PLM: Enabling Innovation

Sep 2, 2004

Peter Bilello

In today's challenging global market, enterprises must innovate to increase their market size, to bring significant value to their shareholders, customers, and employees, and in many cases to survive.

It is important that this innovation occur in all dimensions -- product, process, and organization -- to improve competitiveness and overall business performance. Companies who demonstrate continuous innovation that consistently results in "right-to-market" products and services can clearly differentiate themselves.

Innovation can occur spontaneously in almost any situation, but the ability to continuously innovate requires an environment that nurtures collaboration and enables the intellectual assets of the enterprise to be leveraged to their maximum potential. To attain this "environment for innovation," enterprises must be able to capture, manage, and leverage their intellectual assets.

PLM is the business strategy that best allows organizations to establish such an environment.

This strategic approach helps enterprises achieve their business goals of reducing costs, improving quality, and shortening time-to-market, while innovating their products, services, and business operations.

CIMdata defines PLM as a strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions in support of the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information across the extended enterprise from concept to end of life -- integrating people, processes, business systems, and information.

The core concepts of PLM are the:

  • accurate capture, at the point and time of creation, of all definition information related to the product and/or service, including the processes required for manufacturing, maintenance, and deposal of said product;
  • universal, secure, managed access and use of product definition information;
  • maintenance of the integrity of the product definition and related information throughout the life of the product, no matter what type of product it is, from concept to end of life;
  • management and maintenance of business processes used to create, manage, disseminate, share, and use product definition information.
  • The common thread each of these concepts share is ensuring the intellectual assets of a company and its extended enterprise are effectively created, captured, managed, and leveraged.

    Intellectual assets are comprised of all the components of the enterprise's product and process definition including, all mechanical, electronic, software, and documentation components as well as all business and manufacturing process definitions within the scope of the lifecycle.

    The power of PLM is managing these digital assets, whether within an organization or throughout its extended enterprise. PLM provides an enterprise with a digital highway for intellectual assets that ensures that the right product definition information is available at the right time, to the right people, in the right context.

    With the needed intellectual assets at their fingertips, PLM enables collaborative product development work environments that bring together expertise from multiple organizations. These are environments where people can develop new, innovative products and services, and design and establish innovative business, manufacturing, and support processes.

    Intellectual assets, when leveraged proactively, are a business competitive weapons in its ongoing pursuit to innovate, and PLM is the catalyst for leveraging those assets to achieve a high-level of customer satisfaction and corporate value.

    Peter Bilello is a senior consultant with CIMdata, an Ann Arbor, MI-based PLM consulting and research firm. While CIMdata works extensively with providers of PLM solutions, CIMdata neither resells nor represents any solution provider's products. Peter Bilello can be reached at (734) 668-9922 or via email at


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