What is PLM (Product Life-Cycle Management)?

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For sticklers,  here is my attempt at the definition of PLM: –

“PLM is an enterprise software strategy that helps firms plan and achieve product-process innovation from their conceptualization to decommissioning, encompassing people or systems across the value chain”.

PLM has evolved from its origins in computer design, management of product development data, simulation and now taking root in advanced virtual reality. It can certainly be a topic of contention to define the boundaries of PLM.  I think the PLM concept becomes easily understandable if we concentrate on one word i.e. – “life-cycle”. Simplistically, PLM is the management of the entire life-cycle of a product. Lifecycle  is defined as a series of stages through which something (as an individual, culture, or manufactured product) passes during its lifetime.

This simplistic view of life-cycle makes PLM expansive and a bit confusing.  It is undeniable that PLM is an enterprise software strategy rather than just a business strategy. End-users (consumers of PLM) might have a business need that may or may not require end-to-end PLM suite. An end-user might choose more than one PLM software vendor to address their product’s life-cycle.

The question arises, if PLM manages life-cycle of a product or a process. Why can’t we use an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or BPM (Business Process Management) software? The answer is “INNOVATION”. PLM software helps in innovating new products and processes from existing ones. Please be assured I am not talking about Invention, the keyword is “innovation”. If your PLM software implementation has not helped you innovate, you could be better off with customized ERP or BPM software. My focus in this blog piece is not highlight difference between PLM and other enterprise software’s, but to draw some boundaries and provide an understanding in few words to both engineering as well as business audience as to what PLM is really all about ?

PLM What

 

This figure provides a representation of the areas or domains that PLM software covers; each domain is represented in the outer circle like Simulation, Idea Management, Design, Configuration etc. Many PLM vendors specialize in a single or multiple domains of PLM. It may also be noted that certain domains or areas of PLM represented in the figure such as PPM (Project & Portfolio Management)  have roots and applicability outside of PLM, but only their  product innovation based functions grant them to be part of PLM.

I hope this write-up  provides a starting point for a wholesome discussion about the definition and boundaries of PLM.

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