Product data is an important asset for a company, bringing value throughout the organization in many ways. That is why it is paramount to take good care of it and invest in its quality and management. However, few companies give product data the attention it deserves.
From a design department’s perspective, product data practically covers the entire product lifecycle and related processes, including areas such as technical information, version management and all sorts of material related to the manufacture and development of the product. Customer feedback and customers’ requirements also constitute important and useful product data.
Product data begins to accumulate from the get-go of the design process and continues in the following stages of the product lifecycle. This accumulated data will be particularly valuable later on when designing a new, improved version of the product. Many lessons have been learned from the first version and there are probably mistakes that need to be fixed. Well-managed product data enables consistent versioning using the right methods, which makes launching the new project quick and painless.
In a worse (and unfortunately common) scenario, product data management has not been taken into account well enough. In that case, the design of the new version is based, right from the start, on data that contains errors. Due to incomplete starting data, the mistakes that were made previously will be repeated, and problems need to be resolved all over again. This duplication of effort increases unnecessary work, resulting in higher costs and longer production lead times. The final outcome is far from ideal.
Good product data is up to date and easily available
Before the digital age, product data used to be stored in folders and manuals, whereas today, it may be stored in computer files or in a cloud service. These are inefficient data product management tools that fail to meet the basic requirement of successful management: good product data is up to date and easy to find and retrieve.
There is a wide range of product data management systems, or PDM systems, available in the market. They make it possible to systematically collect product data and store it all in a single system. It is good to remember that a PDM system is just an enabler. Its existence alone is no guarantee of the quality or successful management of product data; the data contained in the system is just as good as the input data entered by its users – humans.
When taking a PDM system into use, it is paramount to define a strategy and common practices for product data management. Clear processes must be in place for producing and storing data, and each user must follow them to the letter. Otherwise, the findability, availability and up-to-dateness of the data will suffer, and the product data will not cater to the company’s needs as well as it could and should.
Well-managed product data brings cost savings by reducing the need for resources in design, shortening production lead times and increasing operational efficiency.
Few companies pay enough attention to product data
While product data is an important asset for a company, companies do not pay enough attention to it. Product data management is often seen as an unnecessary cost item – a necessary evil. This perception partly stems from the fact that the impacts of well-managed product data will only be seen in the long term and that the value created is not easy to measure.
However, the fact is that at its best, product data offers benefits throughout the organization: it improves the reliability and quality of products, serves sales and enhances the company’s reputation. It also brings cost savings by reducing the need for resources in design, shortening production lead times and increasing operational efficiency.
If, on the other hand, product data management is neglected, all of the benefits mentioned above can turn on their heads and become disadvantages. Over time, poor product data can also lead to a long and tedious cleaning operation, which could have been avoided years earlier with considerably less effort.
In Etteplan’s view, R&D and design management should become better at seeing product data as an asset and appropriately invest in its quality and management. The better and earlier product data management is taken into account, the greater the benefits. And correspondingly, the longer the investments are delayed, the higher the bill.