Definition of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

PLM software is used to facilitate and automate the development of products, particularly focusing on hardware aspects, throughout design and manufacturing.

Application of PLM Software

Distributed teams use this type of software to manage and execute complex processes. This includes interdependent tasks, compliance requirements and collaboration needs.

Capabilities Provided by PLM Software

This software provides capabilities that are often closely related to those of PDM software. Beyond those capabilities, other capabilities of this software include:

  • Managing the extended definition of products and processes in development, going above and beyond information extracted and captured by PDM software. This includes:
    • Product traits and characteristics like requirements and their allocations, component suppliers and effectiveness, as well as much more.
    • Process traits and characteristics, such as whether a change process is fast-track or full-track, the decisions made during a design review meeting and the completion of a regulatory submittal process.
  • Execution support for tasks and processes. PLM software enables collaborative development processes through two main sets of task-oriented capabilities:
    • Workflow provides the routing of tasks and approvals and reminders of tasks, as well as notifications during the development process. This includes the ability to embed logic within the workflow to route items through different branches of a process.
    • Project and Program Management capabilities allow users to define task-based plans and track them through to completion. These capabilities also provide oversight into the progress of such plans.
  • Collaboration support during the development process, which is split into two main sets of capabilities:
    • One set of capabilities involves the exchange of correspondence with or without artifacts or information as a context. In the latter scenario, the artifact or information acts as a common single reference point against which the correspondence is exchanged.
    • Another capability allows individuals to subscribe or follow a stream of activity occurring against that context, whether that is a 3D model, a requirement or a project.
  • Report generation for products and processes in development. This is broken into two main categories:
    • Product-based reports reveal the state of the product. Examples include reports that show the amount of constrained materials needed for regulatory compliance, reports displaying systems and components that have been released and reports revealing the fulfillment of requirements.
    • Process-based reports show the progress of development processes. Examples include dispositions of change requests over time, the current condition of a verification and validation process and opportunity vs. cost charts needed for portfolio management processes.
  • Automated creation of documentation for processes. Examples include deliverables required for the completion of regulatory submittals, FDA approvals and ISO compliant processes.

Technology Enablers Related to PLM Software

Product Data Management (PDM) software is closely related, if not considered a subset, of this software solution. This is often a critical connection, as the fundamental definition of many products is extracted from the MCAD and ECAD artifacts managed in PDM software. Furthermore, Software Configuration Management (SCM) software is also closely related. This is because it often sends a representation of the final compiled code to PLM software to be managed as part of the product’s Bill of Material (BOM).

Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) software is considered a peer of PLM software, as it manages the lifecycle of the software artifacts that go into products.

This software solution is closely connected with Enterprise Resource and Planning (ERP) software, as it often hands the BOM over to ERP software for production execution after design release.


Providers that offer this type of solution include:

  • Aras offers Aras Innovator
  • Autodesk offers PLM360
  • Dassault Systèmes offers ENOVIA
  • DEXMA PLM offers a product of the same name
  • Omnify Software offers Empower PLM
  • Oracle offers Agile PLM
  • PTC offers Windchill
  • SAP offers SAP PLM
  • Siemens PLM offers Teamcenter PLM

Providers that offer solutions focusing on the collaboration and process execution capabilities of PLM include:

  • 3D Systems offers Teamplatform
  • OneDesk offers a service by the same name