The low-hanging fruit of PLM: Process management and traceability

By Susan Zimmerlee

One of the most fundamental, and often overlooked, aspects of PLM is process management. I’ve worked with a number of customers across more years than I should probably admit, and I’ve often found simple process management capabilities could provide a lot of value. I’d like to explore some of those features, starting with process traceability.

I was working at a customer site where parts kept disappearing from the system at a certain step in a workflow. The woman who was supposed to do something at that step kept complaining – how could she get her work done when the part wasn’t there?! So I flipped a few switches, turned on some tracking and we saw that she was deleting them!

Now this might raise some questions about the right or wrong ways to get out of doing your work! But I’d like to focus this conversation on process traceability. Most will agree it’s a critical element to PLM – especially considering all the rules and regulations many industries now require for compliance and reporting. Let’s consider, for a moment, process traceability outside the scope of regulations and compliance.

In the simple example of disappearing parts, process audit and history trails provided a window into a consistent problem. You can use those same process management tools for a variety of purposes.

You could monitor a particular process over time and get a good idea of where you might be able to make improvements: 

  • Are there steps that are consistently late? Maybe the task could go to a pool of resources rather than an individual. Or maybe the template needs to be updated to accurately reflect the time needed to complete that task? 
  • Is there a failure loop that is always taken the first time through? If we are consistently failing at the same step, maybe we’re not collecting the right information or involving the right people the first time through. How can we adjust?

Audit and history trails can also provide valuable information on things like resource utilization. Is the same guy getting all the design assignments? Maybe we could spread the wealth a bit!

These are just a couple of examples. I hope it gets you thinking… Could your PLM system be working harder for you? Flip a couple of those switches to see what you can find with process management and traceability!

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at