What is PLM?
Product Lifecycle Management.
What do they manage?
The lifecycle of a product.
How do they manage the lifecycle of a product?
By using a product called PLM software or solution
There are many products in the market to help with product lifecycle management. PTC Windchill, Siemens PLM, and SAP PLM are a few examples from a long list. I have heard about ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) in the past. I have even briefly worked on a few proposals on ALM/PLM in my presales days. But it was a recent conversation I had with a colleague that made me pick it as blogging material.
Before I get to that, let’s return to the basics for a moment again.
What is PLM?
Product Lifecycle Management.
What is managed in PLM?
A product. Right?
What is a product?
Anything that is produced is a product.
Like a pen, pencil, car, house, phone, or computer.
Is that all? Do you think of only products that can be touched and felt when I say ‘product’?
Yes, but you can also add virtual products like software products.
Good, so do you think all these products can use product lifecycle management (PLM) software to manage their lifecycle?
Yes, it’s a no-brainer till this point.
Automotive, transportation, industrial equipment, aerospace and defense (A&D), and high tech are the industries that widely use PLM solutions today. However, many other industries that we never imagined would need a PLM solution also use it today. — PLM companies know this and so go after them.
What made me take an in-depth look at this subject and write about it today was an interesting use case that I came across recently. I heard about how the world’s leading cloud provider uses PLM software to manage the lifecycle of their data centers. I wouldn’t have been surprised if I was told it is being used for a hardware product like a server or a software product. What surprised me is that a data center’s lifecycle can be managed just like a product’s.
Does it surprise you? It did me. Why?
Because I never imagined a data center as a product.
It’s just my worldview that is blocking me from imagining anything physically bigger than a pen or pencil or, at the most, a car, as a product. But, if an airplane is a product, why not a data center? Like any other product, it has parts, workflows, and a supply chain, so it has a lifecycle. If you imagine a data center like a server, it will be easy to understand it. If you think of a data center as a product, then all its components, such as network infrastructure, storage infrastructure, computing resources, and security appliances, are its parts. All these parts together make up the end product, and it has a lifecycle. That is how it becomes eligible to have PLM software.
If I had stopped here, the story would have ended without further ado. But this use case triggered me to think about and inquire about other possible uses of PLM software. That is when I stumbled upon other surprises. Here are a few of those surprises that I thought were worth sharing with you.
The next one is from the retail industry. We already know that the manufacturing industry uses PLM to manage the lifecycle of its products. That’s because we think a product’s lifecycle ends when it reaches its ‘finished good’ state or when it becomes ready to ship. What we don’t know is that some retailers use PLM solutions to manage their product portfolios, assortments, and supply processes. The next time you walk into your favorite retail store and find your most wanted item for the best possible rate with the retailer’s private label, remind yourself that the retailer predicted your need using PLM software and made it available for you at that price. So, when exactly does a product’s lifecycle end? Let’s move on to the next use case with this thought in mind.
Consider an Apple iPhone or a Samsung phone as an example. Do you think they used PLM software to design their phone? Yes, obviously! When do you think the phone you hold in your hand stopped getting tracked in the PLM software? When it reached the end state of its manufacturing? No. When it left the manufacturing facility? No. When it left the retail shop? No. The phone that you are using right now is still being tracked by their PLM software. The regular firmware upgrades you get are based on how you use your phone and what problems you face while using it! Interesting, right? That’s what PLM solutions can do with the help of connected devices today.
We have been talking and hearing about how the world is becoming more service-oriented than product-oriented (yes, there is product-as-a-service as well, but let’s park that for another day). Despite that, the PLM market is growing and is expected to grow in the future. This growth is possible only thanks to the innovations of PLM companies. They keep expanding their product to meet the requirements of new industries and use cases on a daily basis. They have to do that because the world is changing more quickly than ever before. I would be eager to know what new use cases of PLM you have heard about. Please do write and let me know. Thank you.