Industry 4.0
Product Lifecycle Management: an introduction

We often hear and read about Product Lifecycle Management, otherwise known as PLM, but how much do you really know about it?

 

PLM is a concept as well as a process. It represents an all-encompassing vision the purpose of which is to manage every conceivable item of data about manufactured goods. It aims to collect as much information as possible about the design, production, use, and final disposal of a product.

 

American Motors Corporation was the first company to provide for the possibility of such an ambitious project. In 1985 AMC was trying to find a way to make their product development process quicker and become more competitive. The company opted for a new kind of data management, which was able to connect everyone involved in the design and building processes. Thanks to this innovation, the company managed to speed up communication and problem solving activities.

 

Since then, the concept of Product Lifecycle Management has been progressively implemented in those fields in which safety and control are essential requirements. Aerospace, medical device, military and nuclear related industries started by implementing configuration management, which quickly evolved into electronic data management.

 

Today, Product Lifecycle Management can be considered one of the four cornerstones of a manufacturing corporation's information technology structure. It develops through four different stages: conception, design, realisation, and service. From the concept design to the ultimate disposal, the whole lifecycle of a product is described through a detailed data collection.

 

Closing the information loop, a company which implements a PLM project can make all the information related to its product available to the stakeholders. From this viewpoint, Product Lifecycle Management can be described both as a product-focused database and a communication process among different entities (e.g. manufacturing, marketing, and commercial departments).

 

In practical terms, PLM simplifies and streamlines several processes, such as environmental compliance, item-focused task assignments, and multi-user access security. For instance, by keeping track of material content (including the presence of legally-proscribed or hazardous substances) PLM enables us to quickly identify the recycling and disposal methods suitable for each product.

 

Over the last decade, manufacturers have discovered the benefits of Product Lifecycle Management implementation and more and more companies are actually adopting efficient PLM softwares. By helping people understanding how a product is designed, produced, and finally disposed of, PLM leads to many different benefits. A better communication system reduces product unit costs and delivers a higher quality product to market faster. At the same time, increasing consumers' awareness about product safety and error reduction can increase sales opportunities and revenue.

 

In conclusion, Product Lifecycle Management can be described as a framework for product optimization and a golden opportunity to maximize supply chain collaboration. What kind of PLM has your company implemented (or is it currently implementing)?