Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is the business activity of managing, in the most effective way, a company's products all the way across their lifecycles; from the very first idea for a product all the way through until it is retired and disposed of.
All the lower-level product-related activities of a company are brought together under the PLM umbrella. They include activities such as: managing products across the lifecycle; managing product innovation, development, support and disposal projects; managing product-related processes so that they are coherent and lean; capturing and managing product definition information; and making product data available where it's needed, when it's needed.
From the viewpoint of business resources, the scope of PLM is shown in the PLM Grid.
On the horizontal axis are the five phases of the product lifecycle (imagination, definition, realisation, use, and disposal).
On the vertical axis are the ten components (data, applications, processes, etc.) that have to be addressed when managing a product across the lifecycle. Some examples will make this clearer.
In the PLM environment, examples of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) include Time To Market, ROI, value of the product portfolio, cost of rework, and number of patents.
Business processes include the New Product Development, Engineering Change Management and Product Portfolio Management processes.
Many people develop and support a product throughout its lifecycle. Examples include product developers, product managers, marketing analysts, test engineers, machinists and disassembly workers.
Product data defines and describes the product. Examples include customer requirements, part numbers, CAD geometry, design specifications, shop floor instructions, label information and patent reports.
A Product Data Management (PDM) system has the primary purpose of managing all the product data created and used throughout the product lifecycle.
PLM applications help people develop and support products. Examples include Idea Management, Robot Path Analysis, Compliance Management, NC Programming, Plastic Behaviour Analysis and CAD.
Facilities and equipment are used in every phase of the product lifecycle. Examples of equipment include 3D printers, 3D scanners, NC milling machines, label applicators, kilns, extruders and so on.
The many methods to improve performance across the lifecycle include Concurrent Engineering, Design for Assembly, Early Manufacturing Involvement, Life Cycle Design, and Open Innovation.
You may feel, seeing the examples above, that there are many resources to manage. You're right! The scope of PLM is wide, but that reflects the reality of managing products in the 21st Century.