Lionel Grealou PLM 2 minutes

What is the difference between Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Life-cycle Management (PLM)?

There are many schools of thought around the topic, and here are a few perspectives to consider:

  1. PDM was there before PLM, so it might sound ‘simple’ to say that PLM is an evolution of PDM. Some (vendor view) say that we have already reached PLM 2.0, others (typically, the customer view) say that ‘true’ PLM has never been done in the manufacturing industry (…).
  2. A few decades ago, PDM started from the idea of managing 2D/3D CAD vaulting and simple product structures using Product Information Management Systems (PIMS). PLM has emerged from extending PIMS into Engineering, Manufacturing and Service, managing the successive ‘integrated’ Bills of Materials (BoMs). Therefore, PLM includes PDM and covers a much wider scope across Digital Engineering and Digital Manufacturing, and with usage up to Sales & Marketing, finance, business expansion and senior management.
  3. It also makes sense to consider PLM as a powerful enabler for the next wave of productivity. PLM is the consolidation of many threads, including CAD, PDM, Engineering Data Management (EDM) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). In contrast to PDM which is Design & Engineering-centric and typically required basic level of ‘interoperability’ with other solutions, PLM has the potential to have more ‘touch-points’ within the extended organization (people and cultural factors become therefore prominent to enable the ‘full’ value proposition of PLM).
  4. If PDM is a system, then PLM is an integrated eco-system (in which ‘people’ are in the centre). PLM does not have to start from CAD and PDM. Actually, most benefits from PLM might come from the non-PDM side because most efficiencies, waste elimination, and cost savings come from PLM integration – including integration with Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
  5. Both PDM and PLM are based on the same principles, just at a different level of complexity: people, process, data and technology. Product Development (PD) can be quite complex, so is PLM.
  6. PDM is (relatively) simple, while PLM can be confusing and is definitely controversial; it is mostly perceived as ‘admin’ by PD Engineers, sometimes still perceived as a ‘dream’ by Manufacturing Engineers, and seen as a more difficult / more complex PDM-alike portfolio of solutions by core-IT (the latter being more interested in the ERP side of IT than PLM, because ERP is more transactional and costs of implementation are perhaps more ‘straightforward’ to justify).
  7. PDM is reliant and linked to the selected tools and technologies, while PLM is the ‘glue’ between PD Ops and PD IT… PLM makes a lot more sense when addressed in terms of business efficiency and productivity.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 22 February 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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