Lifecycle Management Lessons from the Automotive Industry

We have a lot to thank the automotive industry for; Henry Ford introducing the conveyor-belt assembly line is probably the best known example of this industry’s contribution to process improvement. But modern day advancements in life cycle management are no less significant.

Inspiration from American Motors Corporation (AMC) who, in the mid 1980s were reviewing their product development competitive edge, led to the improvement of methods to increase their speed to market. When Chrysler bought AMC they were able to become the lowest-cost producer in the automotive industry due to the innovative approaches to production, including storing all drawings in a central database (to reduce time and effort of engineers). Any organisation currently involved in product design and manufacture probably use one or more of the methods these early adopters knew could make them stand out from the competitive crowd.

[Source: Wiki]

Today we are fortunate to have a multitude of examples, systems and processes upon which to model our own business for optimum success. Lifecycle management includes the software and hardware considerations as well as production, manufacturing systems, sales and marketing. The lifecycle takes a product from concept to conclusion.

Whichever industry we are in, there are similarities in the stages of our own life cycle.


Phase 1: Research, Conception, Definition

  • Idea conception based on market research, customer focus, industry specifications

  • Design and technology requirements are defined

  • Projects plans are drawn and risk / viability exercises commenced


Phase 2: Design, Develop, Test

  • Product prototype is designed and tested

  • Pilot / soft launch on small target audience

  • Commencement of procurement process for individual components

  • May involve a step back to phase 1 if test phase is not successful


Phase 3: Make, build, sell

  • This phase can only commence when the prototype has past robust testing

  • The tools, machines, processes and systems are finalised for manufacturing

  • Sales and marketing teams are engaged and documentation prepared (brochures, websites, specification manuals etc)


Phase 4: Operate, maintain, review

  • Review of end-to-end process for system and component wastage

  • Amend systems to eliminate resource waste (may see a return to phase 3)


Considerations for all phases:

  • Communication – all teams are responsible for discussion, feedback and review of each stage

  • Collaboration – no phase is a silo – each team must work together at every step

  • Project management – tracking is imperative

  • Time and risk assessments – to capture cost and time leakages across each phase

An Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system such as SAP supports the lifecycle management process for organisations and can support companies in the following ways:

Project and resource management

Control project schedules, costs, and resources

Product compliance

Define, track, and report all product-related data to meet industry compliance measures

Product intelligence

Supports the product development phase by leveraging the product content from within the SAP applications as well as external sources (web applications, social media etc)

Product costing

Calculates cost within the project and enables resource management planning

Document management

Enables procedures and tools for creating, maintaining, and managing documents and other content from within the lifecycle (e.g. Bill of Materials – BOM -, sales orders and marketing collateral)

As a business approach, lifecycle management can be used to achieve sustainable product development within your organisation ensuring waste is reduced, resources are optimised and profit is significant. At each successful phase within the lifecycle, your product gains momentum because it has been through such a proven, robust and rigorous analysis.

On a broader level, the value creation your organisation achieves by following lifecycle management processes can help to raise the profile of your company amongst peers and competitors by offering a sophisticated and innovative approach to product design and development. Life cycle management is as much external as it is internal, meaning that it’s not just what’s happening on your production line that matters; instead you need to have visibility of what’s happening in your industry, your community and your online space.

Example of what can be achieved when your processes are improved:



Contact the Blue Ocean Systems team of experts to learn more about how your processes can be positively impacted by SAP Business One.


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