Product lifecycle management – How does your company stack up? [sponsored]

June 4, 2014
I challenge you to conduct an assessment of your own product lifecycle management capabilities or ask your third-party logistics provider to do it for you

Building on our last blog post that focused on prioritizing customer service in the supply chain, this post explores one of the keys to improving service: focusing on enhancing capabilities at every stage of product lifecycle management. This is the third post in our series that spotlights the recently-released annual UPS Change in the (Supply) Chain survey results.

In the high-tech industry, product lifecycle management is especially critical due to the fast-paced nature of the industry and consumers’ high expectations for new, exciting gadgets. In the UPS Change in the (Supply) Chain survey, we asked logistics decision makers at high-tech companies around the world (in North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America) to rate their companies’ capabilities across each stage of the product lifecycle in order to gain insights into areas of challenge and opportunity for companies.

Naturally, in an industry where speed to market is essential, companies typically put a greater emphasis on the beginning of the high-tech product lifecycle. Of those surveyed, 59% of executives classified their companies as “market leaders” in product innovation, while 47% felt they were market leaders in fulfillment and distribution, and post-sales support, respectively. Confidence in capabilities continues to drop significantly as products move along the lifecycle, with 40% stating they are market leaders in product retirement/end-of-life extension and only 34% feeling confident in their reverse logistics capabilities. As high-tech industry competition increases, it’s vital to succeed not only in product innovation but also in areas further down the product lifecycle in order to create a differentiating and positive experience for customers at every interaction point with your brand. Beyond improving customer service, mastering all phases of product lifecycle management also can bring increased cost efficiencies.

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One particularly important part of the product lifecycle for the high-tech industry is a global product launch, with 48% of those surveyed saying the ability to carry out a high-profile product launch is becoming increasingly important. Despite the recognition that flawless execution of a global product launch is a high priority, less than half of high-tech logistics executives believe their companies are market leaders in successfully implementing product launches, leaving room for improvement.

To better understand this gap in prioritization versus capability, we asked high-tech supply chain executives around the world to tell us what was most challenging when executing a global product launch. According to the findings, 26% cited ensuring product security throughout the supply chain as a top challenge and 24% cited collaborating with original equipment manufacturers and/or value-added service providers during the product launch. The local coordination needed to enable day-specific final delivery in various markets and managing 3PLs and other transportation providers were also top challenges cited in executing global product launches at 19% and 13%, respectively.
For product launches in particular, companies need to focus on multiple areas related to different launch stages to ensure a holistic plan, including: specific product characteristics, unique requirements and how they will impact planning and distribution; syncing manufacturing timelines with distribution partners’ plans; up-front regulatory planning with distribution partners for export and import markets associated with your upcoming launch to avoid customs delays; security planning, especially for high-value launches; and, of critical importance, planning the customer experience at each stage of the launch.

It’s key to develop a detailed, holistic global product launch plan that will not only include risk management and action plans, but also give you peace of mind about every stage of your upcoming launch.

Whether it’s a global product launch or another stage of the product lifecycle that your company is struggling with, this is a critical time to focus on improving your capabilities, whether internally or in partnership with a third party.

I challenge you to conduct an assessment of your own product lifecycle management capabilities or ask your third-party logistics provider to do it for you – this exercise will illuminate gaps and opportunity areas that – by addressing – could pay off in terms of cost efficiency, increased sales and customer loyalty.

Download the executive summary of the most recent UPS Change in the (Supply) Chain survey

Also, check out our infographic on the product lifecycle and product launches