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Product Lifecycle Management

What is Product Lifecycle Management? 

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a comprehensive, systematic and scientific approach for managing and developing products and product related information.

It represents the process of managing the entire lifecycle of a product from ideation, product innovation, product development, manufacturing, and product commercialization—managing the product from the cradle to grave.1


PLM approaches were the answer to an unmet need by fast-paced and large-scale firms with the advent of internet and cloud-based databases. Throughout the last decade, manufacturers tried  to tackle challenges with shorter product life cycles, increased outsourcing, mass customization demands, complex products, geographically dispersed design teams, inventories subject to rapid depreciation, and rapid fulfillment needs.

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Global competition has resulted in increased price pressures, material and energy costs, smaller and more frequent orders, dramatically-shorter life cycles, multiple supply, environmental and financial sustainability, and more governmental food safety regulations.2

How does PLM work?

Product lifecycle management is not  a computer software or a method, per se. It is a broad concept and a set of systematic methods that attempt to control product information. Leading industrial software companies have successfully developed PLM solutions that address most of the challenges faced by production firms.

The idea with PLM is to control and steer the process of creating, processing and handling, distributing products and further recording product related information. Currently, PLM is carried out with the help of a wide variety of information processing systems.3

PLM focuses on the lifecycle phases of a product:4

Beginning of life Middle of life End of life
  1. Idea generation
  2. Formulation and specifications
  3. Design/development
  4. Sourcing of materials
  5. Lab trials and scaleup
  6. Manufacturing
  1. Distribution
  2. Commercialization
  3. Use or consumption
  4. Service/support
  1. Retire
  2. Disposal
  3. Reuse

Product data refers to the information related to the product and  can be divided into three groups:3

  1. Definition data: Includes physical and functional properties of the product or service. This group also includes exact technical data such as physicochemical and microbiological specifications.
  2. Lifecycle data: This group of information is connected to research, design and production, use, maintenance, recycling, and destruction of the product, and regulations connected with the product.
  3. Metadata (product and lifecycle information): Describes the type of information gathered, its location (which databank), who recorded it and where/when it can be accessed.


PLM information technologies integrate people, data, processes and business computer systems such as ERP and MES. PLM systems have been developed for electronics, food and beverage, automotive, oil & gas, and other industries.

Applications of PLM include:

  • Management of bills of materials (BOM), from design to service
  • Compliance management
  • Computer assisted design (CAD) integration
  • Life cycle assessment
  • Materials requirement planning (MRP)
  • Process simulation (discrete and continuous)

Benefits of PLM include:

  • Managing products across the lifecycle
  • Providing reliable data and information from products and processes
  • Speeding up product development (reducing time from idea to market)
  • Enabling and improving collaboration at all supply chain levels
  • Providing control and visibility of a product throughout its lifecycle
  • Reducing environmental impact  during a product’s life cycle (sustainability)
  • Knowing the exact technical and financial characteristics of a product throughout its lifecycle


  1. Saaksvuori, A., and Immonen, A.  “Introduction”. Product Lifecycle Management, 2nd edition, Springer Berlin, 2005, pp. 1–5.
  2. X.G. Ming, J.Q. Yan, X.H. Wang, S.N. Li, W.F. Lu, Q.J. Peng, Y.S. Ma, Collaborative process planning and manufacturing in product lifecycle management, Computers in Industry, Volume 59, Issues 2–3, 2008, Pages 154-166.
  3. Saaksvuori, A., and Immonen, A.  “Fundamentals”. Product Lifecycle Management, 2nd edition, Springer Berlin, 2005, pp. 6–27.
  4. Stark, J.  “Product Lifecycle Management”. Product Lifecycle Management: 21st Century Paradigm for Product Realisation, 2nd edition, Springer-Verlag London Limited, 2011, pp. 1–16.