Product optimization only yields the best results when there is a focused attempt at controlling the associated costs and quality, from product ideation and onward. This is where product lifecycle management comes into play. By exerting proper controls and by managing all the processes and activities involved in new product development, organizations can ensure that the final product released to market is of high quality and low in cost.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) offers F&B organizations umpteen benefits, all of which will help keep them a step ahead of competitors. Some of the advantages PLM offers are:
- Driving creativity and innovation
- Improving operational productivity
- Reducing costs
- Lowering compliance risks
- Reducing time to market
- Improving product quality
- Increasing revenue
The competitive advantage that organizations achieve through focused product lifecycle management is worth the time, finances and efforts they need to invest.
Product lifecycle management already starts at the pre-R&D stage, when raw materials are procured from suppliers. Organizations can benefit tremendously by obtaining important information from suppliers such as: source of materials, assembly/processing date, expiration date, allergen information, mixture proportions and so on. Being privy to these details will help organizations make informed decisions about which vendor is most suitable for supplying the raw materials. This preserves quality and saves procurement costs.
Additionally, being informed about raw material specifications helps organizations avoid leasing or purchasing machinery and technology that may not be necessary for processing, manufacturing and packaging their products.
Knowledge of raw material specifications also helps organizations eliminate wasteful and harmful processes. This guarantees a safety check during actual operations, which is essential in the F&B industry. Time to market is shortened and organizations are better positioned to adopt new technology and processes; and furthermore, to adapt to evolving market requirements.
Product manufacturing is automated by ensuring that there are controls in place to verify the type of raw materials sourced, the type of machinery and technology used and the type of processes incorporated. The key here is communication. Each business partner involved in the product lifecycle should therefore have unrestricted access to information.
In fact, governmental agencies across the world have started mandating the sharing of product information. The European Union’s Food Information Regulation, the food safety regulations stipulated by Switzerland’s Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act and the food standards set by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) have all made product-related information sharing mandatory. In fact, both the FDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agencies have specific rules obligating manufacturers to fulfill requirements concerning the information they must provide about their pre-packaged products.
While these rules have been put into place to ensure consumer protection, they also help organizations easily track product and raw material information. Ultimately, this helps companies make important decisions affecting product optimization.
Using Product Lifecycle Management Software
Today, it’s become mandatory for organizations to provide important information to all stakeholders including: procurement/manufacturing dates, best-before-use date, allergen information, packaging & storage information, ingredient lists, organic certifications, batch and lot number, lot size, cooking/consumption instructions and disposal instructions. This is where PLM tools and software come in handy.
There are many companies that provide a host of software and tools that make product lifecycle management extremely easy for organizations. Organizations can either purchase the software or lease it through an IT vendor.
Some of the benefits of using PLM software are:
- Raw material identification and quality inspection made simple
- Online forms that make it easy to upload and revise product-related data
- Easy uploadability Additional documentation, certifications and licenses can be uploaded with ease
- Product and material information can be shared across teams and departments
- Product designs can be uploaded and accessed remotely by product developers
- Complete material and product history can be maintained and access shared with multiple users
- More efficient inventory management
- Bottlenecks in processes and workflows can be easily detected
- Real time information can be added into the system and new market demands tracked
- Easier document and file management
- Up-to-date and accurate bills of material
- Drastic reduction of administrative work and costs
From R&D to customer service, all departments will benefit from the implementation of PLM software. Engineers can use the software to develop designs, check specifications and ensure compliance at the R&D level. In addition, the PLM software simplifies compliance with information sharing requirements.
The PLM software helps organizations share their product information on a global online database. An organization’s PLM software can be easily integrated with the database, facilitating seamless information sharing. Suppliers, sellers and customers can access all this data quickly and easily. Absolutely anything can be uploaded to the database, from the ingredient list to product catalogs.
PLM software reduces product time to market. Product launches and releases can be more efficiently managed, given that all information is immediately available. The real-time market data input that integrates with the existing database enables managers to respond to changing customer needs instantaneously.
Product Lifecycle Management and Product Lifecycle Phases
For successful product lifecycle management, organizations need to take into account the market characteristics of the various phases of the product lifecycle.
PLM software helps organizations track product performance across the product lifecycle by providing access to pertinent information in real time. In most cases, the PLM software will be used by multiple teams and departments simultaneously. This allows for greater collaboration and organization-wide information sharing.
Managers can use the PLM software to track the availability of raw materials, to distinguish important processes from less important ones, and to analyze marketing information. By integrating this data, companies can create a strategy suited to the requirements of specific product lifecycle phases.
From major cost savings to understanding customer purchase patterns, product lifecycle management adds great value to organizations. It is important to incorporate PLM software into business operations to ensure organizational success.
Photo Credit Featured Image: © fotolia / Jakub Jirsák