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Replacing Legacy PLM & QMS Platforms: The Why and How

Companies that manufacture goods are modernizing every piece of their business, especially after the pandemic. Don’t fall behind in the digital age with a legacy quality management system (QMS) or product lifecycle management (PLM) solution.

What’s Wrong With Legacy PLM and QMS Platforms?

While legacy product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management system (QMS) platforms focus on engineering and quality teams, a modern platform enables company-wide collaboration that can quickly identify and respond to customer needs.

Managers rely on both of these platforms to streamline business processes, implement corrective or preventive actions, and optimize product quality through all stages of production. 

Legacy platforms eventually become obsolete as software vendors take longer and longer to upgrade systems. This forces companies to retroactively change their processes to work with the constraints of outdated technology instead of proactively using the latest developments to improve their work. 

With best-in-class cloud software, replacing these systems is easier than ever, allowing teams to spend more time preparing for future opportunities. 

3 Reasons to Move to a Modern PLM / QMS Platform

Whether you’re a new manager or a top-level executive, understanding the motivations to move beyond a legacy QMS and PLM platform into the digital age can help you communicate your vision to the rest of the team. 

Here are some of the top reasons to make the move.

  1. Highly flexible - cloud-based PLM and QMS systems are limitless data management solutions that create unique business opportunities, which allow organizations to take innovative approaches to managing the product lifecycle. You can deploy across entire organizations or only to select teams. 
  2. Fast deployment and ease of upgrade - Cloud systems don’t require physical server space and make scaling across the organization easy. A modern QMS and PLM system should also offer robust onboarding and training. 
  3. Collaborative features - With fully functional CRM, ERP, and Case Management integration, having a single version of truth for all teams at all times is easier than ever. 

Benefits of Modern PLM / QMS Platforms

Keep your business ahead of rapid changes and new market trends through efficient product data management, with cloud platforms providing a connected database of risk assessments and compliance documentation.

Complex processes can be completed faster and more efficiently as communication across teams becomes streamlined and accessible. Processes can also be automated where possible, which helps teams become more efficient. 

Tracking progress improves the decision making process, resulting in faster development cycles, increased product quality, and reduced project costs. These platforms also integrate suppliers at every step of the way, helping to synchronize the workflow of teams across multiple organizations.

Key Capabilities of a Modern PLM / QMS Platform

All modern platforms must be designed for change in order to stay resilient in the face of industry-wide disruption. They should be open, flexible, scalable, and upgradable for organizations of any size in any industry. This will help drive innovation while also ensuring sustainable growth.

PLM and QMS solutions should also have visible and accessible options built in to oversee all stages of all processes, including:

  • Document management
  • Project management
  • Supply chain management
  • Quality management
  • Requirements management

Features might include collaborative documents, configurable templates, data collection/analysis, and integration with external productivity applications.

Challenges of Replacing Legacy PLM / QMS Platforms

Conventional solutions may be challenging to upgrade because they rely on hard coded business models and data that are customized extensively to meet business needs.

Time and cost are essential resources that must be managed properly to replace a legacy platform. Service outages and schedule changes will be inevitable as teams adjust to new systems and workflows. 

Keep in mind that even the most powerful modern platforms cannot fix broken processes. PLM and QMS tools can only be as effective as the business processes they are introduced to. 

Best Practices of Legacy PLM / QMS Replacement

When introduced successfully, new PLM and QMS solutions can improve product quality while lowering development costs. However, be careful not to get overly ambitious, as connectivity is a core benefit of these platforms. Focus first on connecting core systems and users before replacing any individual components. 

When your business gets prepared for replacement, calculate the cost and research the predictability of implementation before replacing your legacy PLM with a new platform. Work to make it co-exist with the one you have and only switch over when you’re sure that every feature you need is aligned with business objectives and functional for all users.

Understanding the capabilities and limitations of these systems will help your company grow and remain competitive in the marketplace. For example, ASP moved off legacy systems in favor of using a completely integrated PLM and QMS platform.

Propel provides a hub for all product and quality information, effectively integrating customer, supplier and product data across their entire value chain.

5 Steps for Legacy PLM / QMS Replacement

  1. Pre-Implementation - Spread awareness about the benefits of modern PLM and QMS platforms. Get stakeholders to buy into the need for replacement by introducing key features and provide training on any new systems that you plan to introduce as replacements for legacy solutions.

  2. Prepare a Roadmap for PLM/QMS Replacement - Determine what functionalities can be upgrades of existing features and what new ones need to be implemented. Identify what data will be impacted, as well as steps that can be taken to maintain cybersecurity.

  3. Carry out configuration, data, and file migrations - Move data off legacy platforms and into the cloud in a way that causes minimal disruption to end users. Request exports of external data from supply chain partners to keep all resources in one place.

  4. Transfer existing integrations from legacy solutions to the cloud - Work to ensure compatibility by testing and refining processes that utilize external applications and data.

  5. Carry out performance tests and go live - Maintain a service-oriented focus by stress testing new systems to make sure they improve your workflows. Communicate constantly with team leaders at all levels of your organization to ease the stress of deployment. 

What Are Some Strategies to Improve PLM / QMS Replacement?

Organizations have to consider what they need from PLM and QMS platforms on a project to project basis. Engaging in continuing digital transformation is the best way to ensure future success.

As you consider these changes, make sure that any potential replacement is able to organize data throughout the product life cycle, while also functioning as a hub for product information that also offers tools to automate business processes.

Find a service provider that specializes in solutions for your specific industry to get the most value out of the replacement process. Worthwhile providers will be prepared to discuss your specific business needs, not to mention be enthusiastic about tailoring their services to them or creating new solutions. 

What’s the Future of PLM / QMS Platforms? It's called product value management.

“We saw early into the pandemic that the ability to pivot and adjust every day was critical for manufacturing companies and the brands behind them,” says Ray Hein, CEO of Propel — the top-rated cloud-based product value management (PVM) solution

Even if you modernize your QMS and PLM solutions, if you keep them disconnected, you'll still only get so far. A PVM platform connects all the capabilities of both solutions into one single platform, and further connects commercial and product teams to optimize decision making with shared insights, drive efficiency with contextualized collaboration, and engage customers with compelling products and experiences.

Hein believes there are a few key things in store for the future of cloud-based platforms—for PLM, QMS, and certainly for PVM: 

  • They’ll add new features faster – legacy providers push new upgrades once a year. The most modern cloud-based solutions are pushing updates at least every quarter. 
  • They’ll offer consulting services – your business is only as good as your processes. Get help developing modern processes with leading in-house experts at providers. 

Companies that manufacture goods are modernizing every piece of their business, especially after the pandemic. Don’t fall behind in the digital age with a legacy QMS or PLM solution. Consider the new age of PVM.

Read more about the ways PLM has fallen short in recent years in the article, "Where (Traditional) PLM Dropped the Ball."

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Post by
Ron Hess
Chief Architect & Co-Founder, Propel

Ron has deep experience as a technical and innovation thought leader, including 10+ years of experience as a Salesforce architect, evangelist and program manager. Prior to Propel, Ron was the principal architect at Kenandy, building the next generation of ERP on the Salesforce platform.

Fun Fact: Ron is a licensed private pilot glider.

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Ron Hess