What is PLM?

Product lifecycle management systems (PLM) were developed to help organizations control documentation, product structure and manage engineering change order (ECO, ECN, ECR etc.).

Product data management systems (PDM) have existed for a while prior to the development of PLM systems. The key differentiator between the two being lifecycle management in addition to data management. In most organizations, the engineering change process was

(1) Manual (process) with inefficiencies in handoffs between departments,
(2) Inability or lack of capability to capture financial impact
(3) Lack of awareness of extent/impact of changes and
(4) Unable to meet cycle time expectations.

As organizations continued to mature in their business processes (New product introduction, phase gate product introduction, product portfolio management, design for excellence [DFX, DFM], Excess and Obsolete inventory management, Effectivity dates) and business system usage (ERP, MRP, CRM), a need for a more comprehensive solution became compelling.

Research into product costs over its lifecycle has indicated that a focus on getting the design right earlier in the alpha/beta stages provides the maximum benefit. In order to get the design right so early can be tricky…effective business processes with right enabling technology will be the key to success to improve time to market and reduced costs across the lifecycle.

Three different sets of companies started developing PLM software
(1) traditionally CAD centric software companies, enhanced their PDM systems with additional capabilities
(2) ERP companies enhanced their core capabilities with enhanced workflow and document management features
(3) Pure PLM software vendors, which built their engines on basic needs of their customer base with extensive integrations to CAD (upstream data) and ERP/MRP/CRM systems.

There has been some amount of consolidation and over the years, PLM as a technology has matured and has added more and more features for e.g.
(1) Supplier collaboration
(2) Design / manufacturing outsourcing
(3) MES integration
(4) Digital rights management
(5) Collaboration
(6) Project management
(7) Regulatory and Environmental compliance tracking and management (RoHS, WEE, RoHS, FDA CFR etc.)
(8) Customer needs management
(9) Data Classification and Knowledge management
(10) Configuration management

And this list goes on…

In later posts, I will get in to details around each of these enhanced capabilities and future direction of PLM to support the enterprise.

"Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are my own only and in no way represent the views, positions or opinions - expressed or implied - of my employer (present and past) "
"Please post your comments - Swati Ranganathan"


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