Trends and Technologies In PLM

By Marianne D’Aquila

Executive Overview

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has increasingly become a significant component of a broader industrial digital transformation strategy. The PLM solutions of today offer seamless integration of a product’s lifecycle and now enable the complete, digital definition of a product across engineering domains and functional departments. PLM has come a long way from the historical roots of simply being confined to a company’s design/build process.

Even before the global pandemic, manufacturers recognized the need to become more agile, efficient and operationally resilient. However, COVID-19 amplified and accelerated timelines for digital transformation as entities realized they need new competitive ways to not only survive but thrive in the new normal. Digital transformation is becoming critical for an organization’s health and viability, both short- and long-term. New business processes, services and models are actively being pursued as a result.

ARC divides the overall product lifecycle space into three distinct solution set sectors:

  • Collaborative/multidiscipline design tools (CAD/CAM/CAE)
  • Product data management (PDM)
  • Digital manufacturing/Manufacturing process management

These solutions are the foundation for the trends and strategies discussed in this report.

Before embarking on any serious capital expenditure on technology, it is important to strategize throughout the organization, on a plan that reflects areas where improved manufacturing operational efficiencies and end user products can truly benefit.

Successful companies recognize the need for a cohesive companywide strategy involving multiple stakeholders. The strategy involves end-to-end thinking from the very early steps of product design to the final steps of ensuring a quality product. In this report we discuss the various trends and elements of a successful product lifecycle management strategy.

Why PLM Is Essential to Your Digital Transformation Strategy

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) has increasing become a significant component of broader industrial digital transformation strategy. Today’s PLM solution enables the complete, digital definition of a product across engineering domains and functional departments. PLM has come a long way from its historical roots of simply being confined to a company’s design/build process.

As part of a broader digital transformation strategy, PLM is part of the solution for new product development, operational efficiencies, and disrupted supply chains. While specific objectives vary by customer, industry, etc., digital transformation strategies are generally tasked with improving business performance in areas, such as reduced cost, increased revenue, and improved business processes. When implemented strategically, PLM can help innovate new products, optimize product design, reduce time from idea to production, reduce unplanned downtime, and reduce the risks and costs associated with increasingly complex supply chains.

Eliminating unplanned downtime delivers the best Return on Assets (ROA). Ultimately anyone who is serious about digital transformation is going to be forced to examine the cost of resources necessary for advanced analytics versus the potential for catastrophic risk when critical assets fail.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, manufacturers faced numerous challenges such as market and commodity uncertainty, rapid fluctuations in demand, supply chain disruptions, and the need to become more agile, efficient, and sustainable. However, the current pandemic magnified those challenges, leading manufacturers to focus on operational resilience as a key corporate objective.

Trends and Technologies In PLMTo achieve operational resilience, companies must often break down physical and organizational boundaries to engage its workforce, connect teams, and enhance real-time collaboration more fully. Operational resilience also requires supply chains to be managed in real time to maintain their integrity, agility, and flexibility, enabling the supply chains to respond to market demand and shifts in material availability. Companies are deploying new methodologies to protect against unscheduled downtime and asset failures, ensure product fulfillment, and enhance security architectures.

Risky supply chains have been brought front and center this past year. Supply chains are fragile due to political turmoil, climatic events, pandemics, and economic uncertainty. Additive manufacturing and the use of generative design mitigates supply chain risk with a “design anywhere, produce locally” strategy. Ultimately, this can alleviate expensive complex manufacturing, shorten lead times, and reduce inventory. Producing locally also mitigates high import/export costs and risky sole sourcing.

Before embarking on implementation of PLM as part of a digital transformation solution, and the associated capital expenditure, it is crucial to have a proper strategy in place to make it work. There is no one size fits all manufacturing approach. A good strategy is based on understanding the technologies, offerings, services, use cases and business outcomes as part of a broader corporate-wide digital transformation objective.

Current Trends and Technologies in PLM

Innovative Transformative Technologies Will Increase Demand

Innovative technologies commonly used for digital transformation, such as additive manufacturing, augmented reality, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence, facilitate a company’s enablement of their PLM solutions with new capabilities. This trend is expected to grow as these technologies become more robust, increasing the demand for PLM.

For example, artificial intelligence is playing a larger role in generative product design. PLM suppliers are using machine learning to provide generative designs for technologies like additive manufacturing and advanced materials, streamline the user experience, assist in design creation, and in some cases create designs autonomously.

Comprehensive Multi-functional Simulation Platforms Continue to Emerge

Engineering organizations today must develop smart products that integrate mechanical functions with electronics and controls, utilize new materials and manufacturing methods, and deliver innovative designs within shorter and shorter design cycles. This requires current engineering practices for product performance verification to evolve into a digital twin approach, which enables engineers to follow a more predictive process for system-driven product development.

Manufacturers are ramping up to meet demand for the growing “smart product” market and looking for ways to mitigate the challenges of developing, manufacturing, and delivering these new products and systems that are significantly more complex and requiring multi-engineering discipline integration. Engineers can use model-based design (MBD) simulation solution to virtually assess and optimize the performance of the cyber-physical and mechatronic systems. This provides engineers with the ability to simulate, test, and validate their systems’ design in a concurrent lifecycle process from early development stages until final validation.

Many of the PLM market leaders are now offering these simulation platforms as part of their overall product development solution set. As companies pursue their digital transformation journey and adopt technologies such as digital twin, simulation solutions will become even more critical to introducing new and innovative products.


Table of Contents

  • Executive Overview
  • Why PLM Is Essential to Your Digital Transformation Strategy
  • Current Trends and Technologies in PLM
  • PLM Strategies for Buyers
  • PLM Strategies for Suppliers
  • Recommendations


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