PLM: Yesterday, today and tomorrow

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PLM is a set of processes extending from design through manufacturing and includes the maintenance and service of a product. All manufactured products have a certain lifespan and each of these products goes through various lifecycles. In these stages, manufacturers have to overcome several challenges like accumulated problems, past project failures as well as the difficulty in its existing implementation.

Product lifecycle management has come a long way and is growing considerably today, increasingly connecting the worlds of manufacturing and information technology.

Earlier there were several cases of companies failing when they tried implementing PLM without a clear sense of understanding or a mission. PLM began with design and engineering extending up to manufacturing and service.

PLM has redefined the value of data in the manufacturing sector and is giving a handsome return on investment (ROI). Employees of manufacturing or industrial organizations realized that they turned out to be efficient when all the information was available on their fingertips. Research has revealed that almost 20% of the employees spent most of their time looking for the right model or the correct version of a drawing. This highlighted the structural inefficiency of the manufacturers in managing information as it wasted a good amount of their time in this.

Apart from organizing information, PLM was also known for the improvement of a process as well as transforming the product development process making it suitable for the current era. With the implementation of PLM, work turned out to be more aligned and collaborative with processes like new product development, change management, product development costs and other major tasks.

Manufacturers are facing different issues with PLM than what they faced during its initial stages. The regulatory issues have tightened, customers demand rapid innovation, time to market has reduced significantly and IT has evolved into more of ‘on demand’ now. As PLM has become adaptive now, manufacturers have stepped into the next generation of automation; Industry 4.0.

PLM is now facing a rapid transformation. The three main drivers for this are:

  • Demand for more customized products,
  • Rapid design cycles that are powered by embedded technology
  • Data from several IoT sensors


Three key areas where manufacturers implement live PLM:

  • Understanding the demands of the customer
  • Identifying how the product design affects the end-to-end processes
  • Implementing a digital product innovation platform.


PLM has become successful in today’s digital age. But it has lagged behind in adopting a holistic approach towards identifying the need to change and address the whole product that comprises of services, product details that are given on the web, customer feedback and more. Focusing on customer, cloud, and collaboration will help PLM propel further.

PLM has four main trends that can change the future of product lifecycle management. Times are changing and several trends and technologies can eventually disrupt the future of product lifecycles like big data, mobility, Internet of Things as well as the growth of electronics and software in manufacturing.
For example:

Connected devices can expand the lifecycle of a product.
The devices which are connected will eventually venture into a real physical environment with the customers. Further, IoT data helps in understanding what the customer requirements are with more efficiency and also monitors the performance of the product in real life. Apart from this, sensors are becoming more efficient and affordable and this has paved the way for manufacturers to keep a track of the customer experience of their products.

A shift into interactive user experiences.
Millennials are now looking for interactive user experience and are rejecting the current user experiences that cater to formal workflows. The demand for interactive ones is coming from a new generation of users. Interactive technologies from smartphones to websites to software-as-a-service applications and mobile apps provide a self-guided and efficient user experience. Millennials are adept at finding better alternatives and if something doesn’t work out right, then they move on to the next best thing. This is a sort of behavioral trend that increases the need for interactive user experience from various devices, data, and locations.

Integrating product lifecycle management in an environment dominated by software.
The evolution of smartphones has revolutionized product lifecycle management. Smart products are also bringing in a new level of complexity. Software is taking over the world and this will have a comprehensive effect over product lifecycle software and manufacturing. If the complexity of the software increases than the products will require a deeper integration into the product development process. Manufacturing companies will try their best to integrate mechanical, electrical and software elements of a product data.

IoT data will close the design loop.
The bridge or gap between virtual and physical product environments will become lesser and lesser with the help of connected devices and associated technologies as they help in closing the loop. If you see the trend now, each company is developing its approach towards PLM and IoT. There is a visibly growing interest from PLM vendors in seeing what IoT is bringing to their table from their business.

What can you expect from the next 10 years of technology disruption and PLM?
The existing complexity of products is very likely to disrupt the environments with multidisciplinary and interconnected data sets. The growing demand for integration by the customers in product development and operation globally can lead to a new form of interactive experience. This experience is inclusive of capturing the product requirements as well as predictive maintenance and services. The virtual and physical product can bring in a new demand for data management, data science, and related information technologies. The overall scale of this data and its complexity can also bring in a future challenge for systems to give solutions for industries and end-to-end product lifecycle management.

It is also time for new PLM leadership that must be inclusive of transparency and trust. This will help in building affordable as well as intelligent systems for the future in the marketing sphere. The age-old myth of PLM being very complex should fade away. This will open fresher opportunities, otherwise, there are high chances for PLM to retire and die.


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