The Role of a PLM System in the Product Management Process

The Role of a PLM System in the Product Management Process
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by Sanjeev Kapoor 18 Mar 2022

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software systems support product management processes i.e., the series of steps that help companies to ensure that the right product features are built, at the right time, and in the right order. Product management processes differ from company to company, yet they commonly comprise three main stages, namely product definition, product building, and product shipping. In most cases, the product lifecycle management steps include the definition of the overall goal, the inception, and validation of ideas, the creation of a high-level plan from the product, the search for the proper resources, as well as the development and testing of the product prior to making it available to users.

Product management processes do not only refer to product development lifecycles for new products i.e. to the processes that manage and market a brand new product as part of their market launch. Rather, they also include the establishment of product lifecycle management systems, which manage the maintenance of existing products and incorporate features and updates over their life cycles.

A PLM system is a specialized enterprise software application that facilitates the product management process. Specifically, PLM systems are a specific subset of enterprise systems that are designed to support the product management process. Their primary role is to manage information about all aspects of a product throughout its entire lifespan. For instance, a PLM system may be used to store data pertaining to a product concept, from ideation through manufacturing, use, and end-of-life. Moreover, PLM systems are used for storing project management information, customer service information, as well as sales and delivery-related information.

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PLM Modules and Functionalities

In practice, PLM systems are information management systems, which integrate data, processes, business systems and often even customers and suppliers. PLM systems coordinate the work of different departments and ensure that product development progresses through phases in a defined way. To this end, PLM systems usually include modules for product data management, quality management and change management. In particular:

  • Product Modules: Product data modules typically include a bill of materials (BOM), which gives a detailed description of every part of a product, as well as routing data for assembly, components and subcomponents. They may also include engineering drawings and other documents.
  • Quality Modules: Quality modules include corrective action processes for addressing customer complaints or supplier problems. They may also provide metrics to measure the quality of products or processes.
  • Change Management Modules: Change management modules automate the approval process for changes to products and document the changes in a way that makes it easy to track them back to the original source.


Beyond these very common PLM components, the following modules are commonly founded in PLM products:

  • Design Management Module: This is where information about a product’s design resides. It may include Computer-Aided Design (CAD) models and other technical documents.
  • Manufacturing Process Management Module: This module can encompass manufacturing workflows and bill of materials (BOMs), among other things.
  • Supply Chain Management Modules: This module tracks raw materials and other components throughout the supply chain. It is sometimes called ‘vendor collaboration” since it facilitates the collaboration of supply chain actors towards product management and delivery.

Furthermore, each PLM system can be as basic as a document management system with check-in/check-out functionalities that facilitate the tracking of product versions. As such PLM systems provide functionalities for product configuration management, version control, document control, as well as testing and Quality Assurance (QA) management.


Benefits of PLM Solutions

The benefits of PLM solutions lie in their automation and intelligence. They make sure that all product information is available to all the stakeholders, who can access it from anywhere at any time. Hence, everyone knows what changes are currently being made to the product. A good PLM system will tell you where every product is in the development lifecycle and whether it’s on schedule. If something has changed, you’ll know immediately what effect it will have on production timelines and cost.
The benefits of PLM are similar to those offered by other types of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems i.e. access to integrated and well-structured information, which enables automation and intelligence. Automating tasks reduces errors caused by manual processes, such as copying data from one database to another or re-entering. Nevertheless, in contrast to ERP, which is all about day-to-day operations, PLM solutions are focused on long-term planning and efficiency. Specifically, PLM systems help product-oriented companies to manage the entire lifecycle of their product, from conception through production, marketing, sales, and service. Because of the complexity involved with managing a product’s life from start to finish, PLM systems are sometimes said to be more difficult to implement than ERP systems.

It is very important to understand that PLM is not just about keeping track of data. It also provides tools for analyzing and leveraging that data. For example, PLM systems can track the cost to manufacture certain components, so that you can be sure you’re pricing your products appropriately. They can also track which manufacturing sites are responsible for certain components, enabling you to determine if there are problems with a specific supplier. Moreover, when your company works on multiple projects at once, having an effective PLM system in place will help ensure that each project remains on schedule and within budget.


Selecting a PLM System

There are many criteria to consider when selecting a PLM system. Here are some of the more important ones:

  • Functionalities: The functionalities and features that you will need in your PLM system may depend on your industry. For example, if you handle high-value products, you might need strong configuration management, whereas, for low-cost items, you might require more emphasis on product development and design.
  • Scalability: One of the main reasons to implement a PLM system is to support growth. You will want to choose a system that can grow with your company as it adds new products, new projects, and new users. You may also want one that can provide additional functionality and support (for example, aftermarket service) as your business grows and changes over time.
  • Cost: The cost of implementing and maintaining a PLM system will vary depending on the number of users and the functionality required. The total cost of ownership (TCO) needs to be considered carefully before making a final decision since this can help you identify hidden expenses or additional costs involved with migration or other special requirements.

Overall, if you are looking for the best PLM software for your business, you must first understand your requirements – both in terms of current needs and future growth plans. Make sure that the solution includes all the features you need to manage your product lifecycle effectively – features like design management, configuration management, change management and collaboration tools such as digital mockups. Also, look for a solution that can be easily scaled up or down as needed. You should also make sure it is compatible with other applications you already use.


In brief, a product lifecycle management software system is designed to manage and track information about a company’s products. By using this technology, companies can manage the full lifecycle of their products – from initial conception to final production and support – more efficiently. This benefits the companies because they can focus on what is most important at any given time in their product’s life cycle. It also benefits the users of the product because they receive products that are more streamlined, efficient, and better performing. Whether you are a Product Manager, Project Manager, or Process Owner your success is directly related to your ability to define and perform processes that add value to your organization and maximize output for your customers. PLM solutions can help in this direction towards delivering a significant financial and competitive advantage.

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