Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)


Introduction to Product Lifecycle Management

Product lifecycle management, sometimes "product life cycle management", represents an all-encompassing vision for managing all data relating to the design, production, support and ultimate disposal of manufactured goods.

PLM concepts were first introduced where safety and control have been extremely important, notably the aerospace, medical device, military and nuclear industries. These industries originated the discipline of configuration management (CM), which evolved into electronic data management systems (EDMS), which then further evolved to product data management (PDM).

Over the last ten years, manufacturers of instrumentation, industrial machinery, consumer electronics, packaged goods and other complex engineered products have discovered the benefits of PLM solutions and are adopting efficient PLM software in increasing numbers.

PLM solutions

PLM can be thought of as both (a) a repository for all information that affects a product, and (b) a communication process between product stakeholders: principally marketing, engineering, manufacturing and field service. The PLM system is the first place where all product information from marketing and design comes together, and where it leaves in a form suitable for production and support.

A few analysts use "PLM" as an umbrella term that includes engineering CAD (for "information authoring"). But product information creation tools include word processors; spreadsheet and graphics programs; requirements analysis and market assessment tools; field trouble reports; and even emails or other correspondence. In our view, a PLM tool focuses exclusively on managing data that covers the breadth of a product's lifecycle, without regard to how that data is developed.

The essential elements of PLM:

  • Manages design and process documents

  • Constructs and controls bill of material (product structure) records

  • Offers an electronic file repository

  • Includes built-in and custom part and document metadata ("attributes")

  • Identifies materials content for environmental compliance

  • Permits item-focused task assignments

  • Enables workflow and process management for approving changes

  • Controls multi-user secured access, including "electronic signature"

  • Exports data for downstream ERP systems

Our view of the PLM world

This site introduces PLM concepts for engineering design and product development:

Foundations of PLM

FDA CGMP (21 CFR 820 [2003]) text now on line

MIL-HDBK-61A text now on line