More and more businesses are using product lifecycle management (PLM) software to boost productivity, improve collaboration, and get their products on the market faster.

It’s no wonder so many companies swear by PLM; today’s PLM software is seamless. But technological discoveries are only going to make it more useful for more businesses across a wider array of industries.

To understand where PLM is headed—and why demand for it is so high—let’s revisit its beginnings. 

What Businesses Used Pre-PLM

Before PLM came along, businesses in the automotive, aerospace, retail, and electronics industries used more basic technology to help them design their products.

They needed a tool that would help them both design product aesthetics and UI while completing complex calculations to help them function correctly. In the 1960s, computer-aided design (CAD) began to help teams create product designs that coordinated with engineering mechanics.

Since computers were so expensive, only large, cash-rich industries used CAD.  

How PLM Got Started

In the 1980s, CAD became more and more popular. However, CAD files consumed a lot of computer memory space. Businesses struggled to manage the unwieldy number of CAD files necessary to complete a single project.

Industry leaders developed product data management (PDM) to help manage these numerous files. PDM leaned (and still leans) on software to manage product-related information, including CAD data, models, manufacturing details, and other documents.

At that point, two key PLM tools were already out in the world. Company Unigraphics was among the first to bundle these together into a new system called product lifecycle management.

Throughout the 1980s, American Motors Corporation (AMC) began using PLM to expedite vehicle production. The Jeep Grand Cherokee was the first vehicle designed entirely with PLM tools. After this, PLM picked up more steam with other businesses—even if they still used spreadsheets to manage their bills of materials (BOM).

The first cloud-hosted PLM software, BOMControl, was introduced in 2000. PLM software businesses quickly realized how effective a cloud-based system could be; it empowers permissioned teams to access a single, centralized hub containing all product-related data. 

Using Today’s PLM 

Today’s PLM systems are still on the cloud, marketed as software as a service (SaaS). These seamless platforms eliminate silos, ensuring that every permissioned team member in a business can refer to a single up-to-date source of truth.

Today’s PLM software comes with a lot of benefits. It empowers teams to:

  • Streamline collaboration between teams. A hub for project-related data empowers teams to share critical, real-time information among themselves with ease. Project brainstorming, design, and execution is easier to coordinate than ever before. 
  • Accelerate time to market. Because teams can share amongst themselves easily, they don’t have to waste time searching for information or replicated completed processes. This empowers businesses to decrease production time. 
  • Reduce risk. Today’s PLM systems help teams track their products’ development. Detailed planning and modeling enables teams to identify problems early on. Compliance and risk professionals can quickly pinpoint problems in the supply chain or in calculations, reducing overall risk. 
  • Increase revenue. Faster, safer production helps businesses cut costs and increase their revenue. 

The only downside to PLM solutions is that they come with a price. But given PLM’s monumental benefits, the up-front cost is often worth the ROI.

The Future of PLM

PLM solutions today can help a business streamline teams, accelerate production time, reduce risk, and increase revenue. We can only expect more benefits as PLM solutions mature.

In the near-term, we are expecting to see:

  • Increased use across departments. PLM providers are encouraging businesses to include every team, from engineering to marketing, in their PLM system. With real-time access for each team, miscommunication and wasted time will be things of the past. Teams will be able to work together to innovate further. 
  • Better data visualization. PLM platforms are now combining more factors than ever before, including both hardware and software. Now they have started to include new technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), too. These tools will increase the effectiveness of PLM data visualization. 
  • Expanded PLM use. PLM has focused on product data in the past. In the future, PLM technology will be applied more often to other business needs, like order management and quality management. PLM technology and platforms will become more flexible to suit a wider variety of needs.

These enhancements will make PLM more critical to businesses than ever before. 

Overview: The Evolution of PLM 

In the past, PLM was a set of separate software tools that businesses combined to get results. Today, PLM is a more cohesive set of tools that various departments use to help them work together. In the future, PLM will be a circular tool, empowering businesses to both design their products and rework those designs to create more optimized products.

If you need help forming a results-driven PLM strategy, schedule a meeting with us today.

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