Software PLM: the best solutions for managing your product lifecycle (PLM)

With the dazzling development of the Cloud, the roll-out of Industry 4.0 and the arrival of new technologies such as the digital twin, the market for PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) solutions is currently experiencing strong growth. Valued at $21.71 billion worldwide in 2020, the PLM market is expected to reach $32.42 billion by 2026, recording growth of 6.92%. Find out all the information you need to seize this opportunity.

What is PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and how can it be used?

A brief overview of PLM and product lifecycle management

The first Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions emerged in the 1980s in response to the growing complexity of product management for businesses. Factors such as the globalisation of markets, the growing complexity of the supply chain, the diversification of product ranges and increased competition all led to the need for a more integrated approach. At the same time, PLM has helped to break down the barriers between information systems that were previously operating in silos, with several applications for each department, such as R&D, marketing, production, maintenance, etc.

Over time, PLM systems have evolved to become increasingly sophisticated, incorporating functions such as data analysis, process improvement and monitoring, and real-time collaboration. They make it possible to manage the entire life cycle of a product, from its initial design to its withdrawal from the market.

Why use a PLM solution?

A PLM solution offers a number of advantages.

First of all, it centralises all the data relating to products throughout their lifecycle. This includes, for example, specifications, plans, 3D models, costs, deadlines, regulations, suppliers, modifications and versions. Centralising this data encourages collaboration between teams, sharing key information and avoiding loss, dispersion or duplication.

Secondly, PLM platforms make it possible to decompartmentalise the design, production, marketing and support processes. Making information available in real time, anywhere in the world, facilitates transparency and decision-making. The “silo” effect is avoided in favour of greater agility and greater customer and product knowledge. Employees are empowered by a global vision that is nonetheless concise and easy to understand.

What’s more, a PLM solution enables certain business processes to be automated, particularly those linked to product development and management. For example, workflows, approvals, notifications and recurring tasks can all be automated to improve efficiency and productivity. Manual processes and the risk of human error are reduced.

Finally, a PLM solution also enables complete traceability. Managers can track every stage, from initial design to withdrawal from the market. It also makes it possible to identify existing elements that can be reused in new projects in the future.

How does PLM work?

The process of using a PLM solution is generally divided into three stages: managing, collaborating and steering.

The first stage involves managing all the data relating to the product throughout its lifecycle. As we have seen, this includes the creation and management of specifications, technical documents, 3D/2D models, costs, deadlines, regulations and so on. The PLM solution enables these to be organised in a structured way and made accessible to all stakeholders.

The second stage is collaboration, which involves sharing and exchanging information between internal teams and external players. The solution facilitates collaboration by enabling the different teams (design, engineering, production, marketing, etc.) to work in a transparent and coordinated way.

The third stage is management, which encompasses the supervision and control of the product development and management process, thanks to monitoring, reporting and analysis functionalities that enable key performance indicators to be monitored, project progress to be tracked, changes to be managed, risks to be assessed and overall product performance to be optimised.

How to choose the right PLM tool

The benefits and features of Cloud and On-Premise

Companies can choose between two options for hosting their product lifecycle management solution: the Cloud and On-Premise.

The Cloud offers a number of advantages, including remote accessibility, flexibility, scalability and ease of implementation. Cloud-based solutions enable companies to access PLM functionality via the Internet, without the need for costly in-house infrastructures. What’s more, software updates are managed by the supplier, so they automatically benefit from the latest features and enhancements.

On the other hand, On-Premise refers to the installation of the PLM tool directly on the company’s internal servers. This approach offers total control over the infrastructure and data, as well as greater customisation of the tool according to the company’s specific needs. However, On-Premise requires internal resources to manage and maintain the software, as well as greater initial investment.

How to choose?

To choose between the two solutions, you can assess several criteria. The most important concerns the criticality of the data you are going to entrust to your PLM solution. If the data is subject to specific regulations, or if it is essential to guarantee a high level of confidentiality, then the On-Premise solution may be preferable.

If you have few in-house resources, it may be a good idea to choose the Cloud, which will be easy for your teams to deploy, and will require little maintenance, including when it comes to updates.

PLM software: solutions for every challenge

1. 3DEXperience from Dassault Systèmes

Dassault was one of the pioneers in the development of PLM solutions. The 3DEXperience platform is logically aimed at industry, particularly the aerospace, defence and automotive sectors. It enables the lifecycle management of complex products involving several hundred or thousands of people. 3DEXperience features include real-time collaboration, data management, simulation, analysis, planning and product traceability.

The strength: an architecture that is both robust and flexible.

The weakness: its cost, which can run to several hundred euros per month per workstation.

Who’s it for? Ambitious projects looking to move into Industry 4.0.

References: L’Occitane en Provence, Altaïr, Bouygues Construction, etc.

2. Windchill from PTC (Parametric Technonology Corporation)

Windchill specialises in content and workflow management. This solution offers advanced functionalities such as data and change management, real-time collaboration, traceability and product visualisation (2D and 3D), as it is currently widely used in the retail sector. Windchill enables teams to work in sync and optimise development processes.

The strength: a platform natively designed to operate on a global scale.

Weakness: compatibility with other APIs.

Who should use it? First and foremost, retailers operating in different countries. It is a global platform that is perfectly suited to other activities.

References: Boses, Vaillant Group, Stanley Black & Decker, Victoria’S Secret…

3. Teamcenter from Siemens PLM

The Teamcenter platform, developed by Siemens, is a complete PLM solution, ideal for managing the data and processes of IT companies. And it’s versatile enough to be used beyond the IT sector. Intuitive, it enables you to manage product data, collaborate, plan… in real time and from anywhere in the world. Its visualisation system makes it a powerful decision-making tool for management and executives.

Strengths: compatibility and integration with other APIs and availability on different operating systems.

Weakness: a 100% Cloud design, which can be an advantage but also has its drawbacks for some companies.

Who should use it? Companies in the IT sector and the service sector in general.

References: Emerson Climate Technologies Incorporated, Credence Management Solutions, Softpath System…

4. Aras

Aras is one of the market leaders in PLM solutions, as its list of references proves. Its low-code platform is highly flexible and can be integrated with third-party applications. It can be adapted to the processes and issues specific to each company and department. This highly customisable solution is supported by a community and forums.

Strength: rapid deployment within teams.

Weakness: solid in-house technical skills are essential to exploit the platform’s potential.

Who should use it? Aras is primarily aimed at companies in the manufacturing sector. In particular, it offers a digital twin solution.

References: Airbus, General Motors, Carlisle, Microsoft, Motorola, etc.

5. Centric PLM

Finally, Centric PLM is a platform specifically designed for the retail sector. It offers advanced functionalities accessible, for example, to designers or developers who can manage products by collection. It can also be used to view product, supplier and sourcing data, enabling real-time cost monitoring that is particularly appropriate in these times.

The strong point: its specialisation in the retail sector and the introduction of predictive AI.

Weakness: the integration of third-party applications.

Who is it for? Mainly retailers with international development plans.

References: Kering, Carhatt, Louis Vuitton, Asics, etc.

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