PLM System

Product Lifecycle Management or Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) is a concept for the seamless integration of all information that arises over the life cycle of a product. The concept is based on coordinated methods, processes and organizational structures and usually uses IT systems to record and manage data. PLM emerged from the more narrowly defined product data management (PDM) and developed into the dominant paradigm in product development in the early 21st century

Product Lifecycle Management

Control product data and information flows via the PLM software

The abbreviations PDM and PLM are often mentioned in the same breath. Similar to the pair of terms DMS/ECM, these are related methods that should not be confused, as PLM goes beyond PDM. As a further development of PDM, the Product Lifecycle Management System ( PLM System ) includes the process control of product data and information flows. PLM is less understood as a type of software than as an overall concept or a strategic approach to corporate management in which product life cycles are to be optimized by using and analyzing the data and documents that have arisen over time. On the one hand, PLM software represents the central basis for product data – the data backbone or product data backbone – and it also functions as a process solution for product lifecycle processes.

The concept is based on the holistic approach that product-related information accompanies the entire lifespan of products. Product data and documents are created during the first specification or in an idea sketch. Further documents are created in the design departments and then passed on for production, assembly, maintenance and commissioning. As the product expands and changes, this process repeats itself cyclically until the product is eventually withdrawn from the market. An effective and efficient PLM management strategy therefore describes the way in which this information is to be provided in order to be able to make decisions at an early stage in the respective phases of the product lifecycle.

PLM software – a key role in product development and product management

When planning, control and document management are coordinated from a uniform system, the company achieves the greatest possible efficiency of its projects and processes. Following this basic idea, PROCAD has based its Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). PLM software is thus becoming a strategic instrument in manufacturing companies. It is deeply integrated into all business processes and plays a key role in product development and product management.

Manufacturing companies use PLM solutions to accelerate the market readiness process of their products and reduce costs through company-wide transparency and consistency of innovation processes.

New systems engineering concepts also play a role in the development of new products as a result of digitalization . Today, products must be defined more strongly by the business model. This requires a bridge between development in the respective departments and the business model. Systems engineering can represent this as a higher-level concept. This is where PLM systems come into play as an important technical aid.


PLM integrates information from CAD and ERP equally

Synchronizing item master data, parts lists and project data between design and production is always a challenge. It can be mastered by using PLM software. It often happens in manufacturing companies that work processes come to a standstill. The reason: Errors occur due to separate data silos and manual transfer of information from one IT system to another. Suddenly parts lists are no longer correct, drawings are out of date, required purchased parts are reported to purchasing too late, etc. Rework in production is often necessary, and in some cases new parts have to be manufactured.

Synchronize data in the PLM system

Development and construction usually work with CAD systems and store the data in the PLM system . Work preparation, purchasing, scheduling and production maintain their data in an ERP system. The PLM system can be placed at the interface between CAD and ERP. This means it integrates information from CAD and ERP equally and synchronizes the data from both IT landscapes.

The PLM system takes on two important tasks:

Consistent processes

Way out of the digital dead end

A PLM solution creates consistency. Along the process chain in the company – from order receipt through design and production to sales – the PLM software enables everyone involved to have controlled access to a uniform, shared product database. The creation of a product data backbone is therefore the prerequisite for consistent PLM. With digitalization in technical companies, the number of systems in a company in which production-related information is created and stored is constantly increasing. The amount of data produced is also becoming larger and more heterogeneous. These data sources must enter the Product Data Backbone and serve as sources of information across the entire PLM process.

One-dimensional systems for PDM, DMS or CAD data management are no longer sufficient today and lead to a dead end. The way out of the digital impasse: Instead of licensing individual software applications, companies will in future be able to select more and more granular, preconfigured application packages and services via a digital platform with which they can carry out specific tasks and quickly expand them if necessary. PROCAD is developing such a platform and, with PRO.FILE, offers its customers a scalable solution along the evolution of PLM in companies . As a digital platform, a wide range of services in the area of ​​drawing management, technical document management, file exchange, change management, etc. can be added, based on a common database, the Product Data Backbone .

From document management to process control

While PDM and DMS are already standard in many companies, the implementation of further PLM process and project management often remains stuck in the introductory phase. Many medium-sized and larger technical companies do not want to pay for long consulting projects, but rather achieve quick results.

Improving process efficiency in the product lifecycle usually develops evolutionary in companies. Document control based on document statuses such as “Document in progress” or “Document released” is common in a product data or document management system ( PDM system with DMS tec ). In certain cases, control via tasks can have an additional effect.

Wherever engineering companies want to control and automate frequently recurring processes or those with many people and company departments involved, working with so-called PLM task files is a good idea. Because in the practice of technical companies it is always about document and data-intensive processes. Therefore, tasks and the data to be processed as well as documents are linked to a task file. Tasks, in turn, belong to processes or projects whose timing is controlled. Such extended process logic enables the automation of subtasks. This takes the step from document management to process control.

Use case-related task files, processes and projects (such as for change management) can be automated and controlled using a separate attachment in the PLM system PRO.FILE. The actual PLM processes are implemented using preconfigured application packages . They consist of templates, finished workflows, cockpits, reports and menus for operating the respective processes for monitoring and project and process control . Best practice application packages for PLM systems are intended to shorten the implementation of the respective customer-specific processes. Companies do not have to start from scratch when designing their PLM processes. This suits those who want to get started quickly and have neither the time nor money for a long consulting and implementation project.

Process control

Control PLM processes in IT or not?

Overall, task management increases the degree of process control. Degrees of freedom are reduced, compliance with rules and guidelines is made easier and promoted. The result is increased compliance and automation of the process.

Particularly in technical companies, processes managed via PLM software should not be an end in themselves. “Pouring” everything into IT processes that can be represented in software, as many process consultants like to advocate, is often the wrong approach for medium-sized and larger companies. Anyone who does this will lose a lot of time and money before implementation and some target savings through automation effects will be reduced to absurdity. The implementation of the PLM system itself is also critical. A lack of process and change management know-how and great implementation effort increase the expensive dependency on consultants or turn the introduction into an endless project. The result: Many projects are canceled before the actual use of the PLM software begins.

The key question for technical companies is: At which points in the PLM processes does storing the process in software and automating it actually make organizational and business sense? Should you control PLM processes in IT or not? A high number of runs, a large number of users or high compliance requirements are indications of this. Once the PLM processes with the greatest potential have been found, it is more expedient to use a best practice process that has already been prepared and stored in IT and to compare it with your own requirements, rather than starting with an abstract specification and defining them in practice at the end have to be discarded anyway.

Application Packages

From change management to risk and contract management

Best practice is a proven procedure and an established method for quickly getting started with new software applications in practice. You don’t start programming from scratch, but use what has already been successfully tested elsewhere. In this context, PROCAD speaks of preconfigured application packages. These are PLM scenarios specifically tailored to customers in technical companies and are offered.

Such preconfigured best practice application packages drive the evolution of PLM in companies and the complete digitalization of business processes in the technical-industrial environment – starting from pure CAD data management in the early days up to the digital thread that connects ongoing operations with development in this way determines information flows in business processes. Because the packages are preconfigured and individual IT processes can be added iteratively step by step, the company avoids the typical “customizing trap” with complex adjustments to the PLM software.

The packages allow the customer to implement PLM scenarios quickly and easily. He will receive them upon request as part of the software maintenance agreement. Change, risk and contract management are examples of this. In addition, the tools can be used to create additional individual application packages, for example for compliance, testing, performance or quality management.

Change management – ​​automate processes and monitor impacts

Changes often have to be made at short notice in development projects. This can cause the most secure calculation and planning to falter. If such a change process is coordinated manually, it usually takes a long time. Task files represent a solution for this. Process control means connecting task management with the product data. This means the user can find all relevant documents and data about a process or project in a central location. Better coordination of ongoing product lifecycle processes or projects shortens throughput times and avoids errors in related processes.

The processes in the product lifecycle management ( PLM system ) are automated. The system reports deviations automatically and the user can always see the current status of a change. It can in turn automate parts of the change process, such as sending documentation or creating an impact matrix. This means that the actual change costs can also be easily evaluated.

For change management, all product data, documents, tasks and process control information are managed centrally in the PLM system . An integrated escalation model takes effect in the event of schedule deviations. The user can view the current status of a change at any time via the cockpit.

Risk management in the PLM system – identifying, controlling and counteracting risks

Risks can arise for a company from every project, order or contract. These reference each other as well as other objects, such as contracts, other accompanying documents, general terms and conditions, correspondence or additional agreements. The task of risk management is to minimize risks through appropriate measures and to prepare for future risks preventively.

The number of regulations that companies have to adhere to as part of compliance has increased significantly in recent years. A variety of national laws, international guidelines and voluntary commitments now impose strict documentation requirements on companies. Product lifecycle management systems (PDM/PLM systems) are ideal for this . If a PDM/ PLM system is designed as a DMS tec , such as PRO.FILE, it is particularly suitable for this because it represents a product database for all data and documents, not just those from construction. With the solution, companies can set up reliable risk management and integrate it into the PLM process.

In the PDM/ PLM system, all risk-relevant accompanying documents are initially stored centrally in a risk file. Based on these documents, the resulting risks can be recorded, evaluated and prioritized. A division into risk classes is made and initial measures to minimize risks can be planned. An early warning system provides information about the progress of the measures and provides information in the event of an escalation. With the help of the PDM system, risks are identified at an early stage and the company can continuously counteract them.

The PDM/ PLM system PRO.FILE includes a risk cockpit through which the user can classify projects and contracts according to risk classes using a traffic light status and also carry out the evaluation of measures. It thereby enables compliance with specifications through audit -proof process control and a uniform evaluation methodology. The experience gained is also the basis for developing further strategies to minimize risks.

In the PDM/PLM software, companies can, for example, map complex release workflows as part of approval procedures with authorities. In the aviation sector, for example, every change to a component sometimes requires approval from the national aviation authority and possibly other institutions. The manufacturing company must record such work in test plans, maintenance manuals, flight manuals and other document types as part of its change management. Each document often has several approval processes that have to be completed. In the PDM/ PLM system, the company can display the logic of these processes as part of risk management and thereby track in detail which employee created and approved a document to be checked.

Contract management – ​​Overview of all contracts with integrated escalation management

The contractual framework lays down the essential principles of a company’s business relationships with its customers, suppliers, partners and other external parties. Making this information available to the right person at the right time and in the right place is part of a product lifecycle management process. Only through central contract management can it be ensured that deadlines and other contractual obligations are adhered to. Without the necessary transparency, these are often forgotten after the contract is concluded. A PDM/ PLM system designed as DMS tec is able to store all types of contract documents.

Each department in the company often concludes contracts for itself. This means that the contract documents are not managed centrally, but are instead stored in individual departments. Distributed (paper) storage means that documents often cannot be found when you need them. There is also no clarity as to whether different positions in the company may have concluded identical contracts with the same supplier. For example, it would be desirable for purchasing to be able to easily control how many contracts exist with which companies, to what extent their conditions differ from one another and where contractual relationships can possibly be bundled and standardized in order to achieve better conditions.

After all, it is not uncommon for notice periods to be extended unintentionally because the relevant documents are not at hand to check their duration. Unintentionally extended contracts due to a lack of deadline management repeatedly lead to additional expenses in many companies.

In the PDM/ PLM system, companies can digitally manage all contract files related to the order, project and product as well as the documents accompanying the contract in a central location. It is a feature-rich contract management system that provides the user with a complete and transparent overview of contract content. The system automatically resubmits contracts in good time before the deadline expires. Through this integrated escalation management, the user is informed in a timely manner about the notice periods that must be observed. It is no longer necessary to list such information in paper form or Excel tables; the processes in company-wide contracting are automated in the PDM/ PLM system .

The Product Lifecycle Management System ( PLM system ) also provides text modules and templates that can be used to set up contracts more quickly. From contract creation to signing, contract management guides the user through the process. This shortens throughput times and everyone always has an overview of which contract is where and in what status. Granular user authorization ensures that only authorized people can access their contract documents.