A Brief History of PLM

Lionel Grealou CAx Digital Engineering PLM 2 minutes

In short, Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) is the glue between Product Engineering & Project Execution [design, development, manufacturing] Operations and Engineering-IT, enabling the entire Product Realization, by aligning people and process with technology. It enables small to large organizations design, manufacture and manage their product innovations and portfolio. PLM provides the operating model [framework and platform], in business improvement terms, that includes the creation and management of information [data] related to a company’s digital product assets and knowledge, including digital manufacturing and project engineering & execution, augmenting human creativity, enabling faster product creation and innovation.

PAST: PDM, deeply rooted in CAD and Engineering… technical publications, document management, concurrent engineering innovation, global collaboration, Bill of Material (BoM) configuration, Digital Mock-Up (DMU), electronic work instructions, basic multi-CAD inter-operability, heavy software customization

The 1970s saw the introduction of IT systems to help manage the vast amount of Computer-Aided Design (CAD) data that was being created to define products.

The origins of PLM go back to Engineering and Design – mostly driven by the automotive and aerospace industries, based on a range of computer-based design tools which engineers and architects began using in the 1980s. Since then, PLM came a long way, from a combination of Product Data Management (PDM), management of product portfolio, inventory and management of digital assetsknowledge managementcollaboration, and up to including simulation of operatingfinancial and commercial models.

By the late 1990s and into the current decade, the focus was on even closer links with multiple ERP systems, on collaboration with global partners and on web-enabled technologies. PLM requirements moved from functionality to end-to-end cross-functional process best practice and customer experience (ease of use, out-of-the-box capabilities, enterprise integration, etc.).

PRESENT: PLM, bridging multiple of enterprise functional groups… business process alignment & consolidation, improved user interfaces, open enterprise integration, complex enterprise integration, slow paced change introduction, controlled configuration and customization, high maintenance solutions

In the past three decades, the PLM market grew significantly as a result of its spread beyond the industries where it first evolved, opening up new opportunities into the broader marketsof consumer electronics, power industries, medical devices, clothing and packaged goods, etc.

PLM became an ‘intelligent‘ framework to manage product and business changes from Engineering and Manufacturing requirements to the introduction of new product ranges, andmanaging the end-to-end New Product Development (NPD). The scope of PLM is broadening horizontally across business functions (e.g. portfolio, program and project management, marketing and sales, finance, etc.) and vertically across the value chain (e.g. business expansion models, financial models, engagement models, user experience models, etc.)

FUTURE: PDLC [or whatever acronym], agile platform for product creation and global business expansion… enabling rapid business transformation, experience improvement and rationalization, from lean to smart, full traceability with Internet of Things (IoT), manufacturing innovation, full digital factory simulation, connected business(es), zero-customization, full-cloud enabled, on-demand pay-as-you-go low maintenance self-upgrading solutions?

PLM is perhaps requiring a new S-curve to transform its business and operating models, and to become the ‘enterprise platform‘ of the future enabling full digital business simulation. With that in mind, Product Development Life-Cycle (PDLC) can be the platform to bring a product to market involving all wider business communities, including the end-to-end process of developing a product.

PLM vendors are already working on new ways to sell and use their solutions. A new mix of business and IT skills will be required to jump from one S-curve to the next and embrace the next generation of PDLC solutions – above and beyond what used to be called ‘PLM‘.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 12 August 2015.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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