The Product Lifecycle Management has been constantly evolving during the last decades and is now a high end tool that meets the needs of various businesses. Although it was historically used in the industry sector, all kinds of firms have now decided to take advantage from its interesting features. The rise of advanced AI technologies and robotics offer new prospects which should increase PLM’s popularity even more in the near future.
The Product LifeCycle Management from the 70s until today
Product Lifecycle Management, which gathers tools and methods for products’ conception and maintaining throughout their entire lifecycle, is a broad notion that all sectors now tend to use. However, at the beginning in the 70s and 80s, the PLM was dedicated to engineering and its complex projects. Models and CAD software tools provided an overview of any product being designed and helped not forget any detail.
Later on, document management systems and data exchange with other software systems allowed the idea to become richer and the PLM to transform into a full-part concept. Its use for the development of innovative products and its ability to reduce production deadlines made it attractive for a great number of firms it wasn’t initially meant for.
The PLM gathers a lot of information: plans, system architecture, technical specifications, nomenclatures are part of it. The objective of centralizing data: covering all steps of any product’s design and production.
From the first sketches to the prototypes and the production, from the product’s launch to its waste life, firms are trying to consider all potential needs thanks to the PLM. Resources are then more optimum at the time of production or maintenance, the right workers get mobilized for the production and most of the manufacturing errors can be avoided.
Once it got named, the Product Lifecycle Management could structure itself.
The first integrated software systems gradually developed in the 90s and 2000s: to the initial models, they added units dedicated to the product evolution management. Those units make it possible to better structure and anticipate each step of a project. Besides, the PLM developments included the Product Data Management, which creates a better communication between enterprise software systems.
The aided managing of product portfolios contributes to centralizing information whilst adding more transparency into the organization.
Over time, the editors have developed more and more comprehensive tools that not only facilitate the use of information, but also make them easier to exchange. Modern software clarifies the communication between production and purchasing departments and make real-time data available to all stakeholders. PLM software systems have become advanced tools that take part in the excellence of companies by bringing more rigor into their processes. Those tools are now constantly improving in order to meet new needs that emerge every day.
PLM Comprehensive features
In order to take into account all aspects of a product’s creation, PLM software systems make use of several features.
Firstly, the models are build thanks to advanced CAD and simulation tools. Dynamic 3D models help visualize the final product and generate scenarios.
Furthermore, the configuration management ensures the observance of rules and design methods that are necessary to the quality of the product. This feature of the PLM enables the creation of completely individualized tree structures, the implementation of instances based on predefined patterns or the analysis of the impact of certain modifications.
Requirements management, for its part, ensures the compliance of the product and enables verification of all potential evolution in the design brief. Other tools can be added to this: together, they make it possible to follow all modifications or knowledge involved in the processes over time.
The PLM is backed up with Document Management Systems for a fully digital classification and approval of technical documents. The exchange of data occurs in a clear and controlled way in order to preserve both the security of the information and the traceability of the actions.
Complementary with the ERP, the PLM represents a transverse framework and centralized the firm’s technical data. Provided they are compatible, market tools can exchange data instantly and exploit the information at their disposal.
Recent evolutions of the PLM
Like many business applications, the PLM takes advantage of recent technological evolutions.
The Industry 4.0 is a booming concept that offers the prospect of fully robotized production units and of advanced machine learning. Its action is closely linked to that of the PLM. With the smart digitalization of the design and production chain, one can imagine a number of automations and rapid innovation thanks to the technological progress.
Firstly, the IoT (Internet of Things), generates a lot of data that is very useful to the PLM. Creating a more complex but also better informed environment, the IoT gives more insight into the lifecycle of a product and thus supplies the PLM. The anticipation of the potential issues and predictive maintenance are some of the most promising prospects of the IoT. The Product Lifecycle Management could then take a central place at the heart of a key product data network. In the years to come, its interactions with connected objects should develop exponentially.
The artificial intelligence is also an asset, often included to the PLM in order to improve productivity. Thanks to the AI, it is already possible to obtain smart suggestions or to run searches for materials or more efficient processes. The AI is subject to great ambitions, in particular for the PLM software tools. The prospect of man-machine interfaces, of advanced analysis that will reduce the costs and of machine learning will accelerate the production and decrease the number of chain breaks.
Chances are good that the PLM will take advantage of many innovations to come, in order to become an ultra-documented and almost autonomous assistant. The aim of all this is a constantly decreasing time-to-market and optimum quality products: they will be a key asset for the companies that exploit their PLM tools in a comprehensive way.