How to answer the question – what is PLM?

PLM is an abbreviation that stands for Product Lifecycle Management. In engineering and manufacturing industry PLM is an overall process of managing information about product across entire lifecycle. It covers requirements, design, engineering, manufacturing, production, support, maintenance, disposal and re-fabrication.

What is PLM? How do you define PLM? During years of blogging about PLM, I’ve been asked these questions many times. Product development is a complex topic. The complexity of PLM as we know today was driven by three main factors: nature of manufacturing enterprise; PLM vendors and enterprise software consulting.

PLM is taking its roots from engineering functions of large aerospace, defense and automotive companies. These are complex environments with a very nontrivial processes to manage. These industries and engineering roots of PLM made it complex. It doesn’t mean PLM should be a complex.

PLM business is very competitive. The root of competition is going back to CAD systems and CAD file formats protection. Vendors are using complex information abstractions to manage product design and manufacturing processes. The mix of terminological abstraction and techno-marketing strategies created an additional level of complexity.

Enterprise software consulting is the third force contributed to PLM complexity. No doubt, consulting is an important element of PLM business. It certainly helps manufacturing to define PLM strategy and to survive a nightmare of complex implementation. Unfortunately, the nature of consulting organization is to protect their home turf. As a result, consulting companies like to “over-engineer” some of decisions and processes. Complexity became an additional driver for service and consulting revenues.

Leonardo Da Vinchi said – “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. It is very true. To find simple and clear PLM definition is hard. So, how to do it anyway?  Depends to whom you are talking to, PLM means different things. Engineers, managers, contractors, suppliers, customers. All of them have a different perspective on PLM. But ultimately, it is about how to organize product development, manufacturing and support in the way that will make your product a first class citizen.

Picture credit – (c) Can Stock Photo

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