How do you ‘PLM’?

According to Wikipedia, PLM came from American Motors Corporation (AMC) as a way to speed up its product development process and to compete with larger competitors in 1985.

So, is PLM speeding up your product development process? Is your company using the full functionality of your PLM system? What are your plans for implementing IoT?

Most companies we work with utilize the minimal functions of their PLM systems. Some companies simply use their PLM as a data repository for CAD files. While others simply us their PLM as the ‘PDF Drawing’ control system – whereas the PDF of the CAD Drawing becomes the master document. So let’s look at what we can do to make PLM a true ‘Product Lifecycle Management’ system.

I call this process the “iPLM” or the ‘integrated Product Lifecycle Management’ process.

As with any other process, the iPLM process has a beginning and an end. That is how we approach the product development process which begins with the ‘need’ or ‘want’ for the product. Essentially your product either begins at the sale or, what I call “competitive moment” where you have to make your product better to compete.

Starting with the ‘Sales Order’ which will reside in the CRM system – once approved we can push the details; Options, Configurations, Color, etc. over to the PLM system which will automatically start the development process. In essence, the Sales Order information becomes the beginning of the Bill of Materials or BOM. Below is a simple graphic that shows how we can evolve the BOM within the PLM system.

The graphic in Figure 1 shows us how a basic ‘BOM’ evolves from a simple list of options on the Sales Order, which we can get from the CRM system. Then manufacturing and purchasing work to get the right parts and assemble them into a working product. This process is followed by Quality Control testing.

There could be many more steps in the BOM Evolution, but these are the highlights.

Some PLM systems can include Supplier management modules, Service modules etc. The mBOM portion can be managed within the MRP/ERP system so that purchasing can be facilitated. This can be performed by a simple push/pull type integration to feed the changes between systems. This also holds true if you use another application to manage your Quality and Testing as we can integrate the information. However, I always recommend companies use the PLM system as the main source of the documentation so it can be version controlled accordingly.


As I mentioned above integration with other applications such as ERP or CRM can help facilitate the iPLM process so that we can create a positive flow of information and reduce potential data entry errors and mistakes as well as help to automate our overall product development process. The idea that the PLM system could be a central part of the business process may be hard to understand for those that work outside of the Engineering department. But in order to start defining your closed loop development processes, it is imperative that a company embraces using a PLM system throughout the organization.


The graph to the right shows the ‘Importance/Value’ of the PLM system to the Product Development Process throughout the product lifecycle. From the First Idea to Product Launch to End of Production and of course the End of Life for the product. As this graphic depicts, you have the CRM (Customer Resource Management), the SCM (Supply Chain Management), ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and of course the PLM systems. Each system has its value to the process, but the PLM system should be the main management system for the iPLM process I noted above.

PLM process

The Key to being successful in the iPLM process is simple. Focus on the files and data used for building, manufacturing, purchasing, testing etc. your product. Centralizing all this information is the first step to making the iPLM process work for your company. PLM system is not just about the Engineering data and CAD files.

iplm round table

In Figure 4 we see the core of our iPLM Process philosophy. We call this the “Knights of the iPLM Round Table”. The concept is quite simple. It shows that each department should be an equal stakeholder in the product development process. When we begin to build the iPLM process for companies we pay specific attention to how each department works in the PLM system.

Everyone gets a seat at the table.

There very well could more seats at this table, but here are the basics. As you can begin to see, the iPLM process goes beyond what we put into the system. It also captures the reports and and meta-data we pull out of the system in the form of dashboards and over-all status of the processes. A key aspect of the iPLM process is that we can see dynamically the changes and evolution of the product development process in real-time.

The graphic in Figure 5 shows the steps to implement the iPLM process. The premise is pretty simple, we start with Step 1 where we get the data into the PLM system. Then we organize it to match the products and product lines that the company produces.

This makes it easier to add access controls and version controls to help manage this data.

Then, in Step 2, we focus on structuring that data into BOMs. Once we have organized the BOM structure then we implement the processes to manage the BOMs and documents.

In Step 3 we implement the Project Management process to control and manage the entire flow of the PDP. We can also then implement reports and a reporting dashboard so that we can monitor the entire process and share information throughout the organization.

Step 4 will be to continue to expand the system by either implementing modules or integrating with other enterprise systems such as ERP and IoT.

If you want to learn more about the iPLM process feel free to reach out to me directly or contact our sales team at – (856) 219-3860

PLM steps