Product Lifecycle Management is a tricky topic with many different applicable concepts. For those in the product business (distributing, manufacturing, or reselling), product lifecycle management helps to effectively manage, connect, and streamline processes for: production, design, validation, support, maintenance, and disposal of goods. An effectively executed and managed product lifecycle can lead to increased sales, improved production, efficient operations, and reduced waste.
What Does Product Lifecycle Management Do?
Product lifecycle management does not only concern itself with the popularity, growth, sales, and disposal of goods. It also serves an incredibly important role as a framework to help company’s connect, organize, manage, track, control, consolidate and centralize all information that is crucial for maintaining a businesses mission. Correctly executed product lifecycle management offers certain advantages such as: streamlined collaboration between stakeholders, better communication regarding engineering, design, and manufacturing, and further support to quality control and other key aspects.
Product lifecycle management can help to detail the safety of a product and controllability of the components, which comes in especially useful in industries such as: aerospace technologies, automotive, medical devices, and military weapons.
Benefits and Scope of Product Lifecycle Management
In-depth, greatly detailed product lifecycle management frameworks can further help with developing and managing the Engineering Bill of Materials (EBOM), which is a guide that defines the product as designed. It contains a list of items, components, sub-assemblies, and finishing assemblies from the perspective of the engineer. This gives companies greater visibility into sourcing, storage, collaboration, and workflow over all steps involved in the product of a product.
It’s important to remember that product lifecycle management covers the lifecycle of a product in its entirety. This includes management over all functions that go into product development, research, manufacturing, warehousing, sales, distribution, etc.
The Product Lifecycle
The product lifecycle contains 4 widely recognized phases or stages: 1) Introduction, 2) Growth, 3) Maturity, and 4) Decline. Since these have been covered in other blog posts, this is a very brief overview of each stage:
- Introduction: All aspects of product development and introduction, which includes: manufacturing, research, establishing vendor relations and distribution channels, testing, etc. It contains all steps that lead up to the introduction of the product.
- Growth: The growth phase can be summed up as the markets acceptance of the new product, which ultimately leads to increased sales and distribution. The level or degree of acceptance, and popularity of the given product will vary depending on the success of the project.
- Maturity: In the maturity phase, sales have reached their peak, have leveled out, and are maintaining a consistent stream of sales. This is the least volatile stage of the product lifecycle.
- Decline: Product sales begin to decline due to newer-generation products, the products off-season, or any other variety of causes. This stage leads up to the end of the product lifecycle.
Product lifecycles have direct impacts on the operational efficiency of a business, the overall perceived customer service level of a business, and warehouse operations. Depending on the industry, product lifecycles may have a huge bearing on your company.
Best Practices of Product Lifecycle Management
Managing the product lifecycle can be a hassle if you don’t know where to start and what is required. While the product lifecycle is something to be followed and tracked, it is also something which can be controlled and managed. Although certain elements will always remain unknown and uncertain, such as the degree of popularity and growth a product will experience, the exact lifespan of the product, actions of competitors, etc., there are tangible steps and actions one can take to manage the product lifecycle in as much detail as possible. Here are some best practices of product lifecycle management:
Divide Implementation into Phases
Create phases that provide business values and can be deployed independently. Build a plan for each of these phases that includes goals and be sure to give priority to important or high-risk items. For example, in the food industry, the introduction phase is perhaps one of the most important due to the risks of: health, market taste preference, and cultural interpretation. Setting up taste-tests is a great way to gauge the acceptance level the new food product will receive after launch. This simultaneously accomplishes a step in the introduction phase and provides an insightful look into the growth phase of the product.
This applies to both the company and the customer level. Requirements on a company level may include legal, corporate, and management-oriented rules and regulations that a company should adhere by in every stage of the product lifecycle. However, it may also include the requirements that users demand. This is most effectively evaluated and implemented during research in the introduction phase. Be in the know on what consumers are expecting, and what they have complained about with competitors’ past products.
Writing Use Cases
There are two types of use cases you will most likely have to write: 1) High Level, and 2) Detailed. Each of these use cases serve as a foundation for documentation, training materials, and test plans. Dedicate a team to researching and developing use cases for the product under development.
Develop Visually and Use Prototypes
Utilize diagrams and mock ups wherever possible. Creating visual models and prototypes can help to gain user validation before proceeding with developing a method code. Try not to spend much time working on products specs without prototyping and creation visual demonstrations that may be presented and validated by management.
Product lifecycle management is an easy concept to understand but can be difficult to apply. Effective product lifecycle management can lead to better communication, decreased expenses, and improved efficiency. It is often mistaken that the product lifecycle only refers to after-the-fact, measurable research, but effective management of the produce lifecycle can give you predictive capabilities and insights into sales, manufacturing, and operations performance.
If you are interested in learning more about product lifecycle management, give our team at Interlog USA a call and we’d be happy to chat with you! We have done extensive amounts of research on product lifecycles, and work with many companies that avidly manage them.