Here’s What the Space Race Taught Us About Product Lifecycle Management

October 15, 2018

When the Russians launched Sputnik in 1957, they also triggered a new Cold War battle between the two global powers of the USSR and the USA: The Space Race.

No one in human history had been able to put an artificial satellite into the Earth’s orbit. Even the USA was taken by surprise. Their sworn enemy had dramatically declared that they, not America, led the world in scientific development. Americans were not happy.

But here’s the thing. Putting an artificial satellite into orbit was never the end goal; it was only the beginning. Putting a human being on the moon, on the other hand? Now THAT would be a true milestone in human achievement.

With this in mind, the USA poured money into NASA, launching a rocket the following year. The USSR duly upped their game, even getting an unmanned rocket to the moon’s surface in 1959 and beating the USA to get the first man in space. But on 16th July, 1969, the USA “won” the Space Race: Neil Armstrong became the first man on to walk on the moon.

Here’s the thing: no one cares who came second in a race. It doesn’t matter that the Russians led until the last moment. The USA will always get the credit for putting a man on the moon. To make history, you have to nail it... and you have to nail it first.

For companies developing new products, this is a crucial lesson. Let’s delve into why.

Getting To the Finish Line First

Getting To the Finish Line First In Your Industry

To corner the market, you need to reach the finish line before your competitors. You also need to make sure you really have reached the finish line before you release a product. If you show off an intriguing halfway-there solution, you’ll only spur on others in your field to nail it before you - and they get to take all the credit.

This is why Product Lifecycle Management has gone from being a barely-known term a decade ago to a concept that dominates every industry today. For organizations of any size and in any field, an effective PLM system gives the right people the right access to the right data at the right time, allowing them to improve and refine every step in developing, creating and launching a new product.

In other words, you map out precisely how you will get from the germination of an idea, to manufacture, to putting the product on the shelves, spotting and fixing potential problems in advance. You streamline your project to get to the finish line first.

PLM platforms do this in a number of ways.

Firstly, you keep everything in one place. A top PLM will store and centralize all information and documents relating to the product, from designs of individual parts to product specifications, as well as every new version of the design that’s created during its lifecycle.

Everyone who needs this can get to it, you can see exactly what’s been done to avoid work being duplicated, changes are updated instantly across the system to keep everyone on the same page, and the best systems even help you to set up a well-structured flow of information from design to manufacturing to marketing departments.

Plus, you can run precise and thorough searches to find exactly what you need in the system.

Secondly, you can generate all kinds of documents you need directly from this data without leaving the platform. That includes quality control and compliance reports, as well as bills of materials (BOM) such as engineering BOMs and manufacturing BOMs. Again, these are always based on the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Thirdly, you get to see what your product will be like before you’ve made it, using virtual modeling and lifelike simulations - and you can roll out sophisticated production planning to highlight any potential manufacturing issues.

This gives you the chance to fix problems and perfect your product without the time and expense involved in creating several rounds of prototypes.

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Nailing It (Before Anyone Else Does)

As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression - and we’ve seen how important it is to get the perfect product to market before anyone steals your thunder. Used right, a PLM system helps you stay on track to do just that in five ways: 

  1. Reduced Time to Market

    By trimming the fat and improving processes all along the chain, you cut down the time from conceptualization to getting your product on shop shelves.

  2. Cutting Costs

    By replacing prototyping with virtual models and spotting potential problems early, you lower your production costs; which means you can allocate more of your budget to stages like market research and marketing, ensuring your product makes the right kind of splash.

  3. Increased Productivity

    The enemy of momentum is getting bogged down in unproductive or duplicated tasks. If you can strip out time-consuming, energy-sapping activities like searching around for the right data or documents you keep your team focused on the really effective stuff.

  4. Improved Quality

    As we’ve seen, it’s not just about getting your product out there fast, it’s about getting a high-quality product out there fast. One of the biggest benefits of a PLM system is that you’re constantly checking standards and refining your product to get it just right for your customers.

  5. More Innovation

    By bringing all the scattered great minds throughout your company together through a system that fosters collaboration, you spark brilliant ideas that help you charge ahead of the competition.

small step

Final Thoughts…

“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

We’ve all heard those words. We know who said them, why and when. It’s a legendary quote that will echo through the ages.

Do you know what the first Russian astronout to reach the moon said?
No, neither do we.

So don’t let someone else in your industry beat you to the finish line in your very own Space Race. Find the right PLM platform and make damn sure you’re the ones to nail it. And to nail it first.

Want to learn more about the benefits a PLM platform can bring to your business? Feel free to reach out to us.

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