June 20, 2024

Understanding the Crucial Role of Product Lifecycle Management

Defining Product Lifecycle Management
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) refers to systems and processes used by companies to manage the entire lifecycle of a product from ideation to retirement and beyond. Encompassing areas from design and manufacturing to marketing and aftermarket service, PLM aims to optimize each stage of a product’s development and utilization. At its core, PLM streamlines collaboration across departments and facilitates sharing of critical information needed to bring products to market efficiently and support them throughout their lifespan.

The Stages of a Product Lifecycle

To fully grasp PLM’s importance, it’s helpful to break down the typical stages a product passes through:

Concept: In this initial phase, customer needs are identified and product concepts are conceived. Idea management software helps evaluate and refine concepts.

Design: Engineers leverage 3D CAD tools to design the product digitally. This enables simulation, analysis and collaborative reviews prior to prototyping.

Development: Prototypes are tested and the product design is finalized. Manufacturing processes are also defined. Change and configuration management tools ensure all data remains synchronized as the design evolves.

Production: The approved design is handed off to manufacturing. Production planning systems coordinate ordering of materials and plant scheduling. Quality processes also kick in at this stage.

Marketing & Sales: Products are showcased to customers via digital channels. Order management handled sales leads and fulfillment. Feedback is gathered for future iterations.

Operations: Products are serviced, maintained and repaired as needed over their usable lifespan. Warranty and service records flow back to R&D.

End-of-Life: When products near obsolescence, strategic decisions must be made around refurbishment, remanufacturing or disposal.

Challenges of Manual Processes

In the past, these lifecycle stages were frequently managed using fragmented, manual processes like emails, spreadsheets and local file systems. This created several issues for product development teams:

Silos of information: Critical data existed in disconnected “silos”, making collaboration and coordination extremely challenging across departments.

Version control mix-ups: With multiple editable versions of files floating around, it was easy for the latest approved specs to get mixed in with outdated ones.

Compliance gaps: Important requirements for regulations, standards and certifications could fall through the cracks without centralized traceability.

Inefficiencies and delays: Manual handoffs between teams inevitably led to delays, rework and inconsistency that slowed the entire product journey.

Lost institutional knowledge: Tribal knowledge walked out the door when employees departed without a central system to house lessons learned.

The Solution: Integrated PLM Platforms

To solve these cross-functional problems, modern PLM platforms provide:

Central data vault: A secure centralized repository stores all product-related data, drawings, BOMs and associated documents. Role-based access controls security.

Collaboration tools: Built-in workflows, commenting and markups empower virtual teamwork regardless of users’ locations.

Automated processes: Pre-defined lifecycle stages and approvals prevent rework by enforcing consistency and compliance.

Analytical capabilities: Dashboards and reports deliver real-time insights into quality, costs, schedules and other key metrics.

Integrations: Tight connections to downstream systems like ERP and MES eliminate manual data entry and reduce errors.

These advantages empower concurrent development, accelerated time to market, one version of the truth for production handoff, and reuse of intellectual property that boosts future projects. Overall operational excellence, productivity gains and increased customer satisfaction result from effective PLM deployment.

Improving Design and Engineering Processes

Digitizing the design process forms a core PLM benefit. Advanced 3D CAD tools integrated within the platform let engineers efficiently:

Collaborate in real-time on 3D models rather than 2D drawings via online review and approval workflows.

Simulate and validate form, fit and function virtually prior to physical prototyping through built-in simulation apps.

Conduct structural analyses and test various what-if scenarios to strengthen designs before commitment to hardware.

Manage bidirectional relationships between CAD files and linked documents like requirements, tests and change orders for complete traceability.

Reuse standardized parts, assemblies, digital mockups and other intellectual property assets to cut NPI cycle times.

These capabilities dramatically streamline design efforts while building quality and compliance into every stage for increased confidence before production hand-off.

Optimizing the Manufacturing Lifecycle

Moving into manufacturing execution, PLM aids processes such as:

Creating production-ready shop documentation, assembly instructions and inspection plans from approved 3D models and BOMs.

Connecting CAD data to downstream manufacturing systems for automated migration of specifications to the plant floor.

Generating tooling orders, run schedules and material picks electronically linked to work orders for traceability and improved resource planning.

Streaming real-time production data back to engineering for quality monitoring and continual design improvement using leveraging IIoT solutions.

Triggering automated workflows for inspections, approvals, issue resolution and corrective actions to boost yield and minimize downtime.

Capturing manufacturing know-how from successful runs and operator feedback to optimize future production ramp-ups.

These closed-loop capabilities significantly enhance manufacturing operations management, quality assurance and drive higher efficiencies throughout production lifecycles.

Driving Customer Value After Market Launch

Beyond engineering and manufacturing, PLM plays an ongoing role:

Centrally housing service manuals, repair instructions, technical support knowledge bases and spare parts data for seamless after-sales support delivery.

Empowering field service technicians with mobile access to the latest documentation for repairs, installations and problem resolution at customer sites.

Streaming real-world usage data, field failure reports and customer feedback into a single source of truth to refine future product upgrades or new concept development.

Digitally tracking the performance, compliance and costs of distributed products to derive optimal end-of-lease or end-of-life remanufacturing and recycling strategies.

In summary, PLM acts as the definitive digital backbone empowering collaboration, decision-making and continuous improvement across the full product value chain from concept to retirement. By breaking down silos and injecting efficiency, PLM helps innovator companies deliver greater customer value.

*Note:

  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it