Knowledge Base

Product Lifecycle Management: A Boon for Product Development Companies

Beverland Michael B., Ewing Michael T., Matanda Margaret J., from Department of management and marketing, University of Melbourne and Department of Marketing, Monash University, in their research published in Sept. 2004 in the Industrial Marketing Management Journal stated that there are two types of products that are created and brought into the market: the products that drive the market, and the products that are driven by the market. Theirs was a case study analysis of new product development practices with context to the Chinese Business –to-Business Firms. However, their understanding that the products created either drive the market or are driven by the market is generic and can be applied to all the companies universally.

The products that fall into the former category are usually the “Clutter Breakers” and/or are also known as “Category Killer” products. These products are unique, novel and highly innovative; something which the people haven’t seen or imagined before. One of the greatest examples of “Category Killer” products is Apple iPhone and iPod. Another classic example could be Sony’s walkman. Radical Innovations like these have revolutionized the industries and changed the way Markets function. 

Once the companies succeed in elevating the standards of product innovation and quality to such a magnificently high level, that it becomes very difficult for the competition to catch up with them, then the company manages to retain and secure a competitive edge for a longer time. They set the bar so high, that the competition struggles to match up with them.

Innovation, time to market, and cost are the three crucial determinants of developing a product that drives the market. With everything else, be it efficient work flow configuration, effective customer management, incorporating proficient supply chain management models, the company can surpass the competition for a temporary period as the competition soon manages to match up with them. But managing to match up with exemplary product innovation is difficult and that is where the company can win the game and make competition struggle.

Where does PLM fit in Product Development cycle:

Companies have to address the four basic and most critical areas for effective Business Management and Expansion namely: 

  • Customers: which the companies manage through Customer Relationship management (CRM)
  • Suppliers: which companies address through Suppliers Chain Management (SCM)
  • Overall Enterprise Administration and Resource Planning: which companies manage through ERP Solutions i.e. Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Systems planning: which companies achieve through SDLC tools i.e. Systems Development Life Cycle.

These are the broad areas which any company irrespective of the domain and industry they operate in, has to address for it to succeed.

Nonetheless if your product quality is poor, or is not up to the mark, then none of these tools actually have the strength and potential to lift the company to success and glory. Customer relationships and supply chain management will be important only when the company has a robust product to sell that has generated a huge demand in the market. All these tools will fall short and will be rendered unsuccessful if your product does not match or supersede the competition standards.

This is where PLM comes in the picture. PLM caters to and encompasses all the critical areas of Product design and development data management. This enables the companies to address the core area of Robust Product Development without which the company would not be able to secure a lead position and create a niche or space of themselves in the market.

PLM typically works within and addresses the five primary functional areas name:

  • Systems Engineering
  • Product and Portfolio Management
  • Product Design
  • Manufacturing Process management
  • Product data management.

What is PLM:

PLM basically helps companies integrate, configure and manage their design data, processes, and work flows right from the initial stages of Product Development cycle, i.e. Concept stage to Design, Simulation and Validation, right through to Manufacturing and releasing the product to market. It helps companies with the setting up of effective data management systems, efficient workflow and process configurations, and overall system validation. PLM also automates the work flows that helps exert a strong grip on the product development process, and thereby bring more control and discipline, and streamline the overall development cycle. It helps unite the entire eco-system of Product Development under one virtual roof and empowers them to work and act as one. PLM integrates the best and coherent workflows within the development cycle which are self monitored. for e.g. a design will not be available for further work unless it has been approved by DFM (Design for Manufacturing) department. It is a system that links the entire development cycle in a single thread by joining the loose ends to create a single, straight, streamlined process of product development.

Benefits of PLM:

Optimized Work Flows: Product development today is not restricted to a single location. The development teams are working at multiple locations. It is hence critical to integrate all the development teams in a virtual single environment and have them on the same page. This is not possible without PLM. Design for Manufacturing, Design for Servicing, Design for assemblies etc. are all integrated in PLM.  PLM also ensures that the designers are working on the right version of design and also updates them about the status of design i.e. if the original design has been modified, or if the design is in use etc. It helps configure and automate the work flows, which brings in the necessary discipline, accountability and streamlines the product development process. PLM covers the entire eco-system of product development including the suppliers and hence helps establish efficient work flows through latest design status updates, design data storage and retrieval, and data security.

Time to Market: Time to market is a key factor making a significant contribution to the success of the company. The company will succeed only if they manage to launch the right product at the right time and at the right price. Delay in time-to-market can result in company losing the competitive edge in the market.

It is said that the designer spends 20% of his time in searching, locating and accessing the previous or relevant design data. PLM facilitates the companies to organize the data so systematically that it can be retrieved in a click of the button.

The designers, if they are unable to locate the desired data, prefer to design the component/part right from the scratch. Though the component/part may look similar to the other parts in the same batch, but when watched closely, the expert will definitely understand that though it may look similar it is not the replicate or is not exact to the original part. This is where company may fail to create standardized parts.

However, with PLM, searching the required design data is so simple and less time consuming, that the designers can easily locate the original design and can create a exact new replica of it. This thus helps companies to achieve standardization and maintain the quality of the product irrespective of the quantity of products to be developed.

Because PLM helps companies integrate the most potent and optimized configuration of work flows, the product development cycle is faster, more effective and unduplicated which results in entering the market early.

Data storage and Archival: there is a fear that when a designer working on a critical design project leaves the company, all the knowledge is lost with him. This may cost the company additional time and cost to re-develop the product/component/part design. This problem would cease to exist if company implements PLM in their systems. One of the greatest advantages of PLM is that it saves and stores all the earlier versions of design, in the repository, which can be easily archived and utilized as a foundation to build and develop the new design. Hence it saves lot of time as the companies do not have to invest additional time in designing right from the scratch. PLM enables storage of all the data related to product development in an Integrated Way. The data is not only restricted to design data but covers all types of data like suppliers, costing, Material properties, analysis results, delivery lead time as well as the history of development. This can be easily archived at any time in future. This saves lot of repetition of part development. This saves considerable cost and time. In addition all the acquired knowledge of the earlier product development phases is available through all this stored data. This ensures that acquired knowledge is retained for future use and is not lost when people leave. 

Centralization of data: data management is easy because all the data and knowledge is securely stored in a central, single location. This is especially useful when multiple teams comprising of 8-10 designers are working on developing the components or parts of a single product from diverse geographical location. OEMs and other big companies have several suppliers working and assisting them by developing individual components or parts that when assembled together build a complete product. At such times, the entire process may go hay wire and cause chaos and complications if there isn’t enough coordination within and between these teams. With PLM effectively incorporated and implemented in their systems, this problem could be very easily tackled. The data is centrally located and the design status is automatically updated due to which the teams have an access to the required information to build the parts/components and PLM also ensures the team is working on the right version of the design. PLM thus facilitates better co-ordination amongst and between the teams and aids effective concurrent engineering.

Data Security: PLM helps secure the data with proper back-up facilities and prevents data loss in case of hardware failure or any contingency that may arise. The companies can breathe a sigh of relief as their critical data is not lost.

Waste Management: as PLM aims at configuring efficient management systems through integration and optimization of workflows, processes, and data, it results in generation of minimum waste in terms of time, money, efforts and materials.

Adhering to the codes and standards: PLM technology enables companies to meet and adhere to the various international standards and environmental compliances such as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substance Directive). It also helps companies attain Six Sigma compliance standards through reducing waste and optimizing the use of men, money and materials.

Data Management: the centralization of all the Product data facilitates the companies to easily share and retrieve the required data. The companies can easily share the data with contract manufacturers who assist them in building the product and machinery.


PLM is rightly known as a People Centric Technology as it addresses the whole eco-system of Business Administration and Product Design and Development Management of the company.

PLM software is scalable, and could also be highly customized to integrate the distinct processes and workflows of the companies to address the specific needs as per their requirement.

PLM hence could serve as the very backbone of the company and helps companies attain all their Product, Processes, and Management objectives in the most effective, Economical, and Efficient manner.

The Smart and performance driven companies should establish and incorporate the system that empowers the company to improvise, inspire and innovate to create exemplary products through proficient processes at lucrative costs in surprisingly low time span.

Innovation does not singularly depend on what you do, but also largely is inspired by ‘how you do”. Unique approaches and processes further fuel up innovation that results in developing an ‘Never before made product’. Distinct thinking leads to creating distinguished products. And a well managed company ultimately ends up being a well recognized company.