7 Reasons You Need to Replace Your Spreadsheet with Modern PLM Software
Blog | June 6th, 2023

7 Reasons You Need to Replace Your Spreadsheet with Modern PLM Software

The use of modern, digital tools with next-generation data and AI capabilities will certainly drive efficiency into operations and improve productivity. But sometimes, legacy systems stay on because the business users are comfortable with those tools, and don’t want to change!

At ComplianceQuest, we’ve seen this from several organizations. While on one end they use modern digital tools like CRM and ERP for automating customer, supplier, and internal processes, they still use spreadsheets to exchange data and information when it comes to product design and development.

This approach of Pen-Paper-Word-and Excel can be a serious drain on not only operational efficiency but also effectiveness. It makes updations/change difficult to manage and the whole process will be prone to errors. Modern Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software can automate processes, and improve efficiency and accuracy while facilitating data sharing in an easy and seamless manner.

Tools such as Excel or Google Sheets continue to be used because they are inexpensive, flexible, easy to use, and familiar. Not only in small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) but even in large enterprises, users prefer Excel which allows the use of macros to recreate complex relationship lookups and manage product data. But, with it comes a lot of limitations that can impact the success of the products being developed.

next generation modern plm software

Key Reasons Why Spreadsheets are Inefficient

From 1983 to 2017, the number of pages in design files for a 510(k) submission increased by >2,000%. For teams using paper-based systems or spreadsheets maintaining proper documentation including signatures and revisions can quickly become a nightmare.

Here are the top 6 reasons why spreadsheets can be a challenge for product manufacturers:

Reason #1 - Managing Changes is a  Exhausting

Change management using spreadsheets can be challenging due to the difficulty in version control. This can create confusion and introduce errors. All stakeholders collaborating on a spreadsheet will also need to know the workarounds being used such as macros, color-coding, and comments so that they are understood correctly and actioned accordingly.

Reason #2 - Lack of Customer Integration

Every time a change is made, it should be validated by the end customer or partner to ensure that the product still delivers on its promise. Being a standalone tool, integration with customer or partner data becomes difficult. To take appropriate actions, being able to track the relationship between product revisions, customers, and partners is critical but not possible with a spreadsheet.

Reason #3 - Reviews and Approvals are not Seamless

Getting timely approvals can be challenging as the spreadsheets need to be sent by email to everyone. Names may be missed, or the mail may be buried, costing precious time in getting the approvals and leading to confusion and miscommunication. Having a centralized change approval system can speed up the process and make it more efficient.

Reason #4 - To Update all Instances.

The story of change management does not end with making and managing the change in one place. Other areas such as datasheets or cost-impact analysis also require to reflect these changes. The user will have to make changes in multiple places, which can be missed or errors introduced unwittingly.

Reason #5 - Compliance Challenges, Lack of Proper Audit Trail

Documentation of product specifications and change history are vital to get certification and being compliant with regulations. With version control being a challenge in Excel, compliance too can become complicated and require extra effort to show the complete audit trail.

Reason #6 - Leads to Nonconformance

Today, due to cost and resource constraints, global supply chains have become common. Ensuring all the units spread across geographies have the same information and are aware of all the changes can become very time-consuming and requires a lot of effort. This can lead to nonconformance and wastage, increasing the cost of manufacturing.

Reason #7 - Integrated Risk Management Not Possible

From human error to complex workflows, a multitude of components and stakeholders are involved. This increases the inherent risks in product development and it is a real challenge for teams to assess, identify, and mitigate all risks, especially if relying on spreadsheets or papers.

Key Advantages of ComplianceQuest’s PLM Software with Data & Collaboration Capabilities

A centralized platform that allows the different stakeholders to collaborate across the product life cycle is critical for businesses to improve operational efficiency, lower costs of manufacturing, and optimize resource utilization. ComplianceQuest’s cloud-based PLM and Deign Control solution, Product Quest, improves the functioning of each stage of the product development process, right from research and development to engineering, manufacturing, and quality. It is a fully integrated system that provides 100% real-time visibility and traceability.

CQ Product Quest enables the following:

Lifecycle Management

Design parts and assemblies with information necessary for the specific phase of development. Know what information is needed before it's too late.


Cascading BOM views that show raw materials and components used to design and manufacture a finished good product.

Manufacturing Processes

Managing different locations is easy with the multi-location features and processes for those locations.

Engineering Change Order

CQ is implementing a revolutionary method for including Documents and Parts in the same change order, so the user has better control of the product lifecycle.

Concept Parts

Document ideas and structures early in the development process. Easily convert them to real parts.

Parts and Revisions

Capture part iterations that track changes to a part definition. Quickly see modifications and compare revision data.

Design Controls: Allow your teams to innovate with effortless compliance to all quality and regulatory standards

Projects: Collaboration is made easy for both engineering and quality teams with intuitive meeting and task management

DHF & DMR: It provides a single source of truth for all design documentation, that's always up to date

Document Management: All steps, requirements, design reviews, and changes are well documented, easily shareable, and fully compliant.

Requirement Traceability Matrix (RTM): Living document that keeps track of all your design requirements, inputs, tests, and changes

Product Risk: Assess, document, and control all your product-related risks in one comprehensive interface

In addition, it also offers product design and development features:

  • Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP), which is core to product quality planning
  • Control plans, critical for quality during manufacturing
  • Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA), the key to identifying and mitigating potential failures

For more information, request a demo here: https://www.compliancequest.com/lp/design-management/

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