The last few years have seen Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) grow from a practice conducted purely by engineering departments into an essential driver of innovation, an all-encompassing strategic capability that every department gets involved in to power growth.
PLM is an approach to knowledge management that follows a product from conception through every stage of its existence, up to its eventual disposal. It has become particularly popular in recent years because of its implications for innovation, and because software for this practice has been developed to the point where it can be truly effective.
PLM is especially advantageous to companies looking to enhance their green credentials. With the environment a growing concern for many consumers, products must be increasingly designed so that the environmental friendliness of every aspect of its manufacture, packaging, and supply chain are considered and labelled. This is further complicated by regulations around sustainability and recycling, many of which vary from region to region.
Various methodologies are being developed within the PLM process to enable sustainable production that meets the requirements of customers and regulators.
Ford is one firm that is using PLM to track sustainability by working with its suppliers. The car manufacturer said it was doing this by matching “parts in the bill of materials with models of their individual carbon and energy impacts," which in turn allows engineers and designers "to roll up the carbon and energy impacts at a vehicle level" and pinpoint design changes that will have the greatest environmental impact.
The car industry is a good example of where PLM can be effective, with numerous suppliers providing different parts, all of which have different lifespans. By integrating designers and engineers with the rest of their surrounding business by adopting PLM, companies can improve their chances of designing better products, ensure that they can make them efficiently in a sustainable way, and that they can support them for years to come, increasing their durability and helping reduce wastage.