I read a recent whitepaper [Amber Road, 07/2015, “Next Gen PLM: Ensuring Compliance and Line of Sight” /sites/default/files/en/2015/07/amber_road_next_gen_plm_white_paper.pdf], on the role of PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) in risk management and compliance through a company’s supply chain. Amber Road’s premise is:

“Global commercialization operations cause a significant visibility gap into the product process and the related activities around social and product compliance; which increase the likelihood of risks or disruptions at every turn. Fierce competition and tight cost margins can further magnify the impact of a supply chain failure on a business.”

Because of the lack of visibility into the product data from an OEM’s suppliers, there is a risk not only regulatory but business as well. The risk of failing to manage sourced product quality, legality of the part, compliance to specifications and regulations needs to be mitigated by creating visibility in the entire supply chain from design requirements to product documentation to regulatory approvals.  Amber Road suggested that Extended PLM or ePLM could be the answer to this compliance dilemma. Their quoted expert stated that ePLM would “… provide a platform where companies have better access to enterprise-wide information tying together design, production, and other management aspects of their business.” – with collaboration being the key capability.

Coming from the aerospace world, I completely understand the need to this visibility into the supply chain sourcing information as well as the product design, certification and manufacturing data that typically would come from the supplier’s PLM and ERP systems. However, I felt that the article had missed a key component in its supply chain visibility and risk mitigation discussion around the exploitation of operational data in the fielded product. The capture of operational data to include customer usage and product reliability has a direct value in mitigation of risk especially in product safety. Typically, one would utilize SLM (Service Lifecycle Management) capabilities rather than PLM capabilities to capture, analyze and action the product operational data. The figure below illustrates how customer product operational data can be utilized in providing feedback to the design team on in-service problems.

OEM’s must ensure that in addition to the supplier provided product data gathered during the sourcing and design phase, there must be SLM processes in place to monitor and exploit the product’s operation to be proactive in mitigating product safety and compliance risk. Having fully integrated ERP, PLM and SLM capabilities goes a long way in making this possible. Yes, Amber Road’s premise was correct in all respects, yet adding in-service product data collection and analysis through SLM would provide a better solution.