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Accelerate Product Development in Times of Crisis

In times of crisis, it is critical to accelerate Product Development to combat, manage and win the fight. Whether this is a war, a pandemic, or other crisis; acceleration, speed and flexibility is an absolute essential.

In times of ‘business as usual’, Product Development is important. However, many of the world’s great companies are still working in silos, with older technology, slow processes and inadequate systems. Why? Because once people are used to a system and process, it is difficult to change. And, if it’s not broken, why fix it? That’s why in times of business as usual, the topic of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – accelerating Product Development - in the Enterprise context, may remain a topic without the highest priority. Often times this topic is limited to a smaller (yet essential) group or department within the Enterprise – the R&D / Engineering department. Right or wrong, that’s the way it is.

Fast forward to the current situation – global pandemic and crisis mode – the silos, old technology, slow processes and inadequate systems are not just an annoyance, a pain, or inefficient. In the current situation, due to these shortcomings, people are suffering, healthcare systems are at capacity, personal protective equipment is in short supply, patients are dying, and the economy has come to a semi-stop across the entire world, with a novel coronavirus spreading across more than 180 countries.

No country could fully predict, and perfectly manage the current situation. Even with strong government leadership across the world, large enterprise, fast testing capabilities and rapid vaccine development, it has proven to be a near impossible task for the world to manage. However, the countries that have managed the situation most efficiently, prime example South Korea, or not far behind Germany, have a few key things in common. These countries and many of the great companies across the world, accelerated Product Development of COVID-19 testing capacity, including the R&D / Engineering and Supply of the test kits to critical healthcare facilities, early on.

Already, on January 16, before the World Health Organization concluded that the novel coronavirus could be transmitted from one human to another, German scientists had created a test that proved to be one of the first reliable means of detecting the virus. That test was then rapidly produced and adopted by the WHO.” The Spectator’s UK.

Having reviewed all of this, the test kits from January 16 were certainly not perfect, but this was the first mechanism within capacity to try and manage the situation to minimize the impact, from a public health perspective and economic perspective. The countries which leveraged the products which were developed early and rapidly, are the same countries whose economies will have the chance to reopen early and rapidly. In this context, Product Development and PLM has the most significant impact on the world, arguably ever. Accelerated Product Development in Times of Crisis means saving lives.

Since January, the product lifecycle of the COVID-19 test has further evolved and improved, as more and more companies and agencies have become involved. Many of these great companies across the world have accelerated development, increased production, and optimized their supply chain. What's the positive effect of this you ask? – the pandemic can start to be controlled and managed, to plan for the next phase. Of course, many other factors play into this equation.

What is PLM and how does it impact the ability to accelerate Product Development and get products to market faster?

In Industry, PLM is the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through research and development, engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal of manufactured products. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise.

In short, PLM impacts all aspects of the Enterprise, from R&D / Engineering, Purchasing, Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Logistics, Finance and HR. It is critical to get the right information to the right people, at the right time. This involves business processes and workflows across all of the Enterprise.

  • R&D / Engineering – research, development and engineering of products.
  • Purchasing – procurement of components for products.
  • Manufacturing – production of components for products and / or assembly of products.
  • Supply Chain – supply of components necessary for purchasing, manufacturing final products (goods).
  • Logistics – extension of the supply chain, to get the components and products to market.
  • Finance – funding of product development and product lifecycle management.                                                     

If we apply the graphic above to the Product Development of COVID-19 test kit and testing capacity, we can quickly trace the importance of PLM to help address a global pandemic.

The better, easier, quicker and more effective the COVID-19 test, the quicker resolution to the current pandemic, and the more prepared we can all be for the next phase. Companies across the world are accelerating their PLM efforts to make this happen. Companies which have their systems, processes and people integrated, are much better positioned to deliver. There is no argument about this.

The next phase, which is already moving forward in parallel, is PLM 101. R&D / Engineering and eventual approval of a Vaccine. The below companies, and many more across the world are accelerating PLM to develop a vaccine.

Additionally, several companies have approved products already on the market that could hold potential in treating patients.

Many of the leading companies involved in the current fight against COVID-19 run their Enterprise on SAP Software, one of the largest Enterprise Software vendors in the world. SAP’s customers distribute 78% of the world’s food and 82% of the world’s medical devices. The more integrated these companies operate, the more efficiently this fight can be fought. Applying the current challenges and shortcomings of PLM in the Enterprise context, the presentation below resonates more than ever before.

Again, all of the companies which have closley integrated systems, processes and people, will be positioned to deliver better, faster, more accuarete testing capacity, vaccine development and treament options.  Why is that, you may ask? If the data, the people and the processes are closley connected, the business process and workflow is accelerated. This equates to getting a product to market quicker, which in the current times of crisis means saving lives.

Now let’s reflect back to business as usual. Why is PLM important? Even if your product does not save lives, but instead it offers faster computing, more efficient airflow, cleaner engines, residential & commercial hot water heaters, or quality grills, the companies that can accelerate their Product Development, manage the lifecycle of their products and improve these quickly, are the same companies that will be the market leaders during business as usual.

The lesson learned from all of this – the world is integrated, people are connected, technology is front and center, why not apply the same processes to ‘business as usual’? Let’s get through this together – which we will, and take a good look at our systems, processes, people, and become better!  


Christoph Fischer


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