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Product Life Cycle Management (PLM)

What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?

Product Life Cycle management is the process of optimizing a product’s complete life cycle, from development and introduction to its eventual decline and fallout of the market.

The goal of modern PLMs is to streamline all company, department, and employee actions to ensure four factors.

  • The product is developed quickly;
  • It maintains the highest value for the intended market;
  • It is profitable for longer than its competitors;
  • And that demand is sustained and cultivated for as long as possible.

PLM systems and practices enable businesses to look at how their products perform within the market and the manufacturing environment. Although marketing and manufacturing performance behave differently, these two perspectives help business leaders make effective decisions through a centralized flow of information, speed up the product’s time to market, decrease the cost of production, and track market shifts over time.

Key Takeaways

  • Product Lifecycle Management is the process of enhancing and extending the life cycle of a product on the market.

  • PLM software tracks a product's progression through the 5 stages of the product life cycle: Development, Introduction, Growth, Maturity, & Maintenance.

  • Managing a product’s life cycle is both a manufacturing and marketing responsibility.

  • Companies use PLMs to speed up product development, increase efficiency, and be responsive to market changes.

PLM Product life cycle management

What is a Product’s Life Cycle?

A product's life cycle typically begins when a product hits the shelves and ends when it is pulled from the market entirely.

It is important to note that modern PLM practices also take into account the development of a product before it enters the market, extending the traditionally “confined-to-market” understanding of a product’s life cycle. This means that the product life cycle begins as soon as the company spends money and work hours on developing the product.

Product Life Cycle Example: Floppy Discs

Do you remember floppy discs? The original floppy discs were created in 1967. They were designed to be an inexpensive method to transfer software updates from computer to computer.

Up until the late 70s, users would largely write the programs themselves on their individual computers. The floppy disk revolutionized this practice as it allowed people to share pre-written programs, opening the door for the entire software industry as we know it today.

Floppy disk technology quickly took off and experienced tremendous growth. Over the next few decades, users saw newer and more advanced versions of the floppy disk introduced to the market. Each new version addressed the growing needs of the market. Although their success and innovation would not last forever. With the introduction of re-writable CDs, the floppy disk fell into decline in the late 90s and was removed from production lines entirely by 2011.

From this example, we can see the complete life cycle of the floppy disk, from development in 1967 to its eventual obsolescence by 2011.

Manufacturing and Marketing: One Product Life Cycle

Manufacturing and marketing might seem like an odd couple to work so closely together. But in reality, each one provides useful information and advancements based on the actions and needs of the production line and the market.

Typically, information gathered from the market helps to improve manufacturing actions. At the same time, manufacturing advancements fuel marketing efforts to showcase how a product is better than its competitors.

For instance, if the market changes for better or worse, marketing can send this information to manufacturing which will adjust production based on demand. Manufacturers gain access to customer feedback, performance data, and more.

Similarly, new advancements in engineering and manufacturing coordinate with marketing teams to help establish the product as the superior option for consumers.

Lightbulb Pro Tip

Pro Tip

Showcasing quality needs to be backed up with easy-to-find inspection data and complete production records. This level of detail is crucial, especially if producing medical equipment. Work instructions gather complex data during assembly and share the data with your ERP or PLM systems. Your valuable information is always available when you need it.

How Does PLM Software Work?

Product development is becoming increasingly complicated in the current era of modern manufacturing. With global supply chains, vast networks of knowledge within one company, and the complexities of workforce management, companies are more susceptible than ever to losing information between department cracks while basing decisions on slow and inaccurate data.

PLM software attempts to solve this issue by pulling together and managing all product life cycle data across all company departments and supply chains. It is designed to give engineers access to vast production and marketing data at every moment of the life cycle while also supplying marketing with detailed product information.

Through linked technical specs, 3D drawings, BOMs (Bill of Materials), and integration with other systems like digital work instructions and ERPs, companies create a digital thread that centralizes information between manufacturing, marketing, customers, and all other departments.

This centralized information flow prevents departments from operating in disconnected silos. As we explored above, manufacturing receives valuable knowledge from marketing teams and vice versa. This level of communication regarding the management of a product life cycle enables companies to make accurate and informed strategic decisions.

Lightbulb Pro Tip

Pro Tip

Integrate PLM software with your work instructions easily through our advanced API. As operators follow their visual instructions, valuable production data is collected and shared with your PLM.

The Product Life Cycle: 5 Stages

PLMs also enable companies to determine which stage of the product life cycle their product is in. Each stage determines how the product should be marketed and manufactured, providing a compelling argument for businesses to consistently track their products along the 5 stages of the product life cycle.

5 stages of the product life cycle

Remember our floppy disk example? We can see floppy disks progress through each of the below 5 stages.

  1. Development: The floppy disk was created to aid the transferring of programs between computers in 1967.
  2. Introduction: Floppy disks are introduced to the US market in 1971
  3. Growth: With the capacity to hold the equivalent of 3,000 punch cards, floppy disk popularity soared.
  4. Maturity: As the market was saturated and the product matured, companies worked on new and improved versions of the floppy disk to stay relevant in the fast-paced evolution of modern technology.
  5. Decline: With the invention of re-writable CDs, floppy disks became outdated technology, culminating in the complete shutdown of their production in 2011.
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