What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?

What Is Product Lifecycle Management?

Product Lifecycle Management is a way of managing data related to a product from its conceptual design, through manufacturing and services to the disposal of the product.

Storing, accessing, and protecting all information related to product and process is very important for any organization. For each organization, data varies according to the different lifecycle stages of the product. Different stakeholders are involved to generate, store, access, and modify this data. All these activities related to data handling of the product and process comes under the PLM umbrella.

In this article, we are going to learn about different stages of product life, types of data generated at each stage, different stakeholders involved to access data, and in the end, different PLM software’s available in the market.

What Are The Different Stages Of Product Life?

Different Stages of Product Life

Any product that comes into the market, has to go through different stages during its lifetime. Stages can vary based on the product, process, and usability. Here we have tried to summarize stages that are generic to most of the product.

  • Conceptual Design

This is the very first and most important stage of any product development. Concepts are developed into the designs of the manufacturable product. Designs are developed using different engineering design software. Different simulation and analysis software are used to evaluate and analyze designed product functionality and feasibility. Which ultimately reduces the burden of prototype development and testing.

  • Prototype Development

Once the design is ready and analyzed using simulation software, the prototype is developed for actual physical testing of the product. A sufficient number of prototypes are developed for rigorous testing as per the criticality of product functionalities.

  • Testing

Testing is a very important and inevitable part of any product development process. Approval of the product depends on testing results. Issues identified during testing are resolved by making design changes and are again tested. Unless and until testing gives expected and required results, the product won’t go for mass manufacturing.

  • Manufacturing

Once the product is approved in testing, mass production of the product starts. The manufacturing line is set up with the required pieces of equipment and tools. The product is manufactured and dispatched for distribution.

  • Distribution

In this stage, the product is distributed to the customer as per the requirement. A large distribution network is involved to deliver products to end-user.

  • Service

In this stage of the product, the organization resolves issues or improvements identified by the customer while using it. These issues are identified, the impact is analyzed and the required suitable change is implemented.

  • Recycle

Any product has a limitation and it can work for a certain period of time. Over a period of time, some parts of the product get’s worn out or the product stops giving the required efficiency, and servicing a product won’t resolve the issue. In this case, it’s better to get a new part. In this situation, an organization may take back existing products and recycle them for reuse.

  • Disposal

This is the very last stage of any product. In this stage, the product retires from its service and it will no longer available for use.

Types Of Data Collected During Product Life

  • Engineering Design Data

Design engineers use different design software to develop the design of the product. Each design is stored in separate design files. The type of file generated depends on the design software used. Engineer’s design data includes design files, part specifications, drawings, manuals, etc.

  • Manufacturing Data

Manufacturing data is the data required to manufacture a designed product. Plant, Manufacturing line, workstation, machines, tools, operations is some of the important information required to manufacture a product.

  • Service Data

Service data includes information related to damaged product, replaced product, bug identification during service of the product.

  • Project Data

Whenever a new product is developed, it is treated as a separate project. One project can have multiple products. Different users and groups are involved in the project to develop a product. Project data consist of a project plan, project schedule, delivery dates, responsible users, and groups.

  • Sales data

Sales data includes information about a number of product sales, region information, customer information, customer feedback, customer requirement.

  • Vendor data

Most of the time, all parts of the product are not manufactured by the organization. An organization gives contracts to its vendor to develop certain parts. So the information related to vendors and parts developed by them needs to be maintained.

  • Inventory and cost data

Inventory is nothing but the storeroom of any organization. Inventory data includes the number of products available, cost of the product. It also includes information related to tools, machines, the raw materials needed for manufacturing.

Different Stakeholders Involved For Product Data

  • Design Department: Design Engineer, Design Manager
  • Manufacturing department: Manufacturing Engineer, Technician, Manufacturing manager
  • Quality Control Department: Quality engineer, Document controller, Quality Supervisor and Manager
  • Procurement and sourcing: Purchase engineer, Inventory manager
  • Sales and service department: Sales Engineer, Sales Manager
  • Suppliers and vendors: Engineers

Advantages of Product Lifecycle Management

  • Centralized platform

PLM provides a centralized platform to manage, access, and modify all data related to the product. Almost every department of the organization needs data related to products. The centralized platform ensures, synchronized, and the latest data is available to everyone.

  • Reduced time to market

Due to the centralized platform. It’s easier for all departments to collaborate with each other and make decisions faster. It ultimately reduces the time required to launch a new product in the market.

  • Reduced cost

All departments are interconnected with each other, which helps to take input from all departments from the very beginning of the product development process. It reduces the possibility of errors, resulting in a great saving of product development cost.

  • Data availability

Due to the centralized platform, the latest and updated data is available to required stakeholders all the time. Users can modify and update the information as per the access rights provided.

  • Data security

PLM software provides a high level of data security for confidential information of the organization. Only required access can be provided for the users to access the data.

  • Increased productivity

The centralized platform combines all the aspects and stakeholders of the product together for decision making. Which ultimately results in greater productivity.

  • Better supplier integration

PLM software’s provide great flexibility to integrate with third party applications that suppliers are using. Which improves supplier participation in product development process.

  • Better customer satisfaction

Using PLM, better service can be provided to customers and all information can be stored in one place. Which helps to resolve customer queries easily and in the required time, resulting in better customer satisfaction.

Disadvantages of Product Lifecycle Management

  • Licensing and implementation cost

PLM software provides amazing features to handle product data but the licensing and implementation cost of the software is very high. A separate license needs to purchase for each functionality.

  • Software functionality limitations

Each organization has its own business process or working culture based on the product and environment. Sometimes PLM software doesn’t support the business processes. Or some business processes cannot be mapped into the PLM software due to software limitations. In these scenarios either business process needs to be changed according to software or software needs to be enhanced to support business requirements.

  • Limited Integration with legacy software’s

By default, some PLM software provides easy integration with widely used legacy software. Companies are using legacy softwares for a very long time that are based on older technologies that current PLM software won’t support. It becomes very challenging and complex to integrate with such older technology softwares.

PLM software’s available in the market

Following is the list of top 10 PLM software’s that are available in the market

  1. Teamcenter
  2. Windchill
  3. Innovia
  4. Aras PLM
  5. Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle
  6. Agile PLM
  7. Arena PLM
  8. Upchain
  9. SAP PLM
  10. Open BOM


In this article we have understood the basics of PLM, its importance, disadvantages, and different PLM software’s available in the market. We hope this article is informative to get a clear understanding of PLM. If you have any queries, then feel free to mention them in the comment section or you can contact us using the contact form.

Happy Learning!!! Cheers.

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