Understanding Product Lifecycles

Adjunct lecturer Marc Weinstein outlines the goals behind the new Product Lifecycle Management course he will teach in MEM this spring.

Marc Weinstein is deeply familiar with product lifecycles.  

His most recent corporate experience was a nearly 12-year stint as senior director of global operations for mobile computing company Zebra Technologies. During that time, he helped the company streamline operations and optimize their supply chain to save more than $1 billion over the course of 10 years.  

Marc WeinsteinThis spring, Weinstein will bring that experience and the perspectives he's gained over the past 40 years to Northwestern's Master of Engineering Management (MEM) program, where he will teach a new course called Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).

One of the main goals of the class is to give students a comprehensive understanding of the successful product lifecycle, from idea through retirement.  

“The course will give students a foundational overview of the key deliverables and activities to be pursued at each phase of a product’s lifecycle and how best to implement those,” Weinstein said. “This course will cover aspects of the product lifecycle that aren’t typically covered in traditional, engineering-oriented studies to give students practical, real-world insights that will help them be successful in industry, no matter which perspective or discipline they eventually choose to focus on.” 

For example, during the product definition phase of the lifecycle, a successful product manager will conduct thorough market research, a competitive analysis, and a risk assessment. If those activities do not take place, the product most likely will fail. 

Similarly, if an engineer does not consider manufacturing and service implications during the development phase, a costly redesign may be required downstream that would delay the launch and potentially cost the company millions of dollars.  

While focusing on processes at Zebra Technologies helped save the company money, one of the most important Weinstein learned during his time there went beyond the balance sheet. 

“The culture there was wonderful – very apolitical,” he said. “I learned the value of good culture to an organization.”  

Weinstein is a new adjunct lecturer in MEM, but he's not new to the program’s director, Mark Werwath. In 1994, Werwath hired Weinstein to be a senior project manager at Motorola. Weinstein spent the next 17 years focused on project management for product development, knowledge transfer, and new product introduction.   

Weinstein also has served as a guest lecturer and seminar speaker in MEM, where he's talked about phase gates and PLM.  

The new course will be broken down into nine weekly three-hour learning sessions, with a midterm and then final projects to be presented over the last two weeks. Weinstein’s goal is to help students develop a comprehensive understanding of the product lifecycle they can build upon and apply in future courses and throughout their careers.  

“I worked in many areas of PLM throughout my career,” he said. “No matter what role or industry you may pursue, I’ve found that a broad understanding of the totality of PLM can be instrumental to your success in everything from building stronger and more collaborative teams to identifying key activities that may need more focused attention in organizations and projects.”  

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