Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – The Ultimate Guide

Product lifecycle management (PLM) is the process of managing a product’s lifecycle from inception, through design and manufacturing, to sales, service, and eventually retirement.

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – The Ultimate Guide


What is PLM?

  • PLM, or Product Lifecycle Management, are processes and solutions used by companies to manage product-related data.
  • Its application extends from a new product’s initial concept through to its design, manufacturing, maintenance, and disposal.
  • It is used by various industries, and can in some cases apply to services as well as to products.

PLM Info


What does PLM do?

  • PLM coordinates a wide variety of product data in a way that supports business processes through the integration of people, activities, and systems.
  • PLM provides services for detailing engineering product structures with configuration and change control.
  • PLM sits inside a broader enterprise application landscape where it feeds data to downstream systems such as ERP.


Why is PLM needed?

  • Why PLM? Because the complexity of product development has increased dramatically over the years.
  • Change frequency has dramatically increased. In some industries such as High Tech, if you are even a few months late to market, you may have to scrap the product.
  • Speed is no longer a competitive differentiator, it is a standard way of doing business. PLM helps keep companies competitive.


How does PLM work?

  • PLM collects, structures, and controls well-defined data types, their relationships, and their evolution.
  • Based on this information foundation, it supports business processes through the integration of people, activities, and systems.
  • It tries to ensure collaboration through controlled access to and modification of this shared information.


What is PLM made of?

  • PLM is made of a foundation providing common services such as storage, searching, and visualization.
  • On top of this are higher-level business objects such as requirements and parts and documents.
  • On top of this are applications for authoring or consuming data.


How do the pieces fit inside PLM?

  • Related information is factorized and grouped into dedicated structures, such as product data, process data, and resource data.
  • Content in one structure can be referenced or consumed by content in neighboring structures: for example: a product can be built by a process using a resource.
  • Change propagation can be controlled via object maturity.


How is PLM applied?

  • PLM is flexible and configurable, so depending on the industry and the company it can be applied in different ways.
  • For example, engineering change control might be more or less strictly applied, or the level of variability in engineering structures might be more or less fine-grained.
  • Defining and dosing PLM mechanisms is part of the architect’s work.


Challenges with PLM Implementation

  • A PLM initiative is an important change vector for most companies.
  • PLM helps structure and standardize a company’s business processes, introducing rigor where there may have once been a lack of discipline.
  • As a result, employees have to adapt and teams have to transform themselves, which can lead to resistance.


Definition of PLM


First Phrase – Product

A product is something that is offered to the market that satisfies a want or need. Products can be both tangible – such as automobiles – or intangible – such as banking services. In many industries, product variants are grouped into models for synergistic development and economies of scale.


Middle Phrase – Lifecycle

A lifecycle is a distinct set of states that a product or object evolves through over the course of its existence. The term lifecycle can apply at both the macro scale – such as product concept to disposal – and the micro scale – such as work-in-progress to be reviewed and approved. Lifecycle states determine who can do what to an object.


Last Phrase – Management

Management is the process of controlling things. Management can be applied to both people and business processes as well as to the information objects that specify products or activities. Management coordinates the overall use of resources in order to achieve a goal, such as bringing a product to market.


Introduction to Product Lifecycle Management



In industry, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the process of capturing and coordinating the specification of a new product throughout its entire lifetime: from its inception, to its design, engineering, sourcing, and manufacture, and finally on to its service and disposal.



By orchestrating all disciplines and their deliverables throughout product development, a company is able to produce the right product on time with the expected quality.



  • Structuring information within a semantic framework implemented by business objects
  • Achieving data unicity through “single source of truth” (or at least integrated solutions)
  • Offering a set of applications providing advanced functionalities to manage those business objects through business processes and user scenarios
  • Ensuring secure collaboration with data access rights
  • Leveraging the information by dashboarding the data repository


Value of PLM – PLM is an Innovation Enabler

  • PLM helps customers compete in a changing market by developing experience-based products and services.
  • PLM dramatically shortens time to market through innovative business development.
  • PLM helps build a new corporate culture and an innovative workforce for future sustainable growth.
  • PLM can be applied advantageously to single domains as well as across domains.

PLM Domains

File-Based Data – Scenario

  • At the simplest level and working purely with a file-based solution, developers could simply retain multiple copies of their design work, and name each file appropriately.
  • This simple approach has been and continues to be used in many product development projects. While this method can work, it is inefficient as many near-identical copies of designs have to be maintained.
  • This requires a lot of self-discipline on the part of designers and often leads to mistakes. Since the design data resides on a file server, this approach may also require managing and granting read-write permission to designers so that the design is not compromised, which adds more complexity.
  • Consequently, PLM has been designed to automate some or all of the revision control process. This ensures that most of the work relating to version control management is hidden behind the scenes.


File-Based Pains & PLM Remedies

  • File Based Pain #1 – Data is not shared enough
    • PLM Remedy #1 – Single, unambiguous source of data truth for all users
  • File Based Pain #2 – No visibility on what data has changed
    • PLM Remedy #2 – Versioning mechanism coupled with a publish/subscribe mechanism
  • File Based Pain #3 – Snowball effect of copied data
    • PLM Remedy #3 – Users instantiate (reference directly) other designers’ parts without making copies
  • File Based Pain #4 – Data is delivered only at predetermined milestones
    • PLM Remedy #4 – Lifecycle states and release management tools allow sharing data when it is ready
  • File Based Pain #5 – Inefficient position and geometry management
    • PLM Remedy #5 – An instance/reference paradigm re-uses geometry via relative position information


Additional References

  • CIMData – CIMdata provides thought leadership and delivers Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) consulting, research, and education
  • Wikipedia – Free encyclopedia on the internet


Notable PLM Vendors

  • Dassault Systemes – World Leader in 3D Design & Engineering Software, Dassault Systèmes® provides PLM & 3D Modeling Software, Simulation Apps and Industry Solutions.
  • Siemens PLM – Siemens Digital Industries Software’s product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions include digital product development, digital manufacturing and product data management.
  • Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) – Increase operational efficiency, while transforming how products are created and serviced.



  • PLM, or Product Lifecycle Management, are processes and solutions used by companies to manage product-related data.
  • PLM coordinates a wide variety of product data in a way that supports business processes through the integration of people, activities, and systems.
  • Product Lifecycle Management allows companies to:
    • Structure information within a semantic framework implemented by business objects
    • Ensure secure collaboration with data access rights and locking mechanisms
    • Leverage information by indexing and dashboarding the data repository
  • Many of the departments in a company benefit from PLM, including Design, Sourcing, Manufacturing, and Service.

Checkout our Other Resources

PLM Coach – All Courses

Teamcenter PLM Architecture


Teamcenter Functional Guide

3DEXPERIENCE Enterprise Knowledge Language

Creo Toolkit Guide


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About Author
Anup Karumanchi
Anup Karumanchi
Champion of PLM, CAD & MES platforms, with a proven track record of delivering successful workshops and services for global clientele.

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