How Jaguar Land Rover handled 5 major PLM challenges

The automaker's 15-year PLM journey highlights the complexity of enterprise PLM adoption but offers lessons that will benefit companies of any size.

JLR and Dassault Systèmes have renewed their partnership for another five years. (Image credit: Jaguar Land Rover Ltd.)

Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) was acquired by Tata Motors Ltd. (TMC) in 2008 for about US$1.5 billion (£1.15 billion). Following a two-year separation process from Ford Motor Co. (FMC), initiated its new Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) journey in partnership with Dassault Systèmes. The initial vision was for a full scope transition from a very disparate ecosystem inherited from Ford and previous mergers to an integrated PLM architecture with 3DExperience at its foundation.

Perhaps independently of its PLM strategy, JLR reported strong results in the previous financial year. As of end-March 2024, JLR declared record Q4 and FY2024 revenue of $9.9 billion (£7.9 billion) and $36.6 billion (£29.0 billion) respectively, with profit before tax of $836 million (£661 million) and $2.7 billion (£2.2 billion) for the same periods—the highest since 2015.

Building a credible, holistic PLM strategy and associated implementation roadmap from the ground-up is no easy task. It often translates to multi-year business transformations that must be championed at the board level. For JLR, it has been a 15-year journey in the making. It initiated with a greenfield vision in 2010 which gradually evolved into a hybrid bluefield approach to mitigate transition risks while addressing technical readiness and adoption gaps. A bluefield approach implies combining greenfield and brownfield elements.

Contextualizing it to the JLR story, this post discusses why solving complex PLM challenges requires Agile-based problem solving, adaptive change management and realistic strategic realignment to cope with unpredictability and uncertainty.

Reality check: from greenfield to bluefield

Greenfield PLM implementation strategies often initiate from bold/unconstrained ideas, sometimes combined with unqualified wishful thinking and the need for speed (e.g., unrealistically fast deployment ambitions). When left unvalidated, this approach adds challenges in successfully completing digital transformations—particularly in the context of PLM and other enterprise solutions which carry high-level of ambiguity. Such challenges typically relate to a mix of 5 characteristics:

  1. Unrealistic expectations: overestimated benefits and underestimated complexity often fueled by senior leadership’s lack of appreciation and ownership of the PLM scope.
  2. Inadequate planning and preparation: amplified by insufficient analysis and the lack of a detailed roadmap due to various technical and business unknowns.
  3. Unexpected resistance to change: underestimating organizational ability to embrace change, underestimating communication and training needs.
  4. Resource misallocation: budget overruns and inadequate skillsets, assuming existing experts can handle new technologies without external hiring or upskilling.
  5. Neglecting delivery risk management: failure to monitor and adjust—wrongly assuming the initial plan will work perfectly without the need for ongoing real-time adjustments based on feedback and evolving circumstances.

JLR’s initial PLM strategy was crafted in 2010; it candidly aimed at a perfect alignment, seeking to connect all enterprise capabilities together following a series of greenfield solution deployments. It later realigned its strategy to refocus on an integrated engineering/development toolset—the product data management backbone of innovation—with BOM, CAD, CAE and virtual twins management at its core.

Legacy coexistence and technical debt

Transitioning from the Ford legacy PLM ecosystem was certainly a significant endeavor for JLR. Similar to Volvo Cars, JLR faced several knowledge gaps in managing the complexity and technical debt it inherited from its previous parent company. With hundreds of tools and customized systems, the integration and data migration landscape required selective dual-track solution development and concurrent support to facilitate the transition. The situation was amplified by different practices and core data sets used across two distinct brands, Jaguar and Land Rover.

Progress was at last reported in 2019, by John Kitchingman, who at the time lead EuroNorth at Dassault Systèmes: “Just over 10 years after the project was initiated, the company has finally rolled out a first solution that covers an entire vehicle program: the Defender model. There is still a way to go, but the good news is that this rollout finally happened.” The hard reality is that it took JLR more than twice the time it initially planned to finally roll out a first solution of 3DExperience that covered an entire vehicle program. The journey with Dassault Systèmes continues as JLR now seeks to complete the deployment of 3DExperience across all vehicle programs worldwide. Only then, JLR would be able to initiate the decommissioning of the remaining components of its redundant Ford-based legacy systems.

There is clearly no single quick fix, silver bullet or magic wand that can address all challenges associated with heavily customized and poorly integrated PLM legacy. Limiting old-new solution coexistence and minimizing customization are typical objectives of every PLM initiative. The last mile of JLR’s PLM transformation will consist of scaling its 3DExperience adoption across the entire product portfolio, finally closing the door on years of functional transition and data migration. Subsequently, this will open the door to further opportunities for enterprise capability improvements.

Leveraging digital twins

JLR clearly aims at end-to-end collaboration around its PLM backbone, reaching cross-functionally beyond design and concurrent engineering supply chains. JLR said that “More than 18,000 users across all JLR business areas and suppliers will make use of virtual twins to increase efficiency, improve production management, save time and reduce waste and costs.”

Laurence Montanari, Vice President, Transportation & Mobility Industry, Dassault Systèmes, remains optimistic about hitting the next significant milestone in this 15-year transformation journey: “JLR is utilizing the 3DExperience platform to enhance its virtual twin experience, creating software-defined vehicles that seamlessly integrate both hardware and software development. […] After five years of partnership, we are opening a new era of collaboration beyond engineering and manufacturing through a trusted partnership, where teams from JLR and Dassault Systèmes work closely in short iterations to address JLR and its ecosystem’s challenges.”