Jon Pyle
Jon Pyle Jon Pyle is a freelance journalist and author, mostly writing about the microeconomics of product design. When he’s not exploring the avenues of modern production, he’s an avid skier and chess player.

What is PLM software and what is it for?

Nov 28, 2019 · 5 minutes
What is PLM software and what is it for?

In this day and age, optimization of the product lifecycle is an important aspect of every business. Before the advent of globalism, most companies faced little more than regional competition, regardless of their sector. But the previous century has seen the rise of a global marketplace. And in such an environment, every product-oriented company must struggle to optimize their production process as much as possible, or their competitors will simply perform better. This need produced the demand for PLM - product lifecycle management software. So, what is PLM software, and what is it for? Don’t worry, we’ll explain everything in detail below!

PLM Basics

Back in the day, PLM software was most often used for the automotive and aviation industries, due to the fact that these sectors had the most complex production processes. However, these days PLM companies like Frontech Solutions EU provide their services to all kinds of different industries. In fact, products from children’s toys to fashion can have pretty complicated production processes, which require clever management while bringing the product to market.  

The market of today pressures companies to streamline the production process as much as possible while lowering expenses, bettering quality, and increasing the pace of bringing a product to market. Indeed, the contemporary production process requires many different teams and people to coordinate all at once, utilizing both external resources and other departments. Seeing as all of these factors are often found in disparate places all over the globe - proper management becomes more important than ever.

And without modern tools, there is no way to make the modern production process more efficient. In fact, not utilizing PLM software in such corporate entities would entail a huge waste of resources. If you take a look at the four distinct phases of production, you’ll find that all of these require careful management. These phases make up what we’ve come to know as the “product lifecycle” - and PLM software solutions are there to make it as efficient as possible. 

Four Phases of Production

As we’ve mentioned above, the lifecycle of any product can be divided into four different phases. This begins with the conception of the product and finishes with the plan for its post-launch maintenance and distribution. In order to minimize resource spoilage, PLM software is there to provide a useful structure for all of the production processes and workflows. So, let’s take a look at each step of the way. 

1. Concept

At the very beginning of the product lifecycle that PLM software helps manage, we’ve got the idea or concept for a brand new product. In this part of the proceedings, companies perform plenty of research to see if the product is marketable or not. To put it simply - if it’s a product people will want to buy and use.

Most typically, this marketability is viewed both from the perspective of a specific geographic market, and a problem that the product will help users solve. If we’re talking about a fashion company, this phase would constitute looking for the latest fashion trends and gathering different sources of inspiration. And a proper PLM software will aid production staff in even this stage of the product lifecycle, providing an easy structure for information gathering. 

 2. Design

After the production team has set the initial idea in stone, it’s time to design it and come up with a prototype. In the design phase, the appropriate members of the team work on putting the product concept into practice. They make mock-ups, then move onto a working prototype and have it tested. The point of this is to bridge the gap between an idea and a product that’s ready for the end-user to purchase. 

The best PLM solutions have options for integrating with third-party entities and vendors, in order to make the design phase more streamlined. Let’s say that a designer is using Adobe Illustrator for his work - a PLM plugin will allow them to work in Adobe while simultaneously being in the PLM work environment as well. Because of this, they can easily access all product information found in the PLM while working. There are even 3D integration options, giving even the most complicated parts of the design a streamlined quality. 

3. Production

Using all of the data created in the design phase, the product is ready to go into the phase of manufacturing. That means that the finalized design is about to be sent to a production environment. There, we have a completely different number of key performance indicators that have to be closely monitored - another thing that a good PLM is able to do. In this stage, any production company has to account for an entire host of different factors, like material sourcing, expenses, countries of origin, quotas of production, scheduling, etc. 

4. Distribution & Maintenance

The final part of the lifecycle of any product also entails the maintenance and distribution of the end product. That means handling the warehousing, transport, and distribution to all the different sales channels, and processing data on sales performance and customer support. Before a new iteration of the product is released, or the current product is improved upon, all of this information needs to be accurately aggregated and processed. 

That’s one of the most important things that PLM software helps with - it can keep track of mutually disparate types of information, all in a unified work environment. Plus, modern Big Data processing solutions have found their way into PLM software, ensuring the best possible processing of customer support data. All of this makes PLM solutions indispensable to the contemporary product lifecycle!