Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a methodology for managing data and processes related to different phases of product development, including product support and its decline in the market.
PLM emerged as an asset for collaboration and control among engineers and manufacturers. With data volumes constantly growing and teams working remotely on a daily basis, PLM has become an essential tool to develop, commercialize, and support products.
This post is your guide to product lifecycle management. It explains how PLM aligns with product development and focuses on the ways in which your organization can start using it.
Understanding Product Lifecycle Management
The main mistake in understanding the concept of the project management lifecycle is thinking that it only applies to deploying a new product in the market. In reality, PLM is in charge of the whole product lifecycle, covering all the development milestones, from introduction to decline or product extension.
Why should you make PLM implementation a part of your business plan? Keeping product development systematic helps optimize product delivery terms and balance your budgets. Introducing product lifecycle management brings a change for the better by ensuring a holistic approach to product development.
It’s important to realize though that there is no exact part of your business plan that should contain a part called “PLM introduction”. As product lifecycle management embraces all stages of a product’s invention and existence in the market, PML should become a standard that’s embedded into the way your product and business evolve.
Let’s try to understand the difference between product development and product lifecycle and conclude about the areas of responsibility of PLM.
The process of product development usually refers to launching new products. It includes five main stages:
With the product launch being the final link in this chain, speaking of product development, we only cover the steps taken to bring the product into the market. These include creating a unique selling proposition (USP), analyzing the product’s potential, forecasting sales and expenses, technical realization, and creating and fulfilling the launch plan.
In other words, the term “product development” comprises only the processes and activities aimed at launching a product. What happens with the product after it’s launched is not something we focus on speaking of product development.
Product Life Cycle
A typical product life cycle includes four stages. As shown in the graph, these stages are defined by time and product sales.
- Introduction: This stage includes research and all the preparatory work that is done before the minimum viable product (MVP) version enters the market.
- Growth is when the product is manufactured, marketed, and released. If any amendments before the product’s initial version are needed, they are added at this stage.
- Maturity is the stage at which the product becomes widely available and is capable of marketing itself.
- Decline happens when the demand decreases or the product becomes obsolete. If the product receives a fresh start, then the Expansion stage starts.
Product Lifecycle Management
We’ve approached PLM by understanding the difference between product development and product lifecycle. This is probably the best way to realize how broad its essence is. In fact, PLM is an umbrella term for all that’s happening with a product from the moment it appears as an idea until it no longer exists in the market.
Concept and design include developing an idea, researching competitors, analyzing customer needs, and collecting product requirements.
Development or manufacturing: Here we refer to validating the idea, planning the steps it takes to develop a product, building a prototype, releasing a pilot version, and collecting feedback.
Production and launch: During this phase, a fully-functional product is developed and deployed in production.
Service and support is the phase during which the product team takes the steps to maintain the product’s functionality and keep its customers satisfied.
Retirement is what happens when the decision to remove the product from the market is taken.
With this in mind, let’s understand the reasons for introducing and following PLM.
Why Do Businesses Leverage PLM?
In a nutshell, companies introduce product lifecycle management to add simplicity and consecutiveness to the complex process of product development. Such an approach allows us to wisely allocate and adjust the time and resources needed to create a product.
Among the day-to-day tasks PLM can help to solve are:
- Documents storage and processing
- Workflow and process management
- Easy and centralized access to data
- Product commercialization
In the long run, businesses get a number of benefits from product lifecycle management, namely:
- Improved product quality
- Costs optimization
- Smooth remote teams collaboration
- Timely feedback
- Enhanced forecasting capabilities
- Better resource allocation and management
Leveraging PLM within organizations became possible with the help of dedicated tools and systems.
Software for Product Lifecycle Management
Oracle defines PLM software as a system that helps to manage data and processes at every step of a product life cycle. Such systems are usually used to streamline supply chain management, improve product offerings, and scale products and businesses.
Siemens says such technological solutions provide value to enterprises by integrating data, processes, business systems, and people.
Whatever explanation you choose, undeniable is the fact that PLM tools are of great use for organizations operating in different domains. Covering each phase of the product life cycle, PLM software includes functionality that makes it capable of handling processes related to design, development, production, finance, logistics, sales, and management.
Key benefits of implementing PLM software can be summarized as follows:
- All-round optimization of relationships within the product lifecycle
- A structured record of information
- An aggregated view of resources and processes
- Easy change management
- Having a space to address issues in real-time
- Improved product portfolio management
- Goals and KPIs tracking
What Do You Need to Know About PLM Software?
First product development solutions are associated with the advent of computer-aided design (CAD). With CAD files being large, it was difficult to store and manage them, as back in the 1990s computers didn’t have enough capacity for that. To help organizations cope with the flow of documents and CAD files, product data management (PDM) was introduced.
Having transformed from PDMs to PLMs, next-generation digital management solutions were equipped with functionality that covered collaboration needs and introduced better security standards. However, it took some time until PLM solutions became customers centric with transparency or responsiveness being their priorities.
Modern PLMs is a software as a service (SaaS)-based cloud platform that can be maintained and managed in-house. They include the following functionality:
- Design and engineering, which allow taking real-time actions when design and engineering are ongoing.
- Bill of materials (BOM) management, that’s responsible for keeping all product information up to date, ensuring collaboration with partners and suppliers, allowing for change management, and establishing real-time collaboration between the tech and non-tech users of a PLM.
- Engineer to order (ETO), which makes a PLM system capable of providing information to the sales, engineering, and operations teams and allows for product review, design, and delivery.
- Production activities, which include change management and cost management.
- Distribution and service, including product information management (PIM), that makes the system capable of managing sales channels and data across them.
Choosing one for your organization requires a detailed analysis of business needs and blind spots you’d like to address with a PML system.
Top Five PLM Systems
Among the solutions that are currently available in the market, we distinguished five that are most widely used among organizations implementing PLM.
- Teamcenter Siemens is a user-friendly PLM platform with strong change management functionality that offers easy integration with a CAD system.
- Oracle PLM Cloud is a comprehensive solution based on a systematic approach to product development. With quality management, innovation management, and portfolio management capabilities, it becomes a cost-effective solution to handle PML.
- SAP PLM. Apart from document management, change management, and product portfolio management, it offers BOM management functionality and easily integrates with enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
- Propel is an easily customizable system that includes core features like quality management and product information management.
- Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle is an all-in-one software solution for PML. It offers BOM, deals with change management and quality management, and ensures supplier collaboration and smooth data management.
Each of the platforms mentioned works fine for different purposes of your product development lifecycle. However, it may not be enough to cover all the needs within your organization with a single solution. To get an end-to-end system that embraces all the processes, data, and people, you may consider integrating one of the PLMs we mentioned with other systems or outsourcing SaaS application development services to get a custom solution.
PLM Software Integrations
As product development often occurs in various locations and involves multiple processes, vendors, partners, and performers, data sharing and real-time processing may be challenging. With data scattered across multiple instances, it’s not properly updated for all users, as the changes made in one system are not reflected in other systems.
Establishing smooth communication between various data sources and avoiding inconsistency helps to improve the overall efficiency of each PLM and optimize product delivery terms. Still, integrating data is an issue even for mature companies.
To breach the gap in data interchange, companies often consider integrating a PLM with other business systems. And one of the most common use cases is ERP integration.
With PLM handling the production and manufacturing part and ERP focusing on resource management, bringing them together will synchronize data sets from both systems to keep your product information updated in real-time. As a result, you’ll get a common space for BOM structure and documents, information about vendors and suppliers, and engineering status changes.
PLMs can also be integrated with CAD, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) software, and more business systems. All integrations of this type aim to make the view of your product lifecycle development more comprehensive and put it in one place. This is exactly what the product development lifecycle was made for.