PLM Software Buyer's Guide
The Best PLM Software is All About Managing the Product Lifecycle
By Khaleel Hayes, Market Research Associate
Product lifecycle management (PLM) software is an essential tool for manufacturers and product designers alike. PLM software overviews the life of a product from the early brainstorming and designing phases to manufacturing and allocation to customers while displaying crucial workflows, data and insights. Sure, a manufacturing ERP solution can monitor a product’s productivity and distribution from one worksite to another and even carry an effective customer relationship management (CRM) tool to analyze how customers like or dislike your products. But a PLM software overviews the details of a product as well as its manufacturing operations and performance metrics.
Between 2020 and 2024, the PLM software market is expected to rise by $2.02 billion with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% — and it’s no surprise why. A proper PLM system can take your product generation procedures to new heights and keep your business relevant and competitive. Before you start your quest for the right PLM software, it’s important to understand its benefits and the features it possesses.
- PLM applications diminish communication silos during product development to guarantee every team and internal stakeholder has the current version of a product’s design.
- Before implementing your new PLM solution, you should develop several production objectives for successful execution.
- PLM systems are equipped with basic features such as quality management, bill of materials (BOM) management, product data management (PDM) and more, but there are additional features companies can choose to implement, such as computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and simulation.
- When contacting vendors, it’s imperative to have a list of questions at will so you can learn more about them and their solutions.
What This Guide Covers
See how the top 10 PLM Software leaders fare against the most common key requirements
Understanding PLM’s Benefits and The Manufacturers They Serve
As aforementioned, PLM is a tool designed for product developers and manufacturers to monitor and make any necessary adjustments to a product’s design.
Any changes employed with this software will promptly sync throughout the company and worksites so everyone can always stay in the loop of new or last-minute adjustments. There are five key advantages that a PLM solution offers.
Top Benefits of A PLM System
You can kiss fines, delays, lost sales and other risks that occur with non-compliances goodbye thanks to PLM software. This solution stores an elaborate list of time-stamped, detailed product revisions in one place for easy access in case of an audit. Also, if there are problems with a product after it leaves the manufacturing plant, like the space key on a wireless keyboard that shoots sparks when clients press it, for example, you can employ your PLM software to determine if that problem happens on other wireless keyboards. Then you can expeditiously allocate recalls for the affected devices.
By depleting infrastructure expenses, enhancing operation productivity, expediting a commodity’s market time and expanding on a product’s quality, a PLM solution can raise efficiency. When this software merges communications, workflows, documents and designs in one centralized place, production increases because your employees won’t have to sift through several different modules or emails to find what they need. Your team can also pinpoint, analyze and recycle information for product innovation.
In addition to maximizing productivity, creating a customer-centric environment can also lead to improved revenues for your enterprise. Thanks to PLM software, you can rest assured that you and other teams involved in your product’s lifecycle have access to customer feedback, eCommerce and sales metrics. You can use these metrics to brainstorm and implement greater products for your assembly line.
Ensure Product Quality
A proper PLM software can intertwine design and quality processes, assisting engineering and development groups in verifying the product follows compliances while still fulfilling its purpose. You can ensure top-notch products when you share customer and sales metrics with each department of your business such as engineering, sales, marketing, customer success, contract manufacturers, internal and external stakeholders, partners and more.
Share Transparent Data
It’s extremely crucial to share accurate information with the right people at the right time since we’re living in an era where information is instantly available at your fingertips thanks to social media, smart devices and speedy internet. A PLM application not only aids in sharing insights and product data locally but can also initiate sharing with remote, international and arising partners, replacing obsolete tools that squander time, welcomes input mistakes and invites potential loss of information.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top PLM Software
The Five Various Modes of Manufacturing
This solution serves a variety of industries and modes of manufacturing such as repetitive, discrete, job shop, batch process and continuous process.
Repetitive manufacturing is what typically comes to mind when people think of manufacturing. The same products or products in similar nature are created in a repetitive process. An example of this type of manufacturing type is creating PCs, keyboards or laptops. If you need to make 5,000 laptops in one week, repetitive manufacturing would be the most useful because it’s rapid and continuous.
A PLM software’s quality management accessory would be an ideal tool for this type of manufacturing. This tool verifies that all of your products meet the regulated guidelines while performing corrective action management tasks that can detect and rectify errors that may arise.
Discrete manufacturing abides by a nonlinear model to generate products (i.e., tables, cars, smartphones, etc.) that start in one location and carry out through a variety of worksites locally or globally. For example, the production for a smartphone may start with the frame of the phone that’s developed in China, the battery may be created at a worksite in Canada, the microphone is made in Argentina and the camera is made in America.
One ideal module from a PLM solution that can streamline this type of manufacturing is the bill of materials (BOM) module. This feature specifies raw parts, materials and sub-assemblies required to complete a specific product. This tool can also share material data across all teams and worksites within your enterprise.
Job Shop Manufacturing
Job shop manufacturing is a manufacturing technique practiced by small businesses or companies that make small amounts of parts or products for one customer at a time. There could be a mom-and-pop shoe shop that resides in a small town, for example, that makes shoes by hand for the local residents.
A BOM tool could also be ideal for this form of manufacturing. Similar to discrete manufacturing, it can keep track of raw materials and parts required to make specific products. The quality management accessory could also help because it can ensure all of your merchandise is top-notch and can swiftly resolve potential production issues.
Batch Process Manufacturing
Process manufacturing, unlike discrete manufacturing, follows sequential steps in a blueprint or plan to complete a finished product. This type of manufacturing typically transforms raw materials by means of pressure, heat or time to create a commodity and cannot be disassembled. Batch process manufacturing makes products in several batches. Let’s say a fruit smoothie company makes smoothies in batches. This commodity requires whole or diced fruit, yogurt and milk that can be mixed in and blended together.
The product data management (PDM) module on a PLM platform can assist in storing product data, enabling you to boost productivity by accessing your stored data and plans. Your teammates can also make revision notes on product information if necessary.
Continuous Process Manufacturing
Another extension of process manufacturing and similar to repetitive manufacturing is continuous process manufacturing, which creates products 24/7. Usual products made with this mode of manufacturing are liquids, gases and powders. You could also make granular materials if your company does mining. For example, your business may be creating apple cinnamon air fresheners and you have to keep making bottles of it to keep up with the demand.
A PLM program’s quality management and PDM accessories could be implemented for this mode of manufacturing.
You could also benefit from a change management tool to request, plan, execute and review any changes that pop up during any phase of a product’s lifecycle.
PLM Implementation Goals
To achieve a successful implementation of a PLM application, you should construct a thorough plan and list of goals you want your solution to fulfill. Here are a few goals to mull over:
Review your current PLM practices
|Before implementing new PLM software, it’s critical to understand how your business currently executes PLM duties. Are you using an outdated solution? Multiple software? Or are you performing these tasks manually with Excel spreadsheets? You’ll gain full visibility into how a new solution will benefit all of your departments and also evaluate which procedures are in need of tuneups.|
Gain insight from end-users
|Consider how this solution will affect the key players in your enterprise such as management, end-users and engineers. You may want to converse with these departments and ask what their toughest obstacles are when generating new merchandise so you can find a solution that seamlessly tackles all or most of these challenges.|
Designate your implementation leaders
|Finally, you should take time to determine who will lead in the implementation process of your new PLM software. If you find some of your team members competent, let them take the reins. However, it may be beneficial to use your vendor’s support team so you don’t overwhelm your staff.|
Through achieving these goals, you’ll gain the necessary insights to create a thorough and detailed list of requirements. Requirements are the features, functionalities and other facets of the system your business needs to fully benefit from the software. This guide will help you in learning more about PLM software so you get an idea of the solution that best aligns with your business needs.
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Basic PLM Platform Features & Functionality
These are some of the common features you’d typically find in PLM software. These features include:
|Bill of Materials (BOM) Management||A standard BOM management tool records and specifies the various raw materials or ingredients and their amounts needed to create a particular commodity.|
|Change Management||This accessory organizes product changes. You can request, plan, implement and evaluate design or process changes at any stage of a product’s lifecycle from blueprinting to manufacturing. This feature can also contain cost recalculation and schedule modification extensions.|
|Quality Management||A sound quality management module verifies that your product meets and complies with standard regulations to diminish risks. It also comes with a series of functions such as quality objective definitions, workflow management, monitoring and reporting, approval management, corrective action management and others across various departments and archived within the PLM software, making it one accurate source to ensure top-notch products.|
|Product Data Management (PDM)||The PDM module is used to sort, administer and study information about finished products such as product designs, necessities and procedures. Various team members throughout your company can include notes for product releases and revisions with this tool, which can initiate multi-department collaboration in the design and manufacturing stages of a product’s lifecycle. BOM, computer-aided design (CAD) files, supplier and materials data on machine operations are also accessible in PDM accessories.|
|Reporting and Analysis||In addition to customizable reports and storing product insights, a proper reporting and analytics accessory can identify when lead times and expenses are getting unbearable and you’re exceeding your projected estimates.|
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Advanced PLM Product Features to Consider
Depending on your industry and the complexity of your operations, additional accessories may be required. These features are usually delivered as standalone solutions, which may be sold as part of a PLM package or are sold separately.
|Computer-Aided Design (CAD)||CAD is a feature or software that assists designers and engineers in blueprinting and creating 2D or 3D models of products through a computer, so you don’t have to manually draw and map out these plans on paper.|
|Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM)||CAM transforms CAD files into prototypes of designs by automating manufacturing and machining processes with the help of a computer.|
A proper simulation tool allows you to test designs against life-like scenarios including thermal and chemical changes.
The best part about this accessory is you can perform various simulations from within this module before constructing a prototype, saving you money on raw materials.
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Conduct PLM Service Comparisons
When you’re performing a PLM system comparison, it’s important to thoroughly analyze all of their features. Businesses should formulate a list of requirements and verify that prospective vendors offer them. Furthermore, businesses should consider the depth of the capabilities offered within these features. This can be a difficult endeavor, especially if you’re not ready to demo several systems.
Thankfully, SelectHub’s analyst team has already evaluated the best PLM software including Siemens, Oracle, NetSuite and other vendors in our in-depth PLM software comparison matrix. Each vendor gets a score for how well they provide the most popular PLM requirements with an explanation from our analyst team. See how well PLM market leaders perform side-by-side with our unique tool.
Questions to Ask PLM Software Vendors
The first priority you need to understand before perusing PLM applications is that finding the right solution for your business will require more than just assessing features and functions. The reliability of the vendor or its partners and the services they offer is key. The best strategy in determining this information is to directly converse with the vendors and have a prepared list of questions to ask. Here are some sample questions to help you get started:
Do you have experience in my industry and with companies that are my size?
There’s no one-size-fits-all method in picking the right PLM platform. In fact, depending on the size of the company, its industry and growth plans, the selection process can vary. For example, if your plant decides to outsource with partners over international waters, it’s important to understand who will engage in the manufacturing processes. If your partners will handle all of the manufacturing and engineering, then it’s best that you get a simple PLM solution that can effectively create blueprints and models of your products. However, if you establish a plan where you complete 50% of the manufacturing and then ship the product to your partners to complete it, you may want to invest in a more intricate PLM software.
How well does your product integrate with other solutions?
How well can this PLM software work with other solutions, such as ERP, CRM or even other PLM solutions, to meet your production goals? This applies to your company, and even to other branches of your company across several regions. Let’s say, for example, that your headquarters in New York City hosts your design team, customer and IT support. Your manufacturing plants are located in France, Montreal and Japan. All of these plants use different software to operate. Unless you ask your various facilities to switch to a universal system, it’s important to know if your PLM software can play well with other software.
Also, consider how efficient it would be to integrate a PLM system with a new or existing ERP solution. Some of the benefits of fusing PLM and ERP software together are improved accuracy when inputting essential information, coherent coordination and communication across all of your departments along with a boost in satisfied customers with a handy CRM tool. Mid-sized and large companies simultaneously shop for new PLM and ERP programs while smaller companies usually focus on a new PLM software that can smoothly integrate with their existing ERP tool because it can be a costly upgrade.
Can your PLM system work as a standalone system?
Some small businesses decide they just want PLM software that can stand on its own without integrating with other solutions. They’ll search for the functions that they currently need with intentions of adding more software as they expand. This allows business owners to shop for a system without paying an arm and a leg for it. Another consideration to keep in mind is the software’s durability. You’d want to invest in a solution that can last at least five to 10 years tops and choose a vendor that can effortlessly add modules accordingly.
Can you inform me about your history of successful implementations?
It’s quintessential to find a reliable vendor with a proven track record of successful software implementations. How long have they been in business? How long have they implemented PLM software? What do their regular clients have to say about these installations? Any recently failed implementations and reasons for failures? How often do they provide upgrades? These and other questions should arise when checking the reliability of a software vendor.
What type of support and other services do you provide?
Vendors who offer PLM software usually offer installation and training services to teach and prepare their customers on how to use the solution. They should also offer helpful support services in case you run into technical problems. Some vendors offer onboarding and user adoption services, which is a more personalized way to support their customers during installation and a certain period of time after the system goes live. This means a user’s needs are clearly defined so vendors can deliver tailored training, custom integrations, personalized workflows and suggestions to improve business processes.
Furthermore, manufacturers with complex operations can benefit from engineering consulting and change management services. PLM vendors should have knowledge of the best engineering practices so they can assist buyers in optimizing their product development strategy. Some companies lack qualified personnel or expertise with business process reengineering and change management, which is why it’s important to work with a qualified PLM vendor.
What’s the average lifespan of your system?
As previously mentioned, it’s crucial to know the average lifespan of a new PLM system. Shopping for and setting up a new PLM solution is too expensive and time-consuming to do every one or two years. A solution should last at least five to 10 years. This can be difficult considering the ever-changing tone of the economy and how some industries are booming while others are steadily holding up or struggling to make profits. As you’re browsing for software, prioritize your needs and verify that your prospective program meets all or most of those needs and can last for a reasonable amount of time.
Expert recommendations and analysis on the top PLM Software
Choosing the ideal PLM software can be a daunting quest. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormous amount of features and vendors to choose from. Utilizing this guide, you can determine and map out your company’s needs, establish a thorough list of features and requirements and ask vendors the tough questions, you’ll find the solution that best aligns with your company so you can enhance your product development practices.
Creo is a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software. CAD capabilities allow users to create 2D and 3D renderings of products before they're sent to production. Users can efficiently share, study, simulate and revise designs to accelerate the production-to-market process with efficient and cost-effective merchandise. Creo's accessories include 3D modeling, simulation and analysis and augmented reality.
PTC Windchill is a product lifecycle management and supply chain management tool that utilizes the latest developments in technology to optimize operations. Automation and AR capabilities are some of the modern technologies that can be included in the system. The program increases the visibility of product concepts as they move throughout the lifecycle by collecting real-time CAD data.The automation capabilities of Windchill also allow for changes made downstream to be reflected in other areas, such as in technical documents and promotional materials. These changes can also be reflected in graphical representations of a product to ensure accuracy. Windchill works to reduce duplicate work and communication errors as a product moves throughout the lifecycle.
Aras enables efficient control of the entire product lifecycle. It contains change management tools that can provide notifications to relevant users when adjustments are made to ensure consistency throughout the lifecycle. It also accounts for a variety of regulatory standards to help with product compliance. The included visibility capabilities are robust, and user access is definable based on what’s relevant to each individual person. Multiple sources can be leveraged to develop insights, and multi-level bills of materials can be created as well.
Teamcenter gives users control over the product design lifecycle. It enables employees to reduce duplicate and incorrect processes through centralized features and functions that provide visualization of changes across a company. The system is available for deployment both in the cloud and on-premise, making it an adept solution for a range of companies is a variety of business sectors.Tools that ensure regulatory compliance are built into the system. Users can also create dashboards and customized reports to obtain actionable insights that are relevant to unique workflows. The program supports 2-D and 3-D designs and enables users to make revisions and comments in real time.
Created by Dassault Systemes, Enovia opens a broad range of opportunities to deliver product and business innovations that create positive experiences for customers. Enovia allows secure collaboration and innovation to execute a plan with flexible, constant optimization, real-time progress tracking and compliance with standards and regulations that transform market opportunities into marketplace advantages.
Sage Business Cloud X3 allows its users to collect data from various workflows and use those insights to inform and streamline operations. Automation can be implemented between processes such as sales and financial management to reduce the manual time spent on data entry and tedious communication among departments. For example, with Sage, the sales team could give discounts on products and have them instantly reflected in the financial system upon receipt of payment. This tool is available as both an on-premise and a cloud-based solution. It isn’t catered towards a specific industry or business size, which makes it a potential option for a variety of businesses. Sage offers a range of software that can be integrated relatively easily with this program so that you can customize your solution based on your specific needs. External services can also be implemented through APIs.
Agile PLM gives organizations visibility across the product lifecycle while also ensuring consistency and regulatory compliance. The program is deployable through the cloud, making it accessible to users at any time and any location, provided an internet connection is available. It centralizes operations to reduce duplicate processes and provide users with actionable insights to optimize production.
Logility is a software solution with a focus on transportation and supply chain management. This software package helps automate, streamline and optimize supply chain processes to cut costs and increase accuracy. Logility provides multiple avenues through which supply chains can be improved and contains a wide array of planning and forecasting tools. Logility employs algorithmic planning to assess and mitigate risks while keeping users informed of any incoming business opportunities. Gain visibility into a variety of supply chain operations and use the valuable data gathered from each process to make effective planning decisions.
PTC Arbortext is a system that assists in the automation of the product lifecycle. It is able to work with files in various graphical and textual formats to plan, create and develop technical content. Real-time data is used throughout the program to improve visibility across the product lifecycle. For example, CAD data is used to alter 2-D or 3-D renderings following product changes downstream.More than 25 languages are supported through PTC along with right-to-left functionality for other countries. Produced content can be filtered based on factors such as geography to create a consistent and relevant document for the user group. PTC Arbortext can also be easily integrated with other helpful PTC solutions such as Windchill.
Arena PLM is a cloud-based solution that gives internal and external users access to relevant product information throughout the entire design lifecycle. It provides capabilities such as project management, document management and collaboration functionality. It enables users to save money by developing effective bids and improving productivity through the automation of various workflows.Compliance with standards such as ISO and FDA is supported to ensure that everything is “up to code.” Easy deployment with no coding needed is a key feature along with its accessibility to any relevant user so long as they have internet access, no matter their physical location.
3DEXPERIENCE is a computer-aided design (CAD) software for designing and manufacturing products while also working as a business solution capable of meeting the needs of every department including sales, marketing, engineering and more. It assists in adding value when creating procedures and crafting distinct clientele experiences.Some of 3DEXPERIENCE's key features include 3D creator, 3D Merchandiser, aesthetical shape modeler, assembly simulation expert, business analytics manager, composites designer and more.
A best-of-breed product lifecycle management solution created specifically for process manufacturers, Infor Optiva helps companies accelerate their product development, minimize their cost of production, and ensure 100% regulatory compliance.
Infor VISUAL is a powerful enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution designed specifically for order-driven manufacturers. Infor VISUAL helps you overcome the many complexities of manufacturing, such as rising globalization, increasingly restrictive regulations, extended supply chains, growing customer pressures, and more. With Infor VISUAL, you can focus on boosting operational efficiency and introducing new products and services faster. You'll bring order to your orders, create a more predictable process, and generate greater revenue.
NetSuite WMS solution enables organizations to optimally manage their distribution operations with RF device directed putaway and picking tasks driven by customized user defined strategies and advanced capabilities like wave management, cartonization, cycle count planning, real time stock updates and integration with shipping systems.
Autodesk's Fusion Lifecycle boosts product creation proceedings through every department and location. It's a cloud solution that systematizes activities, crucial responsibilities and data for the most up-to-date information. Every worker has access to needed data at any given time of the day from any location. Some of its features include bill of materials (BOM), supplier cooperation, product data management and new product introduction to name a few.
Propel PLM is a solution designed to facilitate the management of a product's lifecycle from start to finish. Users can initiate the production of top-notch quality and original products that hit the market faster while decreasing costs, raising product throughput and establishing internal collaboration.Some of the key accessories Propel PLM possesses include computer-aided design (CAD) integration, bill of materials (BOMs) management, regulation compliance and cost supervision.
SAP PLM offers portfolio, project management and product lifecycle costing solutions for the complete product lifecycle experience. Users receive full clarity of teams, costs and fresh product innovations while also managing whole project lifecycles in one place. Users can also conduct portfolio traceability, planning, estimation accounting and closure.Other notable tools include resource management, analytics and reporting, inbound and outbound integration, thorough product scope and more.
Upchain is a cloud PLM solution designed to help small and medium-sized companies collaborate on design, engineering production, and maintenance processes across their entire value chain. Upchain makes managing complex design processes easy. It enables reliable control over change management as information moves from suppliers through to clients and back down in a closed-loop manufacturing environment. With cloud deployment and built-in workflow management and project dashboards, organizations can keep every stakeholder in the loop through an iterative design and development process. And Upchain isn’t a rip and replace solution. It’s been designed to overlay existing legacy technology to push and pull data as needed. There’s zero custom coding and zero implementation fees to get users up and running, making Upchain the most flexible cloud PLM on the market. With Upchain, you can hit production deadlines, reduce project risk, and deliver innovative products to market that grow your businesses and drive your bottom line. Core features Cloud storage Instant scaling Intuitive user interfaces CAD import, management export Rapid CAD upload/download GD T, DIE, and weldments support Browser-based cloud software (no install needed) Automated email approvals Microsoft Office integrations Legacy data integration BOM management Version control Dashboard creation Read and write 20+ CAD/ electrical CAD file formats Advanced plugins for NX, Creo, Catia, Inventor, Solid Edge, and SolidWorks Audit and compliance support 24/7 customer support Data mirroring
The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)/ Device History Record (DHR) module in the EnterpriseIQ Manufacturing ERP Software Solution provides a complete audit trail of a product's lifecycle from the design and quoting process through manufacture and maintenance, to the end of the life of the product. The EnterpriseIQ PLM/ DHR module helps companies tightly control processes.
The BOM software system from MasterControl controls all BOM iterations generated during the design process and enables users to exchange BOM data with suppliers. All departments get an updated, accurate view of revision levels of every component in their particular configurations. Documents defining components are easily viewed from the BOM, insuring that the right documents and revisions are used in manufacturing.
MasterControl offers a product lifecycle management solution for a more effective and efficient management of quality processes throughout the development process: discovery, prototyping, pre-clinical, clinical, regulatory approval, product launch, and post-marketing monitoring.
As an objective provider of end-to-end PLM advisory and implementation services we combine deep experience in strategy, process improvement and organizational effectiveness with expertise in large-scale PLM technology deployments for all of the leading PLM software solutions. Most software solution providers cab guide companies through the tactical steps of configuring and testing software, but few can provide a roadmap for process and performance improvement. Kalypso PLM methodology Rapid Results is designed to do just that.
AutoCAD Plant 3D is an extension of AutoCAD, a computer-aided design (CAD) application intended for engineers, architects and construction experts to develop 2D and 3D drawings of products and workpieces with precision.It allows users to plan, study and produce 2D geometry and 3D models with solids, surfaces, and mesh objects as well as automate tasks such as cross-referencing illustrations, attaching blocks, developing schedules and more. It also offers crafting and revising of piping and instrumentation diagrams (P IDs) in addition to extracting piping orthographics and isometrics with industry-specified toolsets for plant design.
Infor PLM can leverage data from across your entire enterprise to help you make better decisions about product development, management, design, and production. With Infor PLM, you can optimize every step of the product lifecycle to create higher quality products, launch new products in less time at a lower cost, and maximize profits.
Omnna is a cloud-based ERP for businesses of all sizes that aims to replace disparate legacy systems and provide a comprehensive end-to-end option for businesses looking to enhance their workflows. It manages processes for the supply chain lifecycle, point of sale, warehousing, customer relationship management (CRM) and more. It leverages artificial intelligence, integrations, customization and mobility to provide flexible and powerful functionality for a wide range of businesses.
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