The Value of Customizations in PDM/PLM Implementations
By Marc Young, President/Owner, xLM Solutions
We hear many different terms used to describe customizations added to your PDM/PLM solution. Some call them an add-in or add-on, a customization, a script, a trigger, a method, etc. We’ll use the generic term customization here as we talk about the value of such enhancements to your solution.
Customers rightly want to know why they should think about customizing their PDM/PLM solutions. A number of our customers have discovered that their out-of-the-box functionalities do not always meet all of their unique business needs and requirements. Customization allows companies to add their own unique business flavor and reflect processes that are exclusive and beneficial just to them…which can’t always be encompassed in an out-of-the-box PLM system.
As your PDM/PLM solution is being implemented, review your processes and determine if users are repeatedly making the same mistakes. If so, a customization can be created to validate that data is being entered accurately or a process is being followed correctly. Additionally, certain operations/processes that are being performed manually might be automated. This can be a major time saver. A customization can also remove any non-value user involvement.
Myths vs. facts
Let’s break down some of the myths and facts about customizations. Some customers have told us that they do not wish to customize their system because they think it would be harder to support and upgrade their systems. Compatibility and increased complexity are also concerns. They worry that once customized, their systems will no longer be supported by future upgrades.
Here are the facts: the vast majority of PDM/PLM customers have added customizations to their solutions. These customizations allow customers to harness the power of the PDM/PLM systems so they can deploy optimized solutions for their enterprise PLM needs. The majority of application programming interfaces or APIs (tools, protocols and definitions for building applications software) used in customizations are compatible across versions of PDM/PLM solutions. Moreover, when they are properly constructed, most customizations are relatively easy to deploy and maintain.
Read more about customization approaches for SOLIDWORKS PDM.
The optimal goal with customizations is to balance them against the out-of-the box functionalities to achieve the most efficient system.
Specifics of where customizations fit in
A number of areas in your PDM/PLM solutions lend themselves to added customizations, such as:
- Before or After any event such as add, modify, check in/check out, change state, etc. For instance:
- A Before event customization will perform validations/checks against the data, in the system, i.e., making sure the data is valid before allowing the operation to occur. For example, checking the format of a telephone number being entered. If the format being entered is not in the format of (###) ###-####, do not allow user to enter the data into the system.
- An After event will happen after the data is in the PDM/PLM system. With such an event, it’s common to do something with the data, e.g., after the contact object is entered in the system, a customization will automatically search for a part object and create a link between the contract object and part object based on a certain logic or rule (the customization).
- On-demand event or user-defined events are trigger based on user action, e.g., a user clicking a button or picking a certain menu command. Examples of such an event would allow the user to generate a report on selected data or run a process such as zipping up certain data, creating a transmittal record in the system and sending such data to a customer or supplier.
- Batch tasks can be created to handle customer-specific requirements that should be run on a separate computer and may take a lot computing time, such as:
- Watermarking files
- Batch Print/create a PDF of different file/CAD types
- Running complex reports
- Indexing files
Before adding a customization
We recommend that our customers go through an intentional and strategic process before adding any customizations to their PDM/PLM solutions. This is especially critical when hiring an outside firm to develop the customization. The steps generally are to:
- Define the functional criteria for the customization
- Define test cases
- Build an environment for testing to ensure that the customization will not adversely affect production
- Maintain detailed documentation with full descriptions and instructions on how to hook the customization into the PDM/PLM systems
- Request source code or inquire about how to maintain the customization
Costs and ROI
Of course, one of the first questions will relate to costs and return on investment (ROI) for the customization. The customization will cost money to develop and deploy whether it is done internally or by an external party. It’s an important point to insure the investment in such a customization will return an acceptable ROI
Here’s an example of the return on investment for just one customization:
Let’s assume the development cost of the customization is $5,000.
Further assume we have 10 engineers and we implement a customization for them that will save each engineer 10 minutes of time a day. Projecting this out over 200 work days in year, you can see a large ROI on such a small customization investment. For this example, we estimate an engineer’s hourly rate at $62.50 an hour. Here’s the math:
- Savings per engineer per day $62.50 x 1/6 = $10.42
- Savings per engineer per year ($10.42 x 200) = $2,083.33
- Saving for 10 engineers per year = $20,833.33
- Savings for 10 engineers per year minus the $5,000 cost = ROI in year 1 = $15,833.33 or a 316.67 percent return
- Expand this to year 2, 3, 4, 5, …
Adding customizations to your PDM/PLM system is a powerful and economical approach to expanding the usefulness of your system, while still allowing for updates, support and compatibility.
Are there areas of your PDM/PLM solution that could benefit from a customization? If so, please reach out to xLM Solutions. We would be happy to better understand your requirements and end goal for such a customization, provide our insights into your request and see how we can help.