Managing Content Throughout the Product Lifecycle

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


These content management features and functionality can be utilized across all phases of the product lifecycle.

Content Management for Each Product Lifecycle Phase

While there are many ways to segment the product lifecycle process, the following phases illustrate a typical lifecycle and the use of content management for each part of the process:

1. Survey In order to design, manufacture and sell the next-generation product, it is important to survey everyone involved with it, compile their input and summarize the results as a new product specification. This process produces content such as meeting notes, survey results, feature lists and marketing requirements specifications. Content management can then be used to store the information in a Web-based repository and provide a collaborative environment where geographically dispersed teams share survey and specification information.

2. Design The design phase involves creating specifications, designs and prototypes of new products, based upon information gathered in the survey phase. Content generated during these processes includes CAD drawings, visualizations and sub-assembly specifications. Once this content is submitted, a CMS can be used to initiate workflows for review, approval and notification processes, and even convert CAD drawings to PDF format for viewing and access from desktop computers.

3. Build The build phase involves decomposing a new product design into sub-assemblies; developing manufacturing processes to build each sub-assembly and the final product; and coordinating product manufacturing with internal and external plants. To ensure product quality, all manufacturing units coordinate product changes through engineering change orders and notices. All change orders and notices can be managed and delivered through the same content management process as all other manufacturing content, ensuring consistency and accuracy across product manufacturing groups.

Additionally, ISO 9000 and 9001, other quality documents and work instructions are created. One company, the Belgium-based imaging firm Agfa Corp., is using a CMS to manage and deliver ISO 9001 procedures, records and work instructions via the company's intranet, and product and materials information via Agfa's partner extranet. By making business information readily available on these sites, Agfa said it is gaining a number of competitive advantages, including reducing costs, increasing employee productivity and bringing products to market faster.

For example, the company eliminated an $80,000 yearly cost for producing a CD-ROM containing information sent to equipment dealers and suppliers on a quarterly basis. Now, Agfa's dealers and suppliers access information previously mailed on the CD-ROM on the extranet. The CMS-powered sites also enhance global communication between Agfa's employees and partners. For example, development teams in the United States and Europe use the intranet to share information and collaborate on content, allowing Agfa to deliver its products to market faster.

4. Review/quality assurance (QA) Concurrent with the build step of the product lifecycle is a continuous review of the product under development and its ability to address the identified product requirements and conform to QA programs. The product review may lead to product changes that require the creation of engineering change orders and coordinated revisions to work instructions, quality manuals and preliminary product manuals.

As in other lifecycle stages, a CMS can be used to manage the content generated during the review/QA phase and make available information created during previous phases. Since many documents created during the review/QA stage include internal-only information as well as information that must be shared, the CMS should have redaction capabilities, showing a viewer only the portions of that document he or she is authorized to see.

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