6.4.1 What is PLM?

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the process by which manufacturing companies develop, describe, manage and communicate information about their products from their conception to their disposal, both internally and among their supply chain partners.1


Figure 1 PLM process2

CAD: Computer-Aided Design
PDM: Product Data Management
ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning

As Figure 1 shows, PLM cover all stages of a product from concept (idea) to design (Electrical and Mechanical CAD), scale-up (Product Data Management), production (Enterprise Resource Planning and other systems such as Customer Relationship Management) and disposal.

PLM is the title commonly applied to a set of application software that enables the New Product Development (NPD) business process.3

Within PLM there are four primary areas:4

  • Product and Portfolio Management (PPM)
  • Computer-Aided Design (CAD)
  • Manufacturing Planning (MPM)
  • Product Data Management (PDM)5

The core of PLM is in the creation and central management of all product data and the technology used to access this information and knowledge. PLM as a discipline emerged from tools such as CAD and PDM, but can be viewed as the integration of these tools with methods, people and processes through all stages of a product’s life. It is not just about software technology but is also a business strategy.6

A PLM system contains all product information in a secure central location; allows multiple users simultaneous access to the data; provides templates for change types, including pre-defined review workflows, approving departments and interested observers; identifies all dispositioning tasks and rolls up cost impacts automatically; and utilizes e-mail so there is no lag between one person’s approval and the next person’s notification. Changes can typically be pulled back, reworked, and resubmitted without leaving your desk to chase down a physical package.7

In the following sequential engineering workflow you can see the main stages of PLM and the different tasks involved in each one. The order of events and tasks may vary according to the kind of product and industry but in general the main processes are:8


Fig. 2 Main processes in PLM.9

Figure 2 as well as figure 1 puts emphasis on the idea that PLM covers all the stages in the development of a new product. Whilst Figure 1 shows the different kinds of software affected, figure 2 tries to represent in a schematic way which processes are involved in each stage from concept design and definition of the new product specification in the conception stage to delivery, use, maintenance and disposal in the service stage.


1 www.synapsistech.com/solutions/plm/what-is-plm.html 
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3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_Lifecycle_Management
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5 For further information about these terms please go to the glossary
6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_Lifecycle_Management
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9 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Product_Lifecycle_Management