Product life cycle management (PLM) is a system of storing and managing all the data related to the life cycle of a product from the initial concept and design plans to production and disposal at the end of the product's life. Businesses using product life cycle management attempt to store data where the company and its partners can easily access it. Product life cycle management does not deal with the physical product itself, but rather with all the business and engineering information required for the product to have a successful life cycle. This helps everyone keep technical terms and plans organized, and lets all people involved know exactly where the company is in production.
The process begins when a company has an idea for a new product. It needs to make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to descriptions, ideas, and an overall understanding about how the product works and what exactly it does. Technical documents such as CAD drawings show the different parts of the product and carefully define what each part does.
Next the product moves from the concept and design phase to the manufacturing process. Product life cycle management is responsible for identifying the best way to make the product. The goal of the business is to produce a quality product quickly while spending only as much money on it as is necessary. Once the product is finished, the company moves into the selling phase. A company must carefully monitor and calculate how the product will do on the current market and anticipate any changes it may have to make to the product.
Finally, after the product has reached the end of its life cycle and that version can no longer sell, the company plans how to dispose of it. This step is extremely important for businesses manufacturing potentially dangerous items such as aerospace parts or medical equipment. The company develops a strategy to safely get rid of the product without risking harm to people or the environment.
Not everyone feels that product life cycle management works. Critics claim that a product's life cycle varies depending on how well the company markets the product and what the current market for that product is already like. Some claim that a product's sales can stretch long beyond the expected product life cycle and therefore companies should remember that what they expect to happen is not always what happens when the product is released into the real world.