Organizations employ a vast amount of planning and skill to launch a product in time and to make effective use of the available resources. Project managers use a range of tools and software for effectively planning the product development process. For efficient development, they have to plan the resources they’ll need the time it will take. And product lifecycle management is one such tool.
Product lifecycle management has played an important role in this process in the past couple of decades. It can give a clear picture of the costs involved in the entire lifecycle of a product and can help the organization decide the pricing, the marketing strategies, as well as disposal of goods past their lifetime.
It has made an impact in diverse fields, from automobile engineering to software development. A similar product lifecycle management exists for marketing too, with different stages and focusing on how a product is priced.
In this article, we explore what product lifecycle management is and its advantages and drawbacks.
What is product lifecycle management?
Product life cycle management manages the entire life of a product and all the processes involved in it, from conception, design, manufacturing, distribution, sales, and recycling or disposal. PLM tracks a product from cradle to grave.
PLM divides the entire lifecycle of a product into 4 phases: Conception(Conceive), design, realisation(Realize), and service.
The design team defines the requirements of the product during the product conception stage. This will be based on the target audience, the industry, the company goals, as well as any rules or regulations. Organizations usually create preliminary blueprints or mockups during this stage, but they’re mostly to discuss the form and less about function.
The design phase is when the product gets the final form. During this stage, the product may go through several design iterations. The organisation may build several prototypes, test them, analyse, improve before settling down on a final design.
The product development team move to the “realize” stage after the design stage. Here’s when the product is manufactured and is mass-produced for sale. At this stage, material procurement, marketing, suppliers, merchants, logistics are concerned. Needless to say, this stage may happen in parallel during the design stage and the service stage.
The service stage is when the product is in the market, and the organization has to deal with customer support, repairs, recycling, and disposal of the product.
History of product lifecycle management
While marketers have used product lifecycle management since the 1960s, the American Motor Corporation used it for the first time in production and manufacturing around 1980. The company was struggling to compete with other vehicle manufacturers with more resources. They introduced CAD to make their draughtsmen more accurate and efficient. The organization ensured that all stakeholders had easy access to all the information and product data through a central database, including the CAD drawings.
The move kept everyone in the loop during the development and ensured it fit all the requirements without expensive reworks. When Chrysler bought AMC, they found the system to be so efficient that they implemented it throughout the entire organization.
This was around the same time when IT systems for managing product data were being introduced. Most companies used Product Data Management or PDM mainly to manage the CAD drawings. The PDMs evolved into PLMs, bringing more elements of the product development process rather than just the product information.
The first cloud-based BOMControl was introduced in 2000. These days, most of the PLM software are SaaS platforms. And more than just managing BOMs, organizations use them to ensure smooth collaboration, bring teams together, and take a product from launch to disposal.
Importance of PLM
Product lifecycle management helps to reduce time to market. It helps you plan all the stages effectively without bottlenecks, making sure the right tools, materials, and resources are available at the right time. You can also use PLM for managing the costs, and make sure every step stays within the budget.
PLM will also help you avoid data silos. A major problem with large enterprises is that every department will store their data in their own way, and other departments won’t have easy access to them. These data silos will create communication, duplicated efforts, and waste of resources. A PLM system or software will ensure smooth communication across departments and stakeholders, keeping everyone within the loop during the development process. The system will offer a single source of truth for everyone involved.
A PLM system will improve the overall productivity and efficiency in an organization and improve the quality of products launched. It will improve workflow, project management, and faster project completion.
Without product lifecycle management, the stakeholders may not have a clear picture of the project, as to which stage the project is at, what their roles and responsibilities are, and what needs to be done. Clear exchange of information is vital for successful project execution, and without PLM, your project may be in disarray.