Emerging from an alphabet soup of software application acronyms, PLM - product lifecycle management - is showing steady progress toward widespread adoption by business, according to a new report by Forrester Research. Analyst Roy Wildeman, along with co-authors Sharyn Leaver, Navi Radjou and Elisse Gaynor, says PLM has evolved from an application largely focused on product engineering and design, to one that embraces the complete lifecycle, defined by Forrester as "the collaborative management of product information from inception to retirement." Such sectors as automotive, high-tech, and aerospace and defense have embraced PLM as a means of boosting efficiency and partner collaboration. In the past, the report notes, companies have struggled with the coordination of product design across multiple engineers and functions. Now, they are under additional pressure to differentiate themselves through improved innovation - even as product lifecycles in key industries grow shorter. Product complexity increases as customers demand tools that are tailored to meet individual needs, while satisfying concerns related to privacy, safety, accounting and the environment. Meaningful progress toward those goals, companies realize, will come not just from engineering, but from cross-functional disciplines, ranging across manufacturing, sales and marketing. At the same time, the progressive globalization of supply chains has dispersed design and production, to the point where new strategies are required to keep everyone working in harmony. According to Forrester, PLM today incorporates such areas as idea management, project and portfolio management, configuration management, regulatory compliance, direct materials sourcing, manufacturing, marketing publishing and aftermarket support. Such efforts must be tightly coordinated in order to prevent the glitches that typify such complex processes. Increasingly, said Forrester, companies are viewing PLM as an answer to that problem.
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