If you’re a CAD designer or engineer, you know that tools and processes matter. For fast-paced, product-driven businesses, few tools and processes matter more than product lifecycle management (PLM) and product data management (PDM).
PLM is a set of business processes that bring together people, systems and information to improve efficiency. It’s a company-wide and cradle-to-grave product strategy. One of PLM’s core catalysts is PDM, a set of software and cloud tools that flatten organizations and improve collaboration—making wider PLM efforts possible.
Both are critically important for CAD professionals. In fact, PLM and PDM can drive game-changing growth in product development: according to Forbes, effectively managing your bill of materials alone can cut product costs by 80 to 90 percent.
This post is a resource to help CAD designers and engineers understand how PLM and PDM can create more productive, efficient and profitable product development cycles.
What is Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?
Product lifecycle management is, according to analyst firm Gartner, “a philosophy, process and discipline supported by software for managing products through the stages of their lifecycles.”
In other words, PLM is a combination of tools and strategies used during every stage of a product’s life to streamline design, manufacturing, sales and product retirement cycles. PLM incorporates a company’s tools, processes, materials and people to foster innovation, collaboration and productivity.
There are as many PLM strategies as there are firms using them. Some well-known PLM strategies include:
- Lean manufacturing. Popularized by car maker Toyota, this PLM strategy emphasizes efficiency and waste reduction during every step of the product cycle to produce big returns and value for consumers.
- Concurrent engineering. A work system that emphasizes integration, concurrent engineering seeks to reduce product-to-market time by performing design, engineering and manufacturing functions simultaneously.
A PLM strategy could adopt either of these strategies or others—or combine strategies for a custom process to enhance productivity and efficiency for your own organization.
As Gartner points out, a PLM strategy is supported by software that manages the information generated during the product’s lifecycle. This is called PDM, or product data management.
What is Product Data Management (PDM)?
While PLM touches every part of a product’s life from cradle to grave, PDM is concerned with the conception phase—the design and R&D cycles.
PDM is any type of software that manages CAD files and project data. PDM lowers barriers to collaboration, creating leaner organizations and design operations.
Many CAD software companies offer PDM solutions or integrate PDM functionality into their software packages. Among others, PDM packages are offered by CAD companies such as Autodesk, PTC, Siemens and SolidWorks.
Some of these packages also share documents, product numbers and other relevant product information.
By adopting PDM as part of a larger PLM strategy, CAD professionals can see some serious benefits.
How CAD Professionals Benefit from PLM and PDM
CAD professionals are required to compete globally, push designs out quicker and do more with less budget, due to the flattening of the global economy and the financial turmoil of the past few years. When every dollar and day counts, PLM/PDM tools and practices are more valuable than ever.
Collaborative design with PLM and PDM shortens R&D cycles, reduces design time, and gives professionals and firms a serious competitive edge.
Are you incorporating PLM or PDM strategies into your design workflow? We’d love to hear what you’re doing, and how it’s working for you, in the comments.
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