The history of PLM
From CAD to PLM 4.0
Managing products throughout their lifecycle is not a new concept. The process is ancient. It’s been around since products were first being sold. But, PLM as we know it today began with early product development solutions and the creation of computer-aided design (CAD) software. These early product development solutions were useful, but they introduced a big problem: how to manage, distribute, find, and reuse large CAD files. Back then, computers weren’t designed to store these large files, much less share them. Product data management (PDM) was introduced to tackle this issue. Before 1990, PDM—or PLM 1.0—solutions were CAD-centric and focused almost entirely on the CAD file or document management. This quickly expanded into managing the bill of material (BOM) and engineering change processes (ECOs), but remained focused solely on product development.
In the 1990s, globalization, outsourcing, and time to market pressures forced companies to expand their PDM deployments. Early PLM software, or PLM 2.0, was introduced with a layer of security and collaboration features, and it helped support many functions throughout the product lifecycle including quality planning, manufacturing, product compliance, product costing, and others to address challenges beyond core product development. While PDM is still the core of any PLM solution, legacy tools were neither complete nor user friendly, and required expensive and extensive customizations.
After 2000, a new generation of PLM software emerged, PLM 3.0. This new evolution was focused on product launches and incorporated more capabilities across the lifecycle including innovation and requirements management, as well as improved connections with downstream manufacturing, supply chain processes, and commercialization processes. In many cases, these capabilities were acquired and integrated with legacy tools. While companies were able to leverage this new functionality, this legacy approach was complex and still required extensive customizations.
Meanwhile, the pressures that drove the initial development of PDM and early PLM solutions grew. Business demanded solutions to meet their product and process innovation requirements, as well as the latest digital/business transformation and Industry 4.0 initiatives. Today, modern PLM software, PLM 4.0, is supply chain and customer-centric. It’s built on a software as a service (SaaS) model so companies no longer have to hire an entire IT department to manage it. With PLM 4.0, companies can establish and monitor a digital thread that connects the many voices of machine (Internet of Things), product (including digital twins), factory, and customer (via social monitoring) across the enterprise. Having access to this information from anywhere, at any time, bidirectionally in the cloud tightly links once-disparate business processes, breaks the barriers of data silos, and eliminates the complexity of gathering data across supply networks. The result is faster innovation, better decision-making, improved time to market, reduced costs, and enhanced product quality.