PLC Implementation: A Case Study (Part 1)

The last two companies I have worked at were both experiencing significant challenges with bring products to market in a timely and predictable fashion and something had to be done or the companies would not survive.  There are many similarities between the companies and in the end the corrective action selected was to Develop and implement a Product Life Cycle (PLC).

Why a PLC:  There are many books and models out there for improving overall performance of an organization.  We considered options that ran the range from improving individual performance to considering various Product Life Cycle (PLC) models and possible six sigma programs.  In both cases the companies were engineering driven organizations that had seen early success because of the technology they had delivered.  However, in the reality era of the post Go-Go 90s where your product must deliver both quality and value ahead of the competition the companies were struggling and falling behind.  It was also apparent that the companies had no structured cross-functional product development process.  Given this we felt we needed to take a more holistic approach to product selection, development, production, and support.  Therefore, we elected to proceed with the implementation of the PLC.  We were also intrigued by some of the claims regarding the level of improvement you might expect to see after implementing a PLC; including:

  • 75% reduction in Time-to-Market (TTM).
  • 50% reduction in development expenses.
  • 25% increase in customer satisfaction.
  • 35% improvement in reuse


How we developed and implemented the PLC:  Since both companies had been around for a while, they each had an established and unique culture.  Rather than try to force a “one size fits all” approach to product development on the organization we wanted to consider the culture.  Therefore, we held a series of interviews and town hall meetings to determine:

  1. How the system worked at that time,
  2. What peoples pain points were and
  3. What they would like to see changed (the old “If you had a magic wand” question)

Once we completed the interviews and meetings, we were able to boil the findings down to the following areas:

  1. There was no formal program selection process so almost everything was started, which resulted in too many developments and not enough people.
  2. People were frustrated that programs would be started and then canceled as late as 3 weeks prior to FCS
  3. No priorities existed between programs so programs were delayed due to resource contention
  4. Departments were acting as silos where products were tossed over the wall with no cross-functional collaboration.
  5. There was little to no predictability for delivery, development costs, or production costs.
  6. Improvement programs had been tried before and people felt they didn’t work.


Needless to say, we had our hands full.  Tomorrow we will explore the implementation and results.  


Ed Gaeta



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