PLM (product lifecycle management) is the process of managing a product’s entire lifecycle from the conception phase, complex product development, product sales, growth phase, and maturity phase to the decline phase and retirement.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology Administration defines product lifecycle management as “a vision or a business strategy for creating, sharing, managing information about products, processes, people, and services within and across the extended and networked enterprise covering the entire lifecycle spectrum of the product.”
Product lifecycle management connects data, processes, and business systems and is used to determine marketing plans, pricing strategy, sales prospects, and market strategy, as well as to help create a strategic approach when it comes to product expansion and discontinuation. It is a complex process and involves technology to help you create, manage and leverage your products to help maximize profits and achieve your business goals.
Essentially, a product lifecycle management method is used in some capacity by any business that produces complex products or multiple products simultaneously while having staff members collaborate across offices, locations, and time zones.
Nowadays, the phrase “product lifecycle management” is used to describe the software that serves as the foundational technology for all operations relating to products. In this post, we go through the characteristics of the product management lifecycle and talk about how integrating PLM software can help your business.
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The Fundamentals of Product Lifecycle Management
History of PLM
PLM was initially created as a tool for businesses looking to get the most out of launching new products. American Motors Corporation (AMC), which was seeking a way to hasten the development of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, made one of the earliest known uses of PLM in 1985. The company first used computer-aided design software (CAD) to accelerate complex product development. Its main objective was to boost engineers’ productivity but later, the company concentrated on a method for enhancing stakeholder dialogue, which facilitated quicker problem-solving.
As a result, product data management became so efficient that the system grew to connect everyone involved in the design phase. In the meantime, AMC was acquired by Chrysler which, thanks to the use of product lifecycle management, became the least expensive car manufacturer in the sector. The company’s development expenses were half the industry average by the mid-1990s.
With the idea of managing a product’s whole lifecycle, from product concept through the design phase, manufacturing, growth phase, maturity phase, service, and finally, the decline phase and retirement of created goods, a completely new standard was introduced to the market.
PLM systems and processes
According to the PLM Technology Guide, a community of independent PLM consultants, PLM has the ability to “integrate people, data, processes and business systems” providing “a product information backbone” for an enterprise-wide digital thread that crosses geographical regions, engineering disciplines, lines of business, functions and activities.
It can be viewed as a repository for all data pertaining to a product, as well as a tool for communication between engineering, production, field service, and marketing teams. As such, product lifecycle management refers to the technology, data, and activities used in managing the lifespan of a product.
In order to organize the data and procedures involved in the product lifecycle, most businesses use a PLM system to enable workflow, process, and data management, store documents in an electronic repository, manage business processes and design documents, permit secured multi-user access, create and control bill of material (BOM) records, allow task assignments, export data to ERP systems, etc.
Product lifecycle management phases
Product development can be explained in a variety of ways, but the cycle typically contains five phases:
- Conception and design. This is the stage where the product is envisioned and specifications for the product are established using information about the market, consumer needs, and competitive analysis.
- Development. During the product development process, the product is carefully designed, including any tool designs. It covers the development and testing of prototypes as well as the analysis and validation of the intended product. The product development process also generates feedback that will help determine what improvements are still needed.
- Production and product launch. During this stage, a market-ready version of the product is created using the pilot’s feedback. Launching, market distribution, and scaling production are all included.
- Support and service: After the product launch, the service and support phase starts which entails all customer care and support activities.
- End-of-life (EOL). When a product is taken off the market, it has reached its end of life. Product retirement can entail fully removing the product from the market without a replacement or, in many cases, replacing the product with a new version. Products can be retired for a number of reasons, including developments in technology that render the product outdated, pressure from the market that renders the product unprofitable, or the product’s inability to exceed the necessary revenue or profitability standards.
6 Benefits of PLM Software
The availability and shareability of information from a single central platform is the most significant benefit of PLM software. This allows for consolidation of procedures and seamless tracking provided, adding to the following benefits:
1. Reduced development costs
Product development costs are immediately decreased by accelerating the product lifecycle. Reduced back-and-forth communication improves quality, increases output, and reduces the need for rework.
2. Error reduction
When using tools like PowerPoint, servers, Dropbox, emails, and Excel, it might be challenging to keep track of all the product information. The use of PLM software streamlines workflows, eliminates duplication of work, reduces the need for meetings, phone calls, and emails, and decreases the amount of time needed to find or update information.
3. Improved communication and collaboration
With internal employees and external stakeholders working from different locations, real-time data management and process capabilities are crucial. product lifecycle management software offers interfaces with external databases and enables timely updates from both internal staff and external business partners, establishing a “single source of truth.” Maintaining a single source of truth and factual data in real-time helps boost productivity, improve the success rates of new launches, and increase product sales.
As the Journal of Technology Management puts it, “Companies can build channels between themselves through which information and knowledge can be exchanged and go far beyond the traditional exchange of specifications, drawings, and contracts.”
4. Speeds time to market
Time to market is sped up thanks to product lifecycle management, which provides access to product information that streamlines business processes, enhances collaboration throughout the supply chain, and improves decision-making. This visibility allows organizations to identify time-consuming and expensive risks and take appropriate action to maintain product flow.
5. Improved product quality and increased revenue
PLM software enables companies to rapidly and precisely determine how changes in expenses, profit, and pricing relate to predetermined product sales targets and business goals. In order to manage global procurement in a unified manner and choose the optimal procurement strategy, suppliers can be integrated into the supply chain collaboration process to additionally increase product profitability.
6. Marketing Support
PLM can also be regarded as a marketing investment. PLM knowledge can lead to an increase in marketing efficiency by influencing the marketing strategy, its execution, and performance measurements. On the other hand, the lack of PLM integration (business systems and processes) and product knowledge can impair customer engagement and the go-to-market process.
When marketing teams work with a dynamic and effective PLM, they have actionable information that helps them work in an effective manner, create profitable marketing campaigns, and reduce marketing spend risks.
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Who Can Benefit from PLM Tools?
PLM systems are a powerful tool for various companies, such as manufacturers, retailers, and brands who must deal with the complexity of design and production, globalization, and the requirement to create and transfer products quickly.
As we have entered our “new normal” with the rise of remote working, companies need a platform that encourages cooperation among internal teams and external stakeholders no matter where they are located. Investing in the right product lifecycle management tool can help companies take charge of their future.
According to the 2019 PLM Market Industry Analysis report, product lifecycle management tools are used by a variety of industries, including the automotive industry and other transportation, aerospace industry and defense, fabrication and assembly (including industrial machinery, heavy equipment, consumer goods, retail, and apparel), electronics and high-tech (including telephony, satellites, and medical devices), CIS (construction, infrastructure, shipbuilding) process/consumables (including consumer packaged goods such as food and beverage and pharmaceutical), utilities, process/bulk chemical, insurance, financial, and more.
The Bottom Line
The above-listed characteristics and benefits of PLM are some of the reasons why industry leaders are using product lifecycle management systems and why the PLM market is predicted to reach $42.8 billion by 2028.
The implementation of product lifecycle management software is a strategic business approach that will help you reach your business goals faster and with ease. PLM is a comprehensive, automated, and streamlined method for managing products at every stage of product development, from the conception phase through deployment, growth phase, maturity phase, decline phase, and retirement. The key is to find a PLM system that works best for you to optimize procedures, appeal to consumers, and stay competitive in the crowded market.