Def: The conditions a product is sold under will change over time . The Product Life Cycle refers to the succession of stages a product goes through. Product Life Cycle Management is the succession of strategies used by management as a product goes through its life cycle. Wikipedia

Product Lifecycle Management Software

Definition: Product lifecycle management software is a suite of integrated computer-based tools for managing the entire lifecycle of a product, from its conception and design to its manufacture, sale and support.

The process of successfully bringing a product to market is rarely plain sailing. What the consumer doesn’t see is the hundreds – and perhaps even thousands – of projects and processes that had to succeed before the product could reach the shelves of their local stores.

Manufacturing enterprises, however, are all too aware of what an enormous task it is to successful create a new product, and the risk it entails. In an effort to avoid the many pitfalls and stumbling blocks that are found on the way to the shelves, many enterprises utilise product lifecycle management software packages to help guide them through the process.

Features of PLM Software

Product Lifecycle Management SoftwarePLM software is not a single software product, but rather a collection of tools integrated to manage the PLM process. These tools can include computer-aided design (CAD), enterprise resource planning (ERP) and business process management (BPM) software, among others.

When combined, these software tools help guide the product lifecycle through these broad phases:


From the moment a new product is conceived it must be developed with the marketplace in mind. The initial phase of any product lifecycle will therefore rely heavily on customer data, market research and focus groups. What will the product need to achieve to succeed? What does the customer require? Where will the product fit in the marketplace? The answers to these questions allow the designers to frame the technical parameters of the product.


Once a basic concept has been defined the product must be properly designed. The design phase will usually be based within a CAD framework, allowing developers to complete the process from design conception and refinement through to stress testing using a single software package.

The use of CAD software in the design and testing phases allows designers to make continuous adjustments to the design based on testing data – something that would be much more time consuming when physically performed.


Once the product design has been finalised it is necessary to develop an efficient manufacturing process to make the best use of production resources. Most enterprises will use some form of manufacturing process management (MPM) software to convert the Bill of Materials (a list of necessary parts for the product) into a Bill of Processes.

MPM software can also help in the design of the most efficient production line scenario, reducing lead-time to the product launch and minimising work in progress (WIP) inventories.

The realisation phase may also involve the use of computer-aided manufacturing software to convert CAD product visualisations into operational code for numerical control machine tools, further reducing the lead-time.


The final phase of the product lifecycle is the service of the product. Customers and service engineers must be provided with service information to allow them to repair or order the repair of faulty products. While this phase may not seem as important as the design and manufacture of the product, it is the most visible phase to the customer, and performing well will increase customer satisfaction and improve customer retention.

The service phase largely revolves around using maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) software to build a knowledge base containing maintenance and repair information for service engineers, as well as warehouse management software to manage an inventor of replacement parts.

These resources should be made available to customer service representatives to allow for the efficient management of product servicing.

Benefits of PLM Software

There are a great many benefits to be gained by using software tools to help manage a product lifecycle, not least among which are:

Improved Product Quality

CAD software can allow developers to test, modify and retest products until they are fully optimised. Using CAD software can slash the budget requirements of product development departments, allowing developers to get on with the job of designing rather than worrying about the development budget.

Reduced Time to Market

The streamlining of the manufacturing process using MPM tools can greatly reduce the development phase, as well as reducing manufacturing time scales for general production.

Improved Business Intelligence

While all of these tools and applications are being used they are constantly accruing data on the processes they optimise. This data can be used and re-used to optimise all future development cycles.

Reduced Cost

The increased speed and reduced waste that PLM software tools offer translates into direct savings on the balance sheet, both from savings in the development process and optimisations to the manufacturing process.