhancing operational productivity and decision-making.

Navigating a PLM switch demands a strategic communications plan. Announce the impending transition early, inform everyone consistently, and establish clear information channels. However, only a core team should actively involve themselves in the planning, configuring, and rolling out changes. The broader audience only needs information about impacts and benefits.

Why switching to Duro makes sense

Duro’s PLM platform is easy to use. We have a cloud-based infrastructure and empower engineers to collaborate with team members in real-time. Companies operating in fast-paced industries that need the ability to adapt and innovate rapidly would find Duro particularly appealing. Duro suits organizations that value simplicity and efficiency over complex, highly customized processes. Businesses that prefer simplicity over heavy customizations or complex workflows will find Duro to be an ideal match. Additionally, companies looking to efficiently reduce their time to market highly value Duro’s fast onboarding process.

It’s suitable for organizations that make hardware devices that don’t require heavy customization of processes or workflows. While some configurations are available, Duro is designed to work out of the box. 

Here are some of the key benefits of using Duro:

  • Rapid Onboarding: Duro quickly gets teams up and running in 3-4 weeks. How? Through intuitive design and straightforward onboarding, bypassing lengthy consulting or complex customizations.
  • Intuitive Interface: Duro’s interface combines user-friendliness with intuitive design, reducing maintenance overhead and increasing productivity. Its workflows align with industry best practices, making it easy to use, even for those new to PLM. It ensures a consistent user experience, reducing training and eliminating reliance on specialized knowledge.
  • Out-of-the-box integrations: Duro provides a customizable technology platform for seamless data integration and management across CAD tools like SolidWorks, Altium, and more. Easily migrate and manage your data with full control via API access to connect to other apps of your choice.


Want to see Duro in action? Schedule a demo today to see how the platform works and to discuss your company’s specific needs with a representative from our team. Or send us a message if you have any questions about Duro. We’re here to help!

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