Frequently Asked Questions

If you’re in the exploratory stage of choosing a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution, here are some commonly asked questions and answers to guide you in establishing a system that accommodates the needs of your product development teams to achieve commercialization success.

What is PLM?

Product lifecycle management, or PLM, is the management of all information and processes tied to the development, distribution, maintenance, and disposal of a product.

What companies/industries benefit from using PLM?

Innovative product companies, regardless of size or industry, benefit from using a PLM system. Companies that can benefit the most are those who:

  • Make complex products with electrical, mechanical, and software components
  • Outsource some or all manufacturing steps
  • Review and execute many engineering changes in a month and have a growing backlog
  • Compete on time to market
  • Plan to improve their product quality metrics
  • Comply with evolving, global regulations

Who at a company uses PLM and why?

Engineering, operations, and quality teams use PLM the most often.

Engineering uses PLM:

  • To securely share information on the entire product record with internal and external product team members
  • To enable cross-functional change and quality processes
  • To use connections between part records and requirements, changes, and quality processes

Operations and quality teams use PLM:

  • To access and use product information, including the bill of materials, approved manufacturer list, training records, documentation, engineering changes, quality processes, and other supporting information
  • To initiate and review product change and quality processes
  • To collaborate with supply chain partners

Beyond these core users, any team or employee across a company can use PLM as the trusted source of truth for product, change, and quality information. For example:

  • Marketing can review product specifications and create a catalog listing or other marketing collateral
  • Finance can merge financials from ERP with future designs managed in PLM to evaluate the cost of goods sold (COGS) of future product
  • HR can use PLM to manage training records
  • Executives can use analytics and dashboards to monitor performance and release schedules
  • Customer support/field services can use PLM to access repair and maintenance procedures and to escalate product issues to engineering
  • Compliance can link regulatory requirements with the product design and monitor the product record for compliance evidence

Anyone who needs access to product information such as product specifications, manuals, standard operating procedures (SOPs), quality issues, and product processes can use PLM to find what they need instantly.

What are the main benefits of PLM?

The main benefits of PLM include:

  • Faster time to market
  • Higher quality products
  • Improved design for manufacturability
  • Lower cost of goods sold
  • Reduced risk of noncompliance

Why does a company need PLM?

Companies need PLM to accelerate product processes and reduce costly errors. PLM enables collaboration between internal and external teams, eliminates reliance on manual, error-prone processes to improve collaboration between internal and external teams, and eliminates time and money spent on inefficient review processes, searching for information, and late-stage errors.

What is the difference between PLM and PDM?

Product lifecycle management (PLM) manages product information and engineering change processes (ECOs) related to the entire product record. PLM is an enterprise solution.

Product data management (PDM) manages engineering data, like computer-aided design (CAD) data. PDM is an engineering team tool.

What is the difference between PLM and PIM?

A product lifecycle management (PLM) system manages the information throughout a product’s entire lifecycle and enables collaboration between cross-functional teams. A product information management (PIM) system contains current data about a product, from documents about product specifications to images and videos of the product itself. PLM is most helpful to those involved in a product’s development, while PIM is helpful for teams involved with the commercialization of a product.

What is the difference between PLM and ALM?

Product lifecycle management (PLM) refers to the management of information and processes tied to a physical product’s lifecycle, while application lifecycle management (ALM) manages the entire lifecycle of software applications.

What is the difference between PLM and ERP?

A product lifecycle management (PLM) system manages information involved with the design and development of a product, while an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system manages business operations like purchasing, material planning, order tracking, and inventory management.

What should I consider when choosing PLM software?

When choosing PLM software, you should consider the following:

  • What is the total cost of ownership?
  • Is the platform secure, reliable, and performs well?
  • Does this platform provide closed-loop product lifecycle management?
  • Can this platform integrate with my other upstream and downstream solutions?
  • Does this platform enable secure collaboration?
  • What customer support resources are available to me?
  • Is it easy to implement and get my users up and running quickly?
  • Is this platform flexible and scalable?

What are the main features of PLM software?

Generally, PLM software will have the following capabilities:

  • Item and bill of materials (BOM) management to ensure all members of your team can access the most recent product revisions
  • Engineering change management to help process engineering change requests (ECRs) and engineering change orders (ECOs) more efficiently
  • Document management to store, track, and manage product and quality documentation
  • Regulatory and compliance features that help companies adhere to industry regulations, including FDA, ISO, ITAR, RoHS, and REACH
  • Project management to track product development progress and ensure all milestones are met
  • Requirements management to manage and track issues and defects that need to be resolved or customer needs that need to be met
  • Business analytics to provide insights that drive continuous improvement and mitigate any risks
  • The ability to integrate with other enterprise software solutions to further streamline product development and accelerate time to market

What are the benefits of Cloud PLM over on-premises PLM?

Compared to on-premises PLM, Cloud PLM is faster to implement, has lower up-front and IT maintenance costs, is easier to keep up to date because of auto-updates, and is more scalable and flexible.

What are the unique challenges high-tech companies face in product lifecycle management and how can a PLM system address them?

High-tech companies typically have complex products comprised of electrical, mechanical, and software components. PLM brings all the design information together in a central system for visibility across all teams. This also ensures design interoperability.

High-tech companies most often have contract manufacturing partners. Communicating current and accurate product information to partners is critical. PLM enables collaboration with these supply chain partners to ensure accuracy, efficiency, and faster time to market.

Regulatory compliance requirements for high-tech companies are constantly evolving. PLM can help high-tech companies manage compliance information for their product components to meet environmental regulations such as RoHS, REACH, and conflict minerals. PLM can also provide the necessary process controls for ISO compliance.

What are the integration capabilities of a PLM system with other software used in high-tech companies, such as CAD, ERP, and CRM systems?

A PLM system can integrate with a computer-aided design (CAD) system and help accurately track the state of a product by automating the transfer of CAD details into the PLM system. This eliminates manual data entry that often leads to product quality and team efficiency issues.

Integrating a PLM system with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system can help ensure internal stakeholders are aligned on what is needed to develop a product. A PLM system will store accurate data on what is needed to develop a product. Once a product design is ready for manufacturing, an ERP system will aid in coordinating supply chains and financials needed to commercialize the product.

A PLM system and a customer relationship management (CRM) system can work together to create a better product and overall customer experience. CRM systems store all known information about customers, including feedback on products. This information can be shared with a PLM system and used to proactively address any issues and inform improvements made to the product.

Can a PLM system help with regulatory compliance and intellectual property protection in the high-tech industry?

Yes. PLM provides a centralized platform for storing and managing all related product information including management of product intellectual property (IP). This helps ensure that all intellectual property is properly managed and protected.

What are some successful case studies or examples of high-tech companies that have implemented a PLM system and achieved positive results?

Here are a few examples of high-tech companies that achieved positive results with a PLM system:

For more, visit our PLM stories

What are the potential risks and challenges in implementing a PLM system in a high-tech company, and how can they be mitigated?

Process re-engineering decisions, source data integrity and consistency, system integration, champion and executive sponsor, user resistance, and surprise implementation costs can arise while implementing a PLM system in a high-tech organization.

Process Re-Engineering: One risk is “paving the cowpath” or automating processes that were based on old technology. With a PLM system, many cross-functional reviewers— even partners—can review requirements and changes simultaneously. Getting feedback throughout the design process on requirements and changes can save time and improve yields before an inventory investment.

Source Data Integrity and Consistency: When importing BOM, item master, AML, and ECO information, as well as documents, you may find:

  • Inconsistent formats (part numbers, BOM fields, ECO reason codes)
  • Duplicate information
  • Multiple spellings of the same information (e.g., “Taiwan Semiconductor” on some records and “TSC” in others)
  • Unreliable filenames

To mitigate this risk:

  • Evaluate your data sets (ERP for BOM, item master, AML, and shared drives for ECOs and documentation)
  • Ask the PLM vendor for the tools and approaches they use to simplify data imports based on these common challenges

System Integration: PLM is probably not your first enterprise application. You want to integrate with your existing eCAD, mCAD, and ERP systems at least. And you want to be confident that after those first systems are connected, you can also improve other processes, like escalating customer complaints to engineering, by integrating with your CRM.

To mitigate this risk:

  • Know your information flows and prioritize the connection needs
    • What systems do people use to create product information? CAD and authoring tools.
    • What systems use product information? ERP, data warehouses, MES, CFW.
    • What systems provide insight to improve your product information? Quality assurance, test systems, customer resource management (CRM), field services management (FSM).
  • Understand your PLM vendor’s integration strategy—ranging from productized to bespoke integrations
  • Learn their productized integrations and ask PLM vendors about your specific data flow needs
  • If you have a unique system that needs a bespoke integration, a RESTful API is a standard that many systems integrators know. You can use your own IT department, an established partner, or another system integrator.

Champion and Executive Sponsor: An implementation can fail when a champion or executive sponsor leaves in the middle of an implementation.

To mitigate this risk:

  • Link your objectives to the highest corporate objectives, for example: “reduce supply chain risk,” “be first to market,” or “be best in market”
  • Publicize your objectives to all from executives to users along with metrics
  • If your project is aligned with corporate initiatives and successful, finding a new champion or executive sponsor will be much easier

User Resistance to Change: “Who Moved My Cheese?” has been a classic since 1998 and resonates because change happens and not everyone is happy about it. The bestseller lays out a strategy for both dealing with change and coaxing organizational change.

To mitigate this risk:

  • Communicate the change is coming and why. For example: On February 1, we will start using our new PLM system to review and release ECOs so we can release new products and features to the market faster.
  • Get cross-functional buy-in
  • Invite influential employees—even skeptics and curmudgeons if you have them—onto your team
  • Communicate progress on the implementation, especially scope and schedule changes
  • Schedule both formal training and open office hours where you can hand-hold people through new processes and answer specific questions
  • Ask users for feedback on the process, software, and documentation

Surprise Implementation Costs: Implementations can face surprises—like scope creep, change in priorities, or the business climate.

To mitigate this risk:

  • Use a PLM vendor with a history of successful fixed-price implementations. They will have the tools and expertise needed to weather changes.
  • Choose a vendor you can trust to work with you
  • Read the services agreements
  • Interview references to ask about the implementation process

Can a PLM system help with regulatory compliance and intellectual property protection in the high-tech industry?

In the high-tech industry, a product lifecycle management (PLM) system can assist with regulatory compliance and intellectual property (IP) protection.

PLM systems provide a central repository for all product data including component specification and compliance certificates, design specifications and manufacturing processes, assuring traceability and accountability for regulatory compliance. These systems can connect with systems that monitor changes in global regulatory standards, ensuring that product design and production adhere to the most recent requirements, as well as storing audit documentation. PLM can trace regulatory requirements along with others, like business, technical, and functional requirements.

In terms of IP protection, PLM systems safeguard data by controlling access to sensitive data. They can log who accesses what information and when to reduce the likelihood of IP theft. Moreover, PLM systems can facilitate patent filing by managing invention designs to further enhance valuable intellectual property asset preservation.

What are the unique challenges high-tech companies face in product lifecycle management and how can a PLM system address them?

High-tech companies face unique product lifecycle management (PLM) issues. Issues include rapid technological innovation, competitive markets, regulatory requirements, and complicated supply chain networks.

  • Incorporating rapidly advancing technologies in hardware and software challenges product companies to keep improving their products. They need to monitor vendors’ improvements, prioritize them, then redesign to incorporate them. A PLM system helps through data sharing and extended team collaboration.
  • Intense competition requires ongoing product improvement and differentiation. PLM systems provide a competitive edge by accelerating new product development (NPD) and new product introduction (NPI).
  • Global regulations vary by country and region and are not static. Use PLM to document laws and evidence that your company and products comply with them.
  • Managing complex, global supply chains is difficult. A PLM system is a trusted, connected source of truth for your supply chain partners. This provides accurate communication on product design and enables design collaboration.

A comprehensive PLM system can help high-tech companies develop, compete, and flourish while meeting regulatory standards and managing complex supply chains.


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