PLM, the Learning and Knowledge Management Platform

Lionel Grealou PLM 3 minutes

Today’s knowledge-intensive Product Development (PD), Digital Manufacturing (DMFG) and Project Engineering (PE) environments require a framework which effectively enables capture, representation, retrieval and reuse of product, project and process knowledge. This is the essence of Product Life-cycle Management (PLM).

Knowledge gives every organization a competitive edge (Prusak, 1996).

Some “smart” individuals have unique expertise based on first-hand experiences, providing insights drawn from tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1983), and shaped by beliefs, culture and social forces (Leonard and Swap, 2005). Armed with decision-making wisdom and tacit know-how buried inside their head, they offer distinctive advantages for organizations. Their knowledge needs to be capitalised if competitive advantage is to be sustained.

The success of an organization depends on both its ability to strategically position itself within its business environment (Porter, 1995) and its approach to managing resources and capabilities (Grant, 1991).

Intellectual capital (IC) regroups organizational resources that may be used as a source of competitive advantage (Roos et al., 1997). The importance of managing IC relates to:

  • Identifying, mapping and communicating tacit and explicit knowledge – to measure and create a favourable framework to managing and exploiting organizational knowledge.
  • Capitalising on past experience, codifying, storing, codifying, transferring and sharing knowledge.
  • Developing new knowledge, and new knowledge workers.
  • Addressing underlying business drivers.
  • Looking ahead into future strategy and innovation.
  • Demonstrating credibility and commitment to shareholders, customers, employees, future hires, etc.

PLM entails a close review of the way a company is running its PD, DMFG, and PE initiatives and operations, such as:

  • How they deal with design reviews;
  • how they cooperate in product design;
  • How they organise and operate their digital assets, Bills of Materials (BoMs) and supply chains;
  • How projects are planned, tracked and communicated to the relevant stakeholders.
  • How people collaborate and learn from past project, re-use information, share and report on progress.
  • The way Engineers and Managers collect and use field data on products, value-added and essential non value-added activities, Intellectual Properties, AS IS and TO BE processes in change / improvement initiatives, etc.

People are key “assets” for organizations in terms of having the right skills, experience, behaviours; it is critical to access, attract, retain and manage them as good judgement and insight cannot be planned nor controlled. Their contribution to the organization success depends on contextual factors such as business drivers, competitive context, company strategy, maturity, culture, structure, trust, etc. PLM is not just a master data management system, but a process and people management eco-system to enable product and process innovation – across 3 key perspectives:

1. Sharing information

  • Storing (‘capturing’, for a better word) centrally data and information in context of products, platforms, or projects – as per a dedicated knowledge structure adapted to the business requirements and culture.
  • Searching and accessing information, tracing data and information back to process and people / role / project (creator, owner, last updater, viewer, reviewer, etc.).

2. Working collaboratively

  • Accessing new talent, internally and externally (supply chain).
  • Holding robust multi-disciplinary multi-location design reviews with enabled visibility and traceability.
  • Improving processes and real-time collaboration.
  • Experimenting, questioning, problem solving.

3. Learning from others

  • Learning by doing, observing, coaching, guiding, shadowing, collaborating, interacting (tacit knowledge).
  • Learning by documenting, re-using, searching (explicit knowledge).

PLM is to break the silos intra and inter-organizations, but is also an information management, document management, process management enabled by technology. Some organizations make more of their PLM because they don’t just see it as a toolset, but a social + knowledge sharing + innovation platform from which people can create, innovate with their products and processes, share ideas, learn, …

What are your thoughts?


  • Grant R (2008) R.E. Contemporary Strategy Analysis 6th edition, Blackwell Publishing.
  • Leonard D and Swap W (2004) Deep Smarts, Harvard Business Review, 82(9): 88-97.
  • Nonaka I and Takeuchi H (1995) The knowledge creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Polanyi M (1983) The Tacit Dimension, Garden City, NY, Doubleday. (First published in 1966).
  • Porter ME (1985) The Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance. NY: Free Press.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 27 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.

You may also like: