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 If You Make Products, You’re on a PLM Journey

(whether you know it or not)


How do you know if CAD, ERP, PDM, or PLM software can benefit your business? What is the right choice for your particular needs? And when is the right time to start your PLM journey?

Well, if you make products, your PLM journey has already begun, according to my colleague in Minerva, Leigh Young.

Leigh originates from Belfast, Northern Ireland with a master’s degree in engineering and has worked in various roles as CAD, PDM, and PLM support engineer, gaining a holistic view on how technology supports organizations, from individual departments to the overall business.

He joined me in this episode of Minerva PLM TV to discuss the importance of information structure and process efficiency. Leigh digs deeper into how an organization can analyze where they are in their PLM journey and shares his take on some of the challenges to look out for.

In this blog I’ve captured a few stories from his past engineering experiences and expanded on his tips on how to identify what system (ERP or PLM) an organization needs to be based on the type of problem they are experiencing. You can also watch the complete episode on YouTube: If you make products, you’re on a PLM journey


Wrecking a CNC machine with a flash drive

Most businesses Leigh has met so far in his career have had challenges with their information structure. The best way to describe how the product data is being stored is scattered and unorganized. That makes it close to impossible to find documents, CAD files, test results, and even marketing brochures because it lies hidden somewhere in a file folder.

This lack of structure not only hurts process efficiency badly but also increases the risk of error. One time, Leigh observed how a change management process completely wrecked an expensive CNC machine. A coworker had to manually load an NC code into the system with a USB flash drive. Alas, it was the wrong version and it completely wrecked the machine.



A PLM system brings structure and speed because all data is collected, stored, and updated in the same place.

But how do you know if PLM is the answer to your specific challenge? What if the answer is PDM?

Usually, people seek for tools to answer their problems. Companies that claim they need PLM, really need PDM.

Other companies, who wish to move from unstructured data storage to a more structured approach, claim they need PDM when in reality they could benefit from a full PLM solution.

Leigh shares his best tips on how to get to the next level in your PLM journey:


  • 1. You need to get your structured data under control

Many companies start small – usually with a  CAD system. For example, design engineers often find structured data challenging, so they need a tool. And that tool is very often PDM. Then the company normally chooses a PDM system to get the structured product data, like Bill of Materials, under control.

Going from here, companies need to realize that product structure is more than just controlling the CAD data. Once companies get to this point, they usually realize they need PLM to fully release the potential. 

  • 2. Realize that Product Structure is more than CAD data

According to Leigh, to get a company to realize that PLM is more than just CAD data is a challenge. When companies recognize that, they are already doing PLM, but need a PLM system. But how do we move forward from this, then?

  • 3. Explore and analyze your pain points

Analyze where your pain points are and establish whether it is a PLM problem or related to another area. Remember, everything can be considered a PLM problem, if you are making a product, requirements being one example. In fact, most companies do not consider requirements as part of PLM. They do not think they need to get it under control but continue to write their requirements in Excel or a Word document. 

  • 4. Realize the value in connecting your data

The digital thread is a bit of a buzzword but being able to see the data behind how and why a product was created with a few clicks and trace it back to the requirements is valuable for most businesses.

As a former product tester himself, Leigh used this type of data to improve the quality of the product.


Additional Points of Consideration

In Leighs experience, there is no set checklist a company can follow to analyze where they are in their PLM journey. The challenges a company has are specific to them and there are no two companies that are approaching their Product lifecycle Management in the same way.

The challenges vary for each company depending on:

  • The size and growth rate
  • Industry sector
  • How the existing IT architecture looks like
  • How the product development process looks like
  • Regulatory and security requirements

And the list goes on and on. Defining a sound PLM implementation strategy is no easy feat. That’s why PLM consultancies exist! To help companies making the right choice for their product development needs.

Keep the Conversation Going

What are your takeaways? What questions do you have? Share them with the community and keep the conversation going.

Want to share your story? Drop me a line or send me an email at I’d love to hear from you.


About the author

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore has more than 15 years of experience in Business Transformation across different industries. Her extensive experience includes helping companies navigate complex regulatory requirements through software solutions. She has been developing and deploying large, multi-faceted enterprise software project, driving revenues as well as market adoption.

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