What Is PLM?

PLM Turns Ideas
Into Products

WHAT IS PRODUCT LIFECYCLE MANAGEMENT (PLM)?

Product lifecycle management (PLM) is the management of all data and processes that are tied to the product record—from concept through design, development, and production. Product lifecycle management enables manufacturers and their supply chain partners to streamline product development and drive continuous improvement.

A product’s lifecycle typically begins with a concept or idea that stems from the identification of a new market opportunity. Feasibility studies are conducted early on to determine if the product is manufacturable from technical, regulatory, and financial standpoints. If the product is deemed feasible, the remaining processes associated with new product development (NPD) take place.

NPDI Process

Upon completing NPD, the four key stages of the product lifecycle, including new product introduction (NPI), begin .

The Four Product Lifecycle Stages:

  1. Introduction: During the product introduction stage (i.e., release to market), companies invest heavily in marketing to build product awareness and generate consumer interest.
  2. Growth: During the growth stage, demand for the new product increases. There is also an increase in production and product availability.
  3. Maturity: This is the most profitable stage for companies, as the costs of marketing and production decline.
  4. Decline: During this stage, the product loses market share due to increased competition.

What is a New Product Introduction

You have PDM already, so why do you need a PLM system?

Here is why you need PLM.

PDM software provides a shared data repository for engineering workgroups to collaborate and manage design iterations.

PLM software systems, however, extend beyond the design phase to manage all data and drive all processes associated with new product development and introduction (NPDI).

Everyone on the team—not just engineering—can review the entire design and provide input before releasing the final product to production.

PDM vs PLM Diagram

HOW PLM SOFTWARE WORKS

PLM software provides a controlled and automated way to manage product and quality processes throughout the entire product lifecycle. It brings mechanical, electrical, and software designs into one shared platform—enabling dispersed teams to collaborate on the entire design before passing the released product to downstream systems.

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) PLM software speeds digital transformation by further eliminating collaboration latency, data errors, and security issues with a persistent digital thread that leads to faster product launches.

How PLM Software Works

Intelligent BOM Management

The bill of materials (BOM), which includes the entire assembly and all associated components, files, drawings, and specifications required to build a shippable product, is aggregated into a single shared system.

This enables product teams and supply chain partners to create, import, share, change, compare, and approve product designs throughout the entire lifecycle.

Multilevel BOM Tree

The bill of materials (BOM), which includes the entire assembly and all associated components, files, drawings, and specifications required to build a shippable product, is aggregated into a single shared system.

This enables product teams and supply chain partners to create, import, share, change, compare, and approve product designs throughout the entire lifecycle.

Multilevel BOM Tree

Automated Change Order Process

Automated engineering change order (ECO) processes enable internal teams and supply chains to review and approve changes rapidly anytime and anywhere.

Automated Change Order Process

Streamlined Project Management

Required tasks and assignments are electronically tracked and linked to the appropriate part of the product record. This ensures product team members are always aware of key action items and deliverables.

Who Uses PLM Software?

PLM software serves a wide range of industries—from high-tech electronics and clean tech to medical device, aerospace, and defense. As engineering, quality, procurement, and manufacturing teams work to develop and launch new products—product lifecycle management software provides a way to keep everyone aligned at all times, regardless of where teams and suppliers are located.

Whether you’re a small startup or Fortune 500 company, PLM software addresses the common challenges facing most manufacturers today:

  • Adopting the latest technological advancements (e.g., IoT, AI, robotics)
  • Collaborating with dispersed teams, suppliers, and contract manufacturers
  • Enabling compliance with evolving safety, environmental, and export regulations
  • Meeting product quality and cost targets
  • Delivering innovative products ahead of the competition

Explore how companies are adopting PLM software to boost productivity, reduce costs, mitigate supply chain risks, and accelerate time to market (TTM).

SIONYX Success Story Thumbnail

Establishing a Compliant Foundation for Defense Product Development

Freewire

Improving Visibility Across Design and Manufacturing

Nutanix Success Story Thumbnail

How Nutanix Reduced BOM Errors to Absolute Zero

PLM Software Essentials

Item and BOM Management

The ability to effectively manage your bill of materials (BOM) ensures that the most current product revisions are accessed by all members of the product team, including supply chain partners. It also ensures that costs are properly allocated throughout the production phase and that product teams have visibility into any changes that may impact production further down the line.

Item and BOM Management
Engineering Change Management Flowchart

Engineering Change Management

Engineering change management provides controlled design change processes that speed product development. Product team members can process formal engineering change requests (ECRs) and engineering change orders (ECOs) more efficiently with automated approval routings. Team members can also document changes as they are released and track the status of change orders throughout the entire product lifecycle.

Document Management

To meet the demands of today’s highly regulated environment, companies must be able to store, track, and manage all of the documentation associated with product and quality records. This includes product specifications, assembly instructions, standard operating procedures (SOPs), quality policies, and training records. Document management allows for the centralized storage of documentation, as well as the establishment of revision control and audit trails.

Documentation Management
Regulations and Compliance Directives

Regulatory and Compliance

Companies that are subject to export controls, environmental, and/or safety compliance regulations require a PLM software solution that ensures process, policy, and system adherence. To help organizations mitigate compliance risks, PLM software should help regulated companies adhere to FDA, ISO, RoHS, REACH, ITAR, EAR, and other key industry regulations.

Project Management

Project management capabilities allow the product team to keep track of tasks, assignments, and resources throughout the entire product lifecycle to ensure that all product development milestones are met.

Project Management
Requirements Management

Requirements Management

The ability to link requirements to the product record enables organizations to manage and track issues, defects, and customer needs throughout the entire lifecycle and innovate more rapidly.

Business Analytics

The ability to track and analyze metrics provides organizations greater insight into their product and quality processes to drive continuous quality improvement. Having access to key performance indicators (KPIs) also helps organizations take a more proactive stance in mitigating risks that may negatively impact NPDI.

Business Analytics
Enterprise Integrations

Enterprise Integrations

In conjunction with PLM, many organizations rely on upstream and downstream software solutions to help manage the design and production phases of the product lifecycle. By connecting PLM software with these other systems, companies can further streamline their product development process and accelerate time to market (TTM).

PLM software should allow for easy integration with these types of systems:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems: Integration with ERP systems ensures that manufacturing receives the latest released design, eliminating production errors and resulting scrap or rework.
  • Engineering Design Solutions: Integration with design solutions such as mechanical CAD (MCAD) and electronic design automation (EDA) software accelerates development by ensuring that all components work together, and as designed.
  • Electronic Component Databases: Integration with component databases, such as SiliconExpert and Octopart, provides greater visibility into critical component details such as market availability, cost, and regulatory compliance information.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: Integration with CRM systems provides product teams centralized access to critical customer feedback and data. This can help further inform product development and quality processes and improve customer satisfaction.

How Enterprise Cloud PLM Solutions Accelerate Return on Investment

Cloud-based enterprise PLM solutions drive efficiencies throughout the entire product lifecycle, enabling companies to accelerate the introduction of new, innovative products and gain a competitive advantage.

Unlike traditional on-premises PLM solutions which require costly IT resources and expenditures for hardware, software, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other related items—cloud-based platforms are managed by the PLM vendor. This eliminates infrastructure-related expenses and ongoing maintenance, thereby reducing your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Today, many Cloud PLM solutions are sold under software-as-a-service (SaaS) models which reduce long-term capital expenses with a pay-as-you-go subscription. This provides businesses a quicker payback period on their investment.

PLM Software Essentials

Item and BOM Management

Item and BOM Management

The ability to effectively manage your bill of materials (BOM) ensures that the most current product revisions are accessed by all members of the product team, including supply chain partners. It also ensures that costs are properly allocated throughout the production phase and that product teams have visibility into any changes that may impact production further down the line.

Engineering Change Management Flowchart

Engineering Change Management

Engineering change management provides controlled design change processes that speed product development. Product team members can process formal engineering change requests (ECRs) and engineering change orders (ECOs) more efficiently with automated approval routings. Team members can also document changes as they are released and track the status of change orders throughout the entire product lifecycle.

Documentation Management

Document Management

To meet the demands of today’s highly regulated environment, companies must be able to store, track, and manage all of the documentation associated with product and quality records. This includes product specifications, assembly instructions, standard operating procedures (SOPs), quality policies, and training records. Document management allows for the centralized storage of documentation, as well as the establishment of revision control and audit trails.

Regulations and Compliance Directives

Regulatory and Compliance

Companies that are subject to export controls, environmental, and/or safety compliance regulations require a PLM software solution that ensures process, policy, and system adherence. To help organizations mitigate compliance risks, PLM software should help regulated companies adhere to FDA, ISO, RoHS, REACH, ITAR, EAR, and other key industry regulations.

Project Management

Project Management

Project management capabilities allow the product team to keep track of tasks, assignments, and resources throughout the entire product lifecycle to ensure that all product development milestones are met.

Requirements Management

Requirements Management

The ability to link requirements to the product record enables organizations to manage and track issues, defects, and customer needs throughout the entire lifecycle and innovate more rapidly.

Business Analytics

Business Analytics

The ability to track and analyze metrics provides organizations greater insight into their product and quality processes to drive continuous quality improvement. Having access to key performance indicators (KPIs) also helps organizations take a more proactive stance in mitigating risks that may negatively impact NPDI.

Enterprise Integrations

Enterprise Integrations

In conjunction with PLM, many organizations rely on upstream and downstream software solutions to help manage the design and production phases of the product lifecycle. By connecting PLM software with these other systems, companies can further streamline their product development process and accelerate time to market (TTM).

PLM software should allow for easy integration with these types of systems:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems: Integration with ERP systems ensures that manufacturing receives the latest released design, eliminating production errors and resulting scrap or rework.
  • Engineering Design Solutions: Integration with design solutions such as mechanical CAD (MCAD) and electronic design automation (EDA) software accelerates development by ensuring that all components work together, and as designed.
  • Electronic Component Databases: Integration with component databases, such as SiliconExpert and Octopart, provides greater visibility into critical component details such as market availability, cost, and regulatory compliance information.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems: Integration with CRM systems provides product teams centralized access to critical customer feedback and data. This can help further inform product development and quality processes and improve customer satisfaction.

How Enterprise Cloud PLM Solutions Accelerate Return on Investment

Cloud-based enterprise PLM solutions drive efficiencies throughout the entire product lifecycle, enabling companies to accelerate the introduction of new, innovative products and gain a competitive advantage.

Unlike traditional on-premises PLM solutions which require costly IT resources and expenditures for hardware, software, virtual private networks (VPNs), and other related items—cloud-based platforms are managed by the PLM vendor. This eliminates infrastructure-related expenses and ongoing maintenance, thereby reducing your total cost of ownership (TCO).

Today, many Cloud PLM solutions are sold under software-as-a-service (SaaS) models which reduce long-term capital expenses with a pay-as-you-go subscription. This provides businesses a quicker payback period on their investment.

Key Benefits of Cloud PLM Software

Click on each benefit below to see how Cloud PLM solutions help drive results.​

SPEEDS REVIEWS TO RELEASE PRODUCTS FASTER

  • Facilitates design reviews with electrical, software, and mechanical teams to ensure interoperability
  • Automates engineering change reviews to speed new product development (NPD)

ENABLES RAMP-UP TO VOLUME PRODUCTION

  • Enables real-time collaboration between internal teams and supply chain to ensure design for manufacturability
  • Eliminates design and latest-build confusion to reduce costly scrap and rework or production delays

ENSURES REGULATORY
COMPLIANCE

  • Simplifies environmental regulatory compliance to keep products safe and marketable
  • Safeguards U.S. national security interests with compliance to ITAR/EAR export regulations

6 Keys to Success When Selecting PLM Software

Consider these key factors when evaluating what it takes to implement a PLM software solution successfully.

  1. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) Your TCO should include not only up-front software costs—but costs associated with ongoing maintenance. Determine if there are additional costs for annual maintenance and/or new software releases. Also identify any costs associated with training and customer support.
  2. Security Is the PLM solution designed with a multilayered security model to ensure that your intellectual property (IP) is always protected? Are there safeguards or access controls in place to further protect product information and privacy?
  3. Disaster Recovery Is the PLM software designed with built-in redundancies to quickly recover from a wide range of system failures?
  4. Implementation and Training What resources are required from the PLM vendor and your team to complete the software implementation? How much time is needed to configure, test, and go live? What is the PLM vendor’s approach to training? Is training provided via live or recorded sessions?
  5. Ongoing Customer Education and Support Do you have access to adequate support and educational resources (e.g., best-practice guides, webinars, newsletters) after go-live? Are live, dedicated support staff available to answer your questions and help drive your successful adoption of the PLM platform?
  6. Scalability Is the PLM platform designed to easily accommodate additional users, suppliers, and/or functionality as your company continues to grow and product processes evolve?

READY TO LEARN MORE?

To learn even more about PLM software, check out our Ultimate PLM Guide.