What is PLM?

There have been a great many discussions regarding the definition of Product Lifecycle Management [PLM]. The definitions have been all over the map…

Years ago…

I found a warm reception to the idea of engineering document management [EDM] with aerospace and defense contractors. They had thousands of drawings with many different revision levels and they were all paper. Some even had an actual vault where they kept the drawings under lock and key. Managing these drawings in a notebook was complex, time consuming and often not too accurate. Access controls were hap hazard. They would be missing files. They would send the wrong files to manufacturing. Engineering changes were difficult to manage properly. They loved the ‘idea’ electronically managing their engineering information.

While managing their information on paper, they needed to control it and still provide some visibility so they had a ‘guy’ [maybe a program manager] that would provide this discipline.

Transitioning from EDM to PLM

A big driving force for PLM was the desire of the EDM vendors to sell into departments other than just engineering. All departments have the need to manage information related to the product or service that they provide. As you might imagine, the document management problem just keeps growing. Certainly, there are features peculiar to PLM that differentiates the software from document management software but the real driver was to increase the software buyer pool.

Initially, the acronym PLM filled a marketing need. Today, PLM software has become big business.

My Definition of PLM

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the business discipline of managing, in the most effective way, all information regarding a company’s product throughout its lifecycle; from the very first idea for a product or service all the way through its end of life and disposal.

PLM software, on the other hand, provides the control and visibility needed to support the discipline of product lifecycle management.


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