May 22, 2024

Product Lifecycle Management: Streamlining the Development Process from Concept to Retirement

Introduction to PLM

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) refers to a systematic approach to managing the entire lifecycle of a product from inception, through engineering design and manufacture, to service and disposal. PLM integrates people, data, processes and business systems and provides a product information backbone for companies and their extended enterprise. By implementing a PLM solution, organizations can streamline product development, improve quality and collaboration, and deliver better products to market faster.

PLM Enables Collaboration Across Departments

one of the key benefits of implementing a PLM system is improved collaboration across different business functions and departments. Using a centralized product data repository, teams in R&D, engineering, manufacturing, quality, procurement and other departments can access the latest product information, files and workflows. This level of collaboration reduces errors and rework by ensuring everyone is on the same page. Team members can work simultaneously on digital mockups, bills of materials and other design documents through the PLM system. Built-in version control prevents modifications from being overwritten. The system also automates notifications so people are aware of changes that impact their work. This creates a more efficient hand-off of product data between groups.

PLM Supports the New Product Development Process

PLM is essential for managing the front end of the product development lifecycle, which includes conceptual design, product planning and detailed design engineering. At the concept stage, teams can store and share early ideas, create digital prototypes and gather feedback. In planning, they define target specifications, project timelines and deliverables. The PLM system provides structure for tracking requirements, tasks, schedules and milestones. When designs are ready to be engineered, the digital product definition is transferred to downstream groups for manufacture. Every change and approval step is documented for compliance and quality purposes. If modifications are needed later, their impact can be quickly assessed. This level of control and traceability supports compliant new product introduction.

Streamlining Manufacturing with Product Lifecycle Data

once products enter the manufacturing phase, PLM plays an important role in ensuring smooth production. Engineers can leverage 3D CAD models within the PLM system to validate designs are manufacturable as intended. Plant staff access approved drawings, BOMs and routings directly from PLM to guide the build process. Real-time access to the latest approved files eliminates the risks of using outdated data. Shop floor personnel leverage mobile capabilities to retrieve technical documentation while on the line. Quality teams view inspection plans, processes and approved changes to monitor conformity. When nonconformances occur, their root causes can be quickly traced. ERP systems integrate with PLM to trigger procurement of purchased parts dynamically as orders are entered. The seamless flow of product information accelerates manufacturing cycle times.

Managing Product Changes with PLM

It is unrealistic to assume any product makes it through full production and service without requiring revisions. PLM systems provide capabilities for initiating, reviewing and approving engineering changes and simplifying their rollout. Change requests can flow electronically through predefined workflows with automatic notifications. Cross-functional teams review proposed modifications for cost, quality, compliance and other impacts. Once vetted, approved changes are clearly marked in the product definition and rolled out in a controlled way across affected datasets and files. This avoids duplication of effort and helps maintain consistent global product definitions regardless of where it is manufactured. Product variants and end-of-life configurations are easily managed under the same umbrella.

PLM and the Digital Thread

Today’s advanced PLM platforms provide a “digital thread” that links product design to downstream business processes over the complete lifecycle. This thread weaves together computer-aided design (CAD) models, bills of materials, computed tomography (CT) scans, physical test data, photos, videos and other data into a single source of truth about the product and how it is made. Artificial intelligence and analytics increasingly complement these digital tools to extract actionable insights. Computer vision, for instance, can examine hundreds of product images captured during assembly to find patterns indicating quality issues. When woven with quality and process data, defects can potentially be predicted before they occur to prevent nonconformances. As products move into service and maintenance, field data on performance, failures and repairs inform design upgrades for subsequent generations. The digital thread creates an analytics backbone for continuous improvement across the extended enterprise.

PLM and Sustainable Product Development

another growing area where PLM provides value is in sustainable product development. As regulations around material restrictions, end-of-life compliance and greenhouse gas emissions grow more stringent, manufacturers need visibility and intelligence throughout their product information systems. Advanced PLM tools support compliance by allowing engineers to select compliant materials early, track substance disclosures, optimize complex bills of materials and prove compliance in materials declarations. Integrated sustainability analytics reveal hotspots to target designs for improved recyclability or less embodied carbon. In service, warranty and field data help identify over-engineered components no longer needed. Combined with predictive analytics across an extensive product base, PLM empowers data-driven decisions that create higher value with less environmental impact.

Conclusion

In today’s environment of global competition, rapid innovation and changing supply chains, having an integrated approach to managing product data throughout its lifecycle is no longer just a nice-to-have – it has become business critical. Implementing a comprehensive PLM solution allows organizations to streamline interactions, improve quality, accelerate time to market and respond more quickly to feedback or issues that arise in the field. When leveraged strategically across the extended enterprise, product lifecycle management acts as the digital backbone enabling next-generation product innovation, manufacturing excellence and sustainable business growth.

*Note:

  1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
  2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it