Six things you didn’t know about PLM

Nov. 21, 2007
The latest software for managing product life cycles is more capable and easier to work with than it was just a few years ago.

Bill Boswell
Senior Director
Teamcenter Product Marketing
Siemens PLM Software
Ames, Iowa

Software for managing product life cycles once had a reputation for being expensive and taking a long time to implement because it had to be customized for each company. Training was equally time consuming. And although upgrades were less difficult, they also took their share of time to program and put in place.

The PLM industry has come a long way since then. So much so that the latest software is a lot more advanced and smarter than you might think. To shake those old ideas loose, here are several unheralded capabilities in recent versions of PLM that makes design work more efficient.

PLM comes ready to work. Software solutions like ours come in versions pretailored to specific needs of particular industries. For example, industry-specific versions of PLM software for automotive and aerospace organizations have been developed with leading companies from these industry sectors. Users of tailored versions say it implements faster because certain aspects of the system that were previously necessary to customize (such as parts lists, industry-specific forms, and processes) are preconfigured for the industry.

One major aerospace company, for example, uses the industry- tailored software to manage and track deliverables in required data lists. In addition, the software contains out-of-the-box program orientation for administrative data, change management, industry attributes, and part lists.

Don’t customize it, configure it more yourself. Business Modeler Integrated Development Environment (BMIDE) addresses the configure-versus-customization issue. Rather than requiring companies to write software for particular PLM functions, BMIDE helps them set up business processes and data models (in essence what a company wants its PLM screens to look like) using rules and diagrams. The BMIDE then generates the code to make this happen. The software must work the way a company does business to have the greatest payoff and this makes it easier to keep up to date with PLM releases.

Good-bye client- server architecture. The architectural foundation of PLM should be state-of-the-art technology. So instead of the client- server architecture of the past, modern PLM software is built on the more nimble service- oriented architecture (SOA). According to market research firm CIMdata, SOA-based PLM “reduces the cost and complexity of deploying and maintaining a distributed PLM environment.”

Business software developers are adopting SOA because it reduces the time needed to add capabilities. SOA also lowers the total cost of PLM ownership for engineering firms. CIMdata adds that over the long term, SOA also lowers the cost of upgrades and deployments.

One of the most important benefits of SOA is that it makes it easier to let the PLM system work with other applications. For example, users typically link Teamcenter software with one or more CAD and CAM systems, various CFD and FEA programs, an ERP system, and other business applications. SOA makes it easier to connect these tools.

Hot patches for 24/7 operation. A company’s PLM can span the globe with people working with it every hour of the day. So there is no good time to shut down all the servers to install upgrades. Look for a PLM system that addresses this issue with support for hot deployment, which means it’s possible to update the software without taking the system down.

PLM almost teaches itself. The PLM in a global company can span several languages and cultures, so all users need an easyto- learn interface that is common at all sites. Old interfaces are being replaced with a Microsoft Outlook look-andfeel making PLM more intuitive for everyone. In fact, look for Microsoft Office to serve as a frontend to some PLM functions to further reduce training costs.

The software is less expensive to own and operate. You may have sensed this in each preceding point. Those responsible for purchasing business software know costs go beyond license prices. Total costs include expenses related to installation, maintenance, upgrades, and training. This is an issue when the software is first implemented, and comes into play each time the software is updated because most companies want the improvements to continue from release to release.


Productivity tools such as 3D views linked to a product’s bill-of-material help reduce overall costs of PLM ownership by making complex BOMs easier to understand and intuitive to use. BOM productivity tools can help streamline steps in the productlife cycle by comparing and analyzing the product BOM and the manufacturing Bill of Process.



The service-oriented architecture of modern PLM systems make it easier to link with other software such as the ECAD program that helped design this PCB. PLM could also link to ERP, CFD, FEA, and MCAD.


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