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PLM - Product Lifecycle Management

PLM - Product Lifecycle Management

Product lifecycle management, sometimes "product life cycle management", PLM, represents an all-encompassing vision for managing all data relating to the design, production, support and ultimate disposal of manufactured goods. Product life management concepts were first introduced where safety and control have been extremely important, notably the aerospace, medical device, military and nuclear industries. These industries originated the discipline of configuration management (CM), which evolved into electronic data management systems (EDMS), which then further evolved to product data management (PDM).

Over the last ten years, manufacturers of instrumentation, industrial machinery, consumer electronics, packaged goods and other complex engineered products have discovered the benefits of PLM management and are adopting efficient PLM software in increasing numbers.

The PLM Stages

Beginning of Life (BOL): The beginning of life phase includes all of the design and manufacturing, which consists of the initial conceptualization and development, and any prototypes built. Initial development has multiple sub-actions that identify all the requirements, concepts, and necessary testing.

Middle of Life (MOL): The middle of life phase is post-manufacturing, when your product is distributed, used, and serviced. At this point, your product is in the hands of the end user. You can collect data on any failures, maintenance rates, and user experience to get information for immediate fixes and future development.

End of Life (EOL): The end of life phase is the retiring, recycling, or disposing of your product. At this point, the reverse logistics happen for the company. EOL starts when users no longer have a need for the product. At this stage, companies collect information about what parts and materials are still valuable.

Product lifecycle management software is used to deliver all kinds of products to market, which means there are a lot of different providers out there. Its purpose today is to help organizations:

  1. Develop new products using CAD software
  2. Produce and manufacture new products
  3. Bring those products to market

And increasingly, product life management software has to process the feedback from the market back to the design and production processes. To achieve these goals, product lifecycle management solutions have to do four things:

  • Link together CAD metadata with a bill of materials
  • Manage workflows for organizations needed to bring products to market
  • Manage product data as they move through the product development lifecycle stages
  • Hook in auxiliary suppliers and business stakeholders to a shared version of truth or single source of truth.



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Top PLM System Software Requirements

Bill of Materials. Having a common source of information across your company is incredibly important during product development. That’s why a bill of materials (BOM) is key to include in your list of product lifecycle management requirements. At the very least, your system should provide a single definition of a particular product and its components. More advanced options include features specifically designed for different team members such as designers, engineers and other professionals who frequently  collaborate.

Computer-Aided Design Management. Managing your CAD activities and documents is more than useful when it comes to PLM. Your solution should be able to manage changes to product configurations while maintaining the functional and physical attributes of a product throughout its lifecycle. Production engineering changes should proliferate throughout your processes, with the changes evident in the subsequent BOMs and plans.

Manufacturing Product Management. During a product’s lifecycle, you want to keep an eye on your portfolio. With portfolio management, users can determine the proper investment balance to maximize their research and development investment returns. Some systems provide strategy tools to spotlight priorities and support planning. Top PLM software can even determine the best possible investment scenario. Users can also track project progress to completion, which is automatically documented in the product record. This allows greater insight into your processes, facilitating better resource management and allocation.

Product Regulation and Governance. Failing to follow regulation and compliance standards is one of the quickest ways to earn your business a bad reputation. But having the right tools built into your product life management system can make staying compliant much easier than it would be otherwise. Your solution should be able to centralize relevant information and documentation, making it easier for enterprise organizations to achieve and maintain compliance.  You also may choose a system that can comply with medical, environmental, safety, FSA and ISO standards depending on your industry.

Project and Component Maintenance. Project management tools are vital for providing users visibility into daily processes and progress. These features include tracking and scheduling capabilities, which enable you to manage product development along with resource allocation in real time. Users can also see upcoming milestones and constraints for further planning.

Quote Process Management. Data from many different sources is often needed during the quote process. PLM’s inherent coordination capabilities gather and organize data pertaining to product design to support your engineering teams. This includes teams developing engineer-to-order and configure-to-order products. The system only shares the necessary data, meaning your team members can spend more time focusing on their work and less on hunting down information.

Risk Management. This feature brings risks to users’ attention, allowing them to manage, report and mitigate those instabilities. Reducing risks early on prevents issues from growing as they move through product development unseen, reducing the overall cost of development. Some systems do this by “detecting” or “highlighting” risks, whereas some systems simply offer full visibility through PM tools.

Workflow and Change Management. Plainly said, this suite of PLM software tools gives users insight into product activities. Users can determine phases for a project, as well as assign milestones to keep projects on track. Some systems allow users to see all pending and implemented changes, as well as all items that endure the subsequent effects. This visibility extends to portfolio and resource management, also.