• Product Lifecycle Management
  • According to the American Engineers’ Council for Professional Development (ECPD), which became the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET), ‘engineering’ is defined as the creative application of “scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.” Essentially the purview of engineering is - from the initial conception to the final disposition of a product.

    As with any discipline, standards and systems needed to be established to regulate the transition of a product through all the stages of its life to ensure its ‘intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.’ Thus the guiding principle of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) was created.

    In this discussion, PLM is treated as a guiding philosophy rather than a specific method. The five elements that are generally attributed to PLM are:

    Product Lifecycle Management Considering PLM as a guiding philosophy, it is better to think of these five elements as interconnected aspects instead of separate sequential stages. The transition of the product through its life stages can become quite cumbersome when the aspects of PLM are treated as separate stages. The handoff of deliverables between departments combined with breakdowns in communication and conflicting priorities can severely prolong activities. However, treating them as interconnected aspects creates a system where communication, prioritization, and activities are all aligned throughout all departments in an organization. This creates an ethos of teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation enabling the product to transition most efficiently through all the stages of product creation, testing, evaluation, validation, production, sustainment, and retirement.

    Treating PLM from an ideological point of view, it stands to reason that its elements should be discussed in the order leading from the most fundamental to the most emergent. That is, at the foundation of every project is the vast knowledge base of all the disciplines that are directly and indirectly relevant to it - Systems Engineering (SE). Then there is the task of managing and prioritizing that project among other projects as well as the multifarious resources required to perform its initial development and lifecycle sustainment - Product and Portfolio Management (PPM). At the beginning of the project’s life is the development and definition of its essence, which encompasses every step from the initial conceptualization to launching the project into production - Product Design (PD). Ensuring that the project not only looks good on paper but that it’s actually realizable is crucial at every point during the lifecycle - Manufacturing Process Management (MPM). Finally, establishing documentation about every aspect of the project provides communication that is crucial for both the project’s producer and its consumer - Product Data Management (PDM).

    This series of articles focuses on PLM as a whole, in its constituent elements, and how it can be used to its full potential.