PLM: everything you need to know

Companies of all sizes across the globe now use dedicated PLM software to design and develop products and effectively manage how they develop, manufacture, sell, and dispose of products.  

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What is product lifecycle management – PLM

Managing the entire lifecycle of a product is an incredibly complicated undertaking. To make the entire process as efficient as possible, companies require a solution that allows them to control every step of a product’s journey.

What does PLM stand for? PLM aims to manage every aspect of a product’s lifecycle, from its inception to its eventual retirement. With the right PLM solutions, a company can identify and mitigate issues as they occur. PLM even enables companies to predict problems before they occur.

Using specialized PLM software, an enterprise can control each product lifestyle stage, from its initial concept through to design, development, engineering, manufacturing, sales, and the eventual disposal of the product. Teams can communicate and collaborate more effectively, resources can be allocated most efficiently, and all changes can be tracked precisely.

PLM software gives stakeholders across the entire supply chain access to crucial information. It allows for complete transparency, enhances quality, boosts productivity, reduces time to market, and can even optimize marketing efforts.  


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ENOVIA Project Planner

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DELMIA Lean Team Player

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A brief history of PLM

While the sophisticated PLM software that enterprises use these days is a relatively new invention, the concept of initiating a system for managing a product’s lifecycle goes back decades.

The early days: the 1930s to the 1950s

The roots of PLM began in 1931 when New York advertising agency executive Otto Kleppner developed a theory that products have three lifecycle stages: pioneering, competitive, and retentive.  

The continuation : the 1950s to the 1960s

The concept of PLM developed further during the post-war boom times of the 1950s. In the early 1950s, the US Department of Defense implemented a paper-based system for documenting and tracking the stages of product configuration. This system was known as configuration management.

In 1957, the Booz Allen Hamilton Corporation put forward a theory that all products have similar lifecycle characteristics. This theory postulated that products go through the following stages: Introduction, growth, maturity, saturation, and decline.

Then in 1959, Arch Patton, an employee of the US consulting firm McKinsey, added to the understanding of PLM as a concept. Patton wrote that the crucial part of the product lifestyle was that profits are high during the growth stages and taper off because of increased competition during the maturity phase.

The evolution of PLM : the 1960s to the 1980s

The 1960s saw the PLM idea refined even further. In 1966, the economist Raymond Vernon published ‘International Investment and International Trade in the Product Cycle’, which extrapolated on the PLM stages as defined by Booz Allen. At the end of the decade, the software company United Computing launched UNIAPT, the first commercial computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) program.

The 1970s saw the introduction of the US military issues standards (MIL-STD), which placed a PLM focus on management, quality, and interoperability. These standards are still used as the basis of PLM management techniques today.

The modernization : the 1980s to the 2000s

From the 1980s to the 2000s, PLM moved into the digital age. At the end of the 1970s, engineers Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston developed the spreadsheet program VisiCalc. Soon after, computer-aided design software became standard with the release of CATIA from Dassault Systèmes in the early 1980s.

Companies such as Unigraphics merged CAD and product data management (PDM) software to develop dedicated PLM software solutions. These PLM programs were used extensively by the automotive industry throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Another major digital transformation occurred in the early 2000s when cloud-based PLM solutions were developed, ushering in the modern era of PLM and engineering data management.

The current state of PLM

Enterprise PLM tools are now used by virtually every company in every industry sector imaginable. PLM has grown from a vague set of ideas about how a product is developed into an all-encompassing methodology. Modern PLM software harnesses powerful cloud-computing technology to provide effective product collaboration, design, and engineering management solutions.


What are the core components of a PLM solution?

PLM software focuses on four main components: product data management, product design and engineering, manufacturing process management, and supply chain management.

Product data management

A PLM solution enables complete integration of all data used to design and develop a product. PLM software allows for more transparency in version control and more control in change management.

All product information is properly documented, organized, and accessible to stakeholders throughout the product lifecycle.

Product design and engineering

PLM software enhances the product design and engineering stages as 3D modeling can be used for prototyping, simulation testing, and analysis. This ensures that the final product will meet customer needs, can be manufactured efficiently, and complies with all relevant regulatory requirements.

Manufacturing process management

Once a product has reached its final design, PLM moves into the manufacturing stage. PLM software assists with process planning, shop floor control, and quality management. PLM software can analyze processes to ensure that products are manufactured efficiently and effectively, with consistent quality, and minimal waste.

Supply chain management

PLM doesn’t just end when the product rolls out the factory doors. The entire lifecycle of the product can be managed, including how the product reaches the customer. PLM covers supplier management, procurement, and logistics. With a complete PLM solution, an enterprise can ensure that all components and materials required to manufacture a product are sourced, procured, and delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner.

What are the benefits of product lifecycle management software?

Despite what many people might think, PLM software isn’t just for engineers and designers. When used to its maximum capabilities, PLM can provide solutions that can be used by workers and stakeholders at every level of an enterprise, from the top echelons of management to the workers on the factory floor to the drivers that ship goods to outlets. Let’s take a quick look at just how a PLM solution can enhance efficiency and encourage collaboration across an entire company.

Improved collaboration

A PLM system enables centralized data management, so employees at all levels can have a complete picture of product development and manufacturing processes. PLM tools use cloud-based software solutions to connect people no matter where they are in the world or what type of device they are using.

Most PLM software contains real-time collaboration tools and/or visual management tools that can be used to facilitate better communication and collaboration between team members and between teams as well as between stakeholders and shop-floor workers.

Reduced time to market

Workflow optimization that delivers significantly reduced time to market is a major benefit of PLM systems. PLM software features fully integrated design and manufacturing tools, so teams can work together to find the most efficient means of production.

Increased cross-team collaboration and enhanced communication allow for the better implementation of Lean manufacturing principles. Since multi-disciplinary stakeholders can have access to data across all areas, innovative ideas on how to improve productivity can be developed and implemented.

Better product quality

By improving the implementation of Lean management techniques, PLM software results in greatly enhanced product quality. CAD PLM software contains 3D modeling tools that make the design validation and iteration process faster and less resource intensive. Integrated simulation tools also improve the quality management processes by allowing designers and engineers to test designs and experiment with components and materials without the labor and resource-intensive process of producing physical prototypes.

Increased innovation

All of these features give stakeholders more freedom to develop new ways of approaching design problems, experiment with assemblies, and develop new manufacturing processes. PLM software gives teams the ability to test and prototype quickly, without the time or budgetary restraints of having to produce physical prototypes.

Multi-disciplinary teams can collaborate easily even from remote geographical locations. PLM encourages ideation at every level through Lean management tools. The ease of communication and enhanced ability to share ideas and experiment with processes can lead to new, highly innovative solutions.

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What are the challenges and limitations of PLM?

While there are numerous advantages to PLM solutions, implementing a PLM system isn’t always a straightforward task. If it isn’t handled correctly, the process of rolling out a PLM system can increase costs, slow down your processes, and alienate key stakeholders. Upper management must keep in mind the limitations and challenges of PLM systems and put in place measures to address and mitigate these issues.

High implementation costs

One of the main barriers to adopting a PLM solution for many companies is the cost of implementation. PLM software can involve having to pay expensive licensing fees. Upgrading to new IT equipment can result in considerable hardware costs. There are also additional implementation and training costs related to upskilling staff and rolling out new software and processes.

Software integration challenges

Even with a robust IT infrastructure in place adopting a new software solution can be challenging. Enterprises may have to deal with a variety of data compatibility issues and conflicting business processes resulting from the use of new software.

Internal resistance to change

Change is never easy. Any type of change requires people to take on a different mindset and develop new ways of working. Business leaders often find that there is considerable pushback to implementing a PLM system.

Staff can vigorously resist change to established workflows, especially employees with many years of experience in a company. Many employees may suffer an increased fear of job loss or confusion as to what their roles are as a result of a poorly implemented PLM system. Even once a system has been rolled out, a lack of training can also make the uptake of a PLM system problematic.

How to address the challenges of implementing a new PLM solution

Meeting and overcoming the many challenges of rolling out a new PLM system requires business leaders to carefully strategize how they will carry out the planned implementation.

Be sure that the PLM solution you have chosen is the right fit for your business. Clearly define your goals and how you expect the PLM software to help you in achieving these objectives.

A concerted effort from business leaders and front-line management should be made to implement the new PLM system according to best practice change management principles.

A forum should be established where employees and stakeholders can voice their concerns and be provided with the information they require. Clear and consistent communication about the benefits of PLM to employees is crucial to acceptance and uptake.

Adequate training programs should be provided so that no employee feels left behind once the PLM software is in use. Support should be provided to employees after the rollout to address any user issues. An ongoing monitoring process should be established to ensure optimal uptake rates.

What does the future hold for product lifecycle management software?

As more companies look to PLM solutions to assist them in optimizing processes, the pace of digital transformation is set to increase rapidly in the near future. But how will PLM software operate in the years to come?
As companies and governments seek ways to meet the challenges of climate change, a focus will be placed on using PLM to improve sustainability via specialized eco-design tools aimed at reducing waste and optimizing supply chain processes.
Analysts point to an array of new technologies that will be integrated into PLM solutions. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the Industrial Internet of Things, and Big Data as well as blockchain technology are sure to enhance the capabilities of PLM software. PLM solutions will become increasingly more cloud-based and have enhanced flexibility, scalability, and accessibility.


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The 3DEXPERIENCE platform on the cloud gives you access to a various set of applications that allow you to design, simulate, inform and collaborate on a project.

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Communication is key to developing effective PLM strategies. You can connect with all team members at every level of your company using ENOVIA 3DSwymer. This software allows you to create dedicated social communities where they can share ideas, work on projects, as well as create wikis, surveys, and WeDo task lists.

Data and feedback can be gathered quickly and easily from multi-disciplinary teams. The easy access to valuable information across the board allows business leaders to make more informed decisions and manage projects more effectively.

ENOVIA Project Planner

To successfully manage a project, managers need to be able to see where resources are being allocated, how individuals and teams are performing, and if crucial tasks are on track to be completed by the deadline. ENOVIA Project Planner gives managers everything they need to efficiently allocate resources, stay up to date with timelines, manage teams, and track processes.

ENOVIA Project Planner allows managers to create tasks, schedules, and milestones easily. This software is specifically designed to increase productivity and enhance transparency and accountability. Features of ENOVIA Project Planner include automated project optimization, real-time information via a summary tab, and secure collaboration capabilities.

DELMIA Lean Team Player

In many cases, business leaders find that incorporating Lean management techniques is integral to achieving PLM goals. With DELMIA Lean Team Player, your team can collaborate, communicate, and innovate like never before.

DELMIA Lean Team Player is a cloud-based application that was developed specifically with Lean management in mind. This software provides teams with a modern, interactive environment where they can work together seamlessly regardless of where they are physically located or what type of device they are using.

DELMIA Lean Team Player contains 3D-rich content such as pdfs and sticky notes that can be used to encourage and embed Lean thinking within teams. Projects can be analyzed to identify issues and locate areas where waste can be reduced or eliminated. Users can create customized whiteboards or use built-in templates. Live meetings can be hosted so ideas can be discussed in real-time. DELMIA Lean Team Player allows you to engage and collaborate with your people like no other application.

Product Lifecycle Management : conclusion & perspectives

Designing, developing, manufacturing, and supplying a product is a highly complicated process. Companies must carefully evaluate and analyze every step to maximize efficiency, reduce waste, lower costs, and enhance quality. Product lifecycle management software gives them the tools they need to accomplish these goals.
Product lifecycle management software is now used by almost every type of enterprise to optimize every stage of the product development process. From conceptualization to manufacturing, to supply and sales, right through to the retirement stage, PLM can ensure that waste is reduced, productivity is enhanced, and costs are cut. Customers can enjoy more effective, efficient, and sustainable products that are of better quality and get to market sooner.
PLM provides stakeholders across the board with an intelligent framework they can use to communicate with other teams, share ideas, access data, and develop best-in-class solutions to any issue. Using the very best PLM software can help you to discover better ways of producing higher-quality products for less cost and in less time.

Why choose the 3DEXPERIENCE and Dassault Systèmes solutions for your PLM?

Transform your product development processes with the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform

The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform from Dassault Systèmes offers businesses of all sizes unrivaled PLM solutions. The 3DEXPERIENCE is a cloud based digital environment that provides a unified user experience. You can access powerful collaboration tools with integrated design and simulation capabilities using any device from anywhere you choose.

The cloud technology of the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform provides unmatched scalability and flexibility. Companies can enjoy complete integration and enhanced interoperability. The 3DEXPERIENCE Platform can be integrated with other tools such as ERP and MES systems and can be fully integrated with other Dassault Systèmes CAD and PLM solutions for seamless data exchange.

Partner with PLM experts with more than 40 years of experience

Choosing the wrong PLM solution can result in an outcome that is the exact opposite of your goals. You need an experienced company and Dassault Systèmes specializes in CAD product design and engineering solutions, software that enables optimal manufacturing process management, and PLM programs that are designed to improve supply chain management.

From our groundbreaking CATIA software to the innovative 3DEXPERIENCE Platform, Dassault Systèmes has proven time and again that we can deliver the exact solutions our customers need. Today, Dassault Systèmes is made up of 11 brands dedicated to developing customized CAD and PLM solutions. Explore the entire range of Dassault Systèmes roles today.

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