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Why is PLM (or Product Lifecycle Management) software poorly understood in the food and beverage industry? And why has the food processing industry been slow to adopt it?

I have a unique background in that I have a PhD in food science, worked for several food manufacturing companies, numerous $1B restaurant chains, and was VP/GM at an IT systems consulting firm 10 years focused on food and beverage manufacturing. In general, the software companies missed the mark in communicating the benefits of a software solution to food processors.

How Do Major Software Companies Pitch PLM to Potential Clients?

Before writing this blog, I went to the website of three top software companies to see how they pitched their products to the manufacturing industries

Software Company #1 stated their PLM software was “specifically designed for process manufacturers having identified Product Lifecycle Management as the answer to the increasing pressure to bring more products to the market faster, safer and at lower cost. Workflows, project- and task management help your organization to organize, speed-up and reduce costs related to your product development processes”.

Software Company #2 described their PLM software as the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from its conception, through design and manufacture, to service and disposal. They further defined their software solution as a web-based, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) product with numerous out-of-the-box solutions and an architecture that allows for rapid customization around its core engine to meet the needs of each clients unique business process environment. This definition caused me the most confusion!

Software Company #3 portrayed their PLM software product as an application that provides you with a 360-degree-support for all product-related processes from the first product idea, through manufacturing to product service. This company’s solution gives organizations the unique ability to perform their essential business processes with modular software that is designed to work with other branded software.

Based on my experience, software companies would profit greatly by communicating to food and beverage manufacturing companies two core benefits: 1) Sell PLM as an electronic document management tool that can also support the 2011 Food Safety and Modernization Act, and 2) Position PLM as a workflow support function to either enable a new product commercialization process or an existing Stage-Gate Process. The reality at most food companies is their new product innovation and commercialization process is weak or nonexistent – and they don’t even have sound work-flow processes.

Best Software Positioning

It would be wise for a food and beverage company to contract with an independent software consultant to identify their business needs, functional requirements, data formats and locations, software selection, and scripted demos BEFORE buying any software. Sometimes a food processor will need to implement a few best-practice processes before the software is purchased – and many times this can be completed in a few short weeks.

And it would further benefit the software companies to target the electronic document functionality as the PLM’s greatest asset. The food industry is a highly regulated industry like pharmaceutical, and is buried with document storage, approval, review, and retrieval requirements.


Dr. Darrel Suderman is an independent software systems consulting partner with Food Technical Consulting and Business IQ LLC, Denver, CO. He has 15 years experience in Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) and the Quick Serve Restaurant (QSR) industries. For 10 years, he has led major MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), Supply Chain Management (SCM), and Product LifeCycle Management (PLM) consulting projects at numerous #1 branded companies that includes: Jennie-O Turkey Store, Johnsonville Sausage, Ernst & Julio Gallo Winery, JBS Pilgrims, Organic Valley, and Gold’n Plump Poultry. Business IQ LLC was started in 2011 as a Business Intelligence Analytics consulting services provider using SAP Business Object Platform. He has published numerous IT white papers and spoken at major software company annual sales meetings.

For more information on 1-day cutting edge corporate innovation seminars, please contact me at or follow the Food Innovation Institute website ( for information on two Food Innovation 3-day workshops in Denver, Colorado.

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