Managing Content Throughout the Product Lifecycle

A guide to content management systems to support product lifecycle information.


A guide to content management systems to support product lifecycle information.

Manufacturers have implemented many initiatives, such as lean manufacturing and just-in-time (JIT) practices, to help their organizations produce high-quality products with reproducible design processes across many generations of a product. This systematic approach has led many companies to formalize lifecycles for their products, such as survey, design, build, quality assurance, sell, support and end-of-life.

During product lifecycles, a tremendous amount of product-related information is generated, ranging from meeting notes and marketing materials, to computer-aided-design (CAD) drawings, test results, and sales collateral and reports. This content is of high value to manufacturing companies, and many of them are challenged to derive maximum worth from this information.

One way to help guarantee content optimization is to efficiently manage and share product information throughout enterprises. Making accurate, consistent information available to manufacturing, selling and support partners is equally important. Increasingly, many manufacturers are using content management systems (CMS) to manage and leverage content across these audiences and throughout the product lifecycle.

What to Look for In A CMS

There are a number of features and functionality that a CMS should offer in order to effectively support product lifecycle information:


  • Web-based repository Solutions should provide a Web-based repository where all content created during the product lifecycle is stored and managed.

  • Native contribution Users should be able to contribute content to the system in its native format such as CAD drawings, Word documents, spreadsheets and images enabling them to continue to create and update content using tools already familiar to them.

  • Web-based access to information Once content is submitted into a CMS, all authorized users should have Web-based access, eliminating the need to install additional software applications on their computers.

  • Document management functionalities Companies need to be able to manage multiple document types with full revision tracking so they can access previous versions of product documents. In addition, workflows can be used to manage content review and approval processes, including tracking comments and related revisions. And, some CMSs take this function one step further, notifying relevant users of content changes.

  • Collaboration CMSs often provide ad-hoc, Web-based environments where team members can share and collaborate on product content.

  • Native contribution Users should be able to contribute content to the system in its native format such as CAD drawings, Word documents, spreadsheets and images enabling them to continue to create and update content using tools already familiar to them.

  • Records management Records management capabilities enable manufacturers to manage information and products subject to regulatory mandates, such as ISO and Sarbanes-Oxley.

  • Search/index capabilities The ability to full-text index content, regardless of content type, and search by metadata allows users to locate relevant content. Metadata models should be flexible and enable users to tag content with metadata specific to each product, including product attributes, its location within a product hierarchy, and product or content status.

  • Security Each content item should have associated security, ensuring only authorized users can access and change content.

  • Conversion Dynamic conversion (conversion to an appropriate display format on content delivery) and inbound conversion (typically conversion to PDF format when content is initially created or modified) deliver the correct content, in the correct format, to the right user.

  • Dynamic delivery This functionality includes the ability to dynamically and securely deliver content, in the correct context, to internal and external users, including repurposing content and preserving corporate branding.
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