For much of the 20th Century, things changed little in the world of products. It could take years to develop a product. And the product could stay on the market for decades. Eventually it finished up in a landfill or in the sea. The Iron Curtain divided the capitalist West from the communist East. Most companies were focused on their national markets. Some companies offered lifetime employment. Companies were organised by department. There was a multi-level hierarchy of middle managers. Information was on paper. Female secretaries produced male managers' memos and technical reports on typewriters. Engineers used slide rules for calculations. In the USA and Western Europe, engineers were mainly male, white, and white-shirted.
Companies, and their executives, managers and employees worked out how to succeed in this environment. They had an accepted way of thinking, a paradigm, about the way products should be managed. Universities and Business Schools taught this paradigm in which functional departments worked in serial, and everything was regulated with paper documents requiring multiple sign-offs. Each department improved its performance independently of the others.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and a greatly changed environment for products. No Iron Curtain. China a major manufacturer and market. Globalised markets. Outsourcing. Extended Enterprises. Multi-site development and manufacturing. Concerns about the environment. Platform products. Product development times cut. The lifetime of products slashed. Female engineers and CEOs. Technological revolutions. The Internet and the World Wide Web. Electronics, computers and software everywhere. Applications such as CAD, CAM and PDM used in the development, manufacture and support of products. Digital information. Flat organisations. Cross-functional business processes such as New Product Development.
With so many changes, it's not surprising that industry leaders started thinking differently about products. A new paradigm, the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) paradigm, emerged.
Find out more about PLM in Product Lifecycle Management: 21st Century Paradigm for Product Realisation