Product lifecycle management definition
Product lifecycle management (PLM) is an enterprise discipline for managing the data and processes involved in the lifecycle of a product, from inception to engineering, design, manufacture, sales and support, to disposal and retirement.
PLM brings together people, data, processes, and business systems to aid an organization’s ability to develop, market, and support its products. It was born at American Motors Corporation (AMC) to speed up the company’s product development process, in particular around the development of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. As part of the process, AMC turned to computer-aided design (CAD) and implemented a product data management scheme in which all drawings and documents were stored in a central database. AMC also added a new communication system to enable better collaboration and reduce the number of engineering changes required. After acquiring AMC, Chrysler implemented PLM throughout its enterprise, resulting in development costs that were half the industry average.
Modern PLM is fundamental to the creation of a digital thread, which software and services company PTC defines as a closed loop between digital and physical worlds, following a single set of related data as it weaves in and out of business processes and functions to enable continuity and accessibility.
PLM systems and processes
Data management company, Active Sensing, says PLM should be thought of as both a repository for all information that affects a product and a communication process between product stakeholders, including marketing, engineering, manufacturing, and field service. As such, PLM as a discipline refers as much to the processes involved in managing a product’s lifecycle as to the technology and data involved in doing so.
To organize the information and processes involved in a product’s lifecycle, most organizations adopt a PLM solution to do the following:
- Manage design and process documents
- Construct and control bill of material records
- Store documents in an electronic file repository
- Organize and track built-in and custom part and document metadata
- Identify material contents for environmental compliance
- Permit item-focused task assignments
- Enable workflow and process management for approving changes
- Control multi-user secured access, including electronic signatures
- Export data to downstream ERP systems
PLM helps organizations get products to market faster, create higher-quality products, improve product safety, increase sales opportunities, and reduce errors and waste.
Investopedia says the benefits of PLM include:
- Improved product quality and reliability
- Reduced prototyping costs
- More accurate and timely requests for quote (RFQs)
- Quick identification of sales opportunities and revenue contributions
- Savings through the reuse of original data
- A framework for product optimization
- Reduced waste
- Improved ability to manage seasonal fluctuation
- Improved forecasting to reduce material costs
- Maximized supply chain collaboration
By simplifying, organizing, and integrating data, PLM gives manufacturers a detailed view of each product. PLM solutions vendor Propel says the methodology and solutions can help manufacturers maximize efficiency and profitability in numerous areas:
- Design and manufacturing integration: Production processes use a range of software applications for design and manufacturing. PLM can optimize the production process in real-time.
- Product commercialization: PLM provides governance of data, document management, and processes, creating unified and collaborative workflows across the organization.
- Virtual environments that support global operations: A central product data management (PDM) repository integrates the entire global process from concept to customer.
- Accessible data: All product information is available to each department, improving efficiency.
Product lifecycle management phases
While product development can be described in many ways, SAP says the typical product development cycle consists of five phases.
Concept and design: This is the ideation phase in which the product is envisioned. A product’s requirements are defined in this phase, based on factors such as competitor analysis, gaps in the market, or customer needs.
Develop: Detailed design of the product occurs in this phase, including necessary tool designs. It includes validation and analysis of the planned product, and prototype development and piloting. This process generates feedback on further necessary refinements.
Production and launch: This phase takes the feedback from the pilot to create a market-ready version of the product. It includes scaling production, launch, and distribution to the market.
Service and support: This phase kicks in after the product launch and includes all customer service and support efforts.
Retirement: This phase occurs at the end.
PLM software helps organizations manage the information and processes of a product or service across the supply chain, including data from items, parts, products, documents, requirements, engineering change orders, and quality workflows. It also enables teams to collaborate with partners and customers. Siemens defines PLM software as an information management system that integrates data, processes, business systems, and people in an extended enterprise. Here are some of the current top PLM vendors, according to Software Testing Help:
Arena’s cloud-based enterprise platform focuses on unified product and quality processes. Its features include integration with ERP, bill of materials (BOM) management, supplier collaboration, compliance management, and more.
Autodesk Upchain and Fusion 360 Manage
Autodesk’s Upchain is a cloud-based product data management and product lifecycle management software that targets small and midsize companies with built-in workflow management and project dashboards. It’s been designed to overlay existing legacy technology such as CAD.
Autodesk also offers Fusion 360 Manage, aimed at three industries: industrial machinery and products, consumer electronics and high-tech, and automotive suppliers and components. It provides real-time access to product data and represents it graphically.
Oracle Fusion Cloud PLM
Oracle’s Fusion Cloud PLM platform leverages analytics, IoT, AI, and ML to deliver digital twin and digital thread capabilities.
Propel is a cloud-based PLM system designed to be easy to customize and use. It has quality management, change management, requirements management, BOM management, and project management features.
PTC’s Windchill offers a portfolio of PDM and advanced PLM applications. It boasts an open architecture to make it easy to integrate with other enterprise systems, including IoT.
The SAP PLM application is part of the SAP Business Suite. It’s best known for the ease of creatin of BOM and integration with ERP.
Siemen’s Teamcenter software is aimed at organizations of all sizes and is known for its change management features and CAD integration.