PLM or “Product Lifecycle Management” is a process that is used to manage the entire lifecycle of a product, from ideation to disposal. PLM involves the integration of data, processes, and people throughout the product development process.

The Origins of PLM

The origins of PLM can be traced back to the 1980s, computer-aided design (CAD) debuted. CAD software enabled engineers to create and modify 3D models of products on a computer, which was a significant improvement over the traditional paper-based design process.

As CAD software became more sophisticated, a need for a more comprehensive system to manage product information emerged. Product information requires management throughout its entire lifecycle, from initial design to production, sales, and end-of-life. This led to the development of Product Data Management (PDM) systems. PDM manages and controls product-related data, such as bills of materials (BOMs), engineering change orders (ECOs), and design documents.

In the 1990s, PDM systems evolved into more comprehensive PLM systems, expanding its scope beyond just data management to include process management, collaboration, and analytics. PLM systems provide a single, unified view of product information and processes, and to enable more efficient and effective product development and manufacturing.

plm as center of digital thread

PLM Today

Today, a wide range of industries use PLM, including manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, and consumer goods. Manufacturers and product developers consider it an essential tool. PLM helps designers manage product information, processes, and collaboration across the entire product lifecycle. PLM continues to evolve, incorporating new technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing to further improve product development and manufacturing processes.

The goal of PLM is to help organizations manage their products more effectively and efficiently, by ensuring that all stakeholders have access to the same information at every stage of the product development process. This includes information such as design data, bills of materials, engineering changes, and product documentation.

The Benefits of PLM

PLM can help companies reduce time-to-market, improve product quality, and reduce costs by streamlining product development processes and improving collaboration among team members. Benefits include:

  1. Improved collaboration: PLM systems provide a single source of truth for product data which:
    • Makes it easier for teams to collaborate and share information, thus improving communication internally and externally
    • Maximize supply chain collaboration
    • Reduces errors and rework
    • Accelerates time-to-market
    • Complete integration of engineering workflows
    • Promotes innovation for new products
    • Ability to provide contract manufacturers with access to a centralized product record
  2. Increased efficiency: By automating manual processes and providing real-time data, PLM systems can help companies optimize their product development processes, reduce waste, and increase efficiency.
  3. Improved documentation management: Documentation that can assist in proving compliance for RoHS or Title 21 CFR Part 11
  4. Better decision-making: PLM systems provide real-time data and analytics that enable teams to make informed decisions about product design, production, and marketing. This can help companies make more strategic decisions that are aligned with their business objectives.
  5. Improved quality: By centralizing product data and automating quality control processes, PLM systems can help companies ensure that their products meet quality standards and comply with regulations.
  6. Cost savings: By reducing errors, improving efficiency, and enabling better decision-making, PLM systems can help companies reduce costs associated with product development, production, and maintenance.

There are other factors that determine the overall success and ROI for a PLM investment including the planning, implementation and management of the system. Determining goals, metrics and expectations early in the discovery process ensures a proper implantation plan over a realistic time frame for success. Overall, PLM systems should help companies measurably improve their competitiveness in the marketplace.

3 HTi offers world-class PLM solutions, including software and managed services. Whether you have a PLM system that needs an upgrade or you want to deploy a solution for the first time, our team of experts can help. Contact us for a complimentary discovery session and PLM audit.