What Is PLM - A Software Solution Or A Business Approach

What is PLM

PLM, a tricky concept, is it? On one level, some define it as software that helps to collect, organize and track all data relevant to a product whereas on another level some say that it is a process that streamlines workflows and interdepartmental communication.

So, what is PLM really? A multi-functional software or an altered approach to managing the product lifecycle?

Let’s find out.

PLM stands for Product Lifecycle Management. It mainly focuses on coordinating information, processes, and people related to a product lifecycle, right from concept to manufacturing to customer. Hence, it provides many benefits that include lesser design to manufacturing errors, reduced iterations, and faster speed to market.

The PLM origin

The product lifecycle management concept was introduced in the mid-1980s, in the automotive and aviation industry. In these industries, developing a new product entailed collaborating with multiple resources. E.g., a new car has millions of parts, which are sourced from different manufacturers. Imagine manufacturing such a product with no set process and no centralized data for managing the entire product development process.

Outdated systems and processes resulted in:

1. Complex supply chain management.

2. Decentralized production, majorly in OEMs.

3. Increased product complexity with multiple variant demand.

4. Cost became a critical factor for customer purchases resulting in an unhealthy cutting price strategy by manufacturers.

And, so product lifecycle management was born.

Securing the PLM Advantage

Initially, PLM was adopted by big organizations for complex products and was used vigorously for releasing product variants one after the other. But, with the digital era, using product data right from the conceptual stage to the design, procurement, and manufacturing stage spread beyond big OEMs.


Today, product lifecycle management is used to deliver all types of products to the market, be it in the manufacturing field or beauty products. PLM links CAD data with the bill of materials, managing both product data and workflows, and getting all business stakeholders on a single shared vision.

Adopting PLM software can help its users with the following:

1. User-friendly interface.

2. Streamlined workflows.

3. Free flow of information with dashboards and reports.

4. Responsive screens for use on any device.

5. Work from anywhere and anytime.

6. Intelligent search capabilities.

7. Complete visibility and accountability

8. Simple processes to create objects

What is PLM and why is it important for the business

PLM versus ERP, who wins? 

A common debate in the industry, experts have varying opinions over implementing PLM in a company with an existing ERP set-up. But despite these opinions, it is safe to say that PLM and ERP go hand in hand in most leading OEMs. PLM manages the design, engineering, and simulation of data as well as material compliance along with quality and documentation. ERP is used for manufacturing resource planning, manpower, sourcing, inventory, and order management. Both have their set capabilities but, they also have overlapping functions.

Currently, around 97% of mid-sized companies already have an existing ERP set-up because it was the first mandatory business tool in the tool following which PLM was introduced. However, if PLM and ERP work together smoothly, they are instrumental in improving business performance.

For more information, you can also read our blog – “If ERP is the heart, then PLM is the brain of the company.”

PLM implementation in the digital era

We have entered the digital era, where Industry 4.0 is the next big thing. Industry 4.0 is a digitally enabled manufacturing where computers can control automated production lines. It uses data collected from the Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning, AI, and digital twins to automate existing production lines.

Today, PLM is also playing an important role in Industry 4.0 initiatives. It acts as the central repository of the data required to run a smart factory. Particularly, Cloud PLM ensures that data is automatically updated and has easy access across the lifecycle.

Integrating PLM with the latest technological trends will not only give improved data-driven product development strategies and enable rapid iterations but also a greater customer experience that involves matching user demand with product variants and more competitive pricing.

Bottom Line

Hence, PLM is not only a software solution but also a business approach that is involved in applying a set of consistent solutions for better collaboration and management of product information across its lifecycle to create improved products in lesser time and at a reduced cost.

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