What is cloud Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)?

Cloud Diagram

Product lifecycle management in the cloud–or PLM in the cloud–is an internet-based system for managing a product and its associated information from concept to end of life. PLM in the cloud is growing in popularity with manufacturers around the world as a way to manage the stages of product development in order to collaborate, track and regulate changes to the product.

Moving to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) in the cloud

The term PLM was invented in the late 1990s as a new type of enterprise software emerged with an exclusive focus on product development. The concept of PLM was born as a response to accelerated design cycles and the increasing need for companies to track product data.

Prior to PLM, the options for product management were either paper-based solutions or expensive product data management (PDM) systems designed to manage large defense and aerospace computer aided design (CAD) files. As the load of high velocity changes increased in the industry, PLM systems emerged as a solution for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) looking to capture paper-based processes more efficiently.

Evolution from on-premise PLM solutions to PLM in the cloud

PLM was originally an on-premise software solution, but as companies increasingly needed to share product data with stakeholders both inside and outside the organization (including engineering, operations, manufacturing, quality, procurement, regulatory and marketing) the need for PLM in the cloud grew.

To be useful, product data must be seamlessly transferable across business lines to both suppliers and customers—especially in high tech organizations which often outsource. Companies need to collaborate on changes and send manufacturing data to several contract manufacturers (CMs) in high velocity, which makes cloud-based applications ideal for data transference.

Similar to on-premise PLM, PLM in the cloud is a helpful tool for product data management because it allows manufacturers to consolidate information about product development, streamline change orders and requests and improve communication with suppliers. But because a cloud PLM system is accessible to anyone with an internet connection, it is an easier way to manage complex product data in fast-moving and geographically dispersed organizations.

How is PLM in the cloud different than on-premise PLM?

There are many ways in which cloud PLM and on-premise PLM differ, and these differences lead many manufacturers to prefer PLM in the cloud to on-premise PLM solutions.

Cloud PLM solutions require a lower upfront cost to implement and are much cheaper to maintain, providing a lower total cost of ownership. Additionally, cloud PLM systems are better at facilitating communication between manufacturers and suppliers and can often provide a more streamlined solution for product data management and change control.

On-premise PLM has an expensive and time-intensive integration process which requires software licenses and a significant infrastructure investment. In contrast, cloud PLM solutions are maintained by the software provider, which means set-up is easy and requires no internal resources for updates. As a result, all users across the world access the same auto-updated version of the cloud PLM system.

PLM in the cloud enables better collaboration between manufacturers and their global supply chains by making product data accessible through any computer with an internet connection. PLM in the cloud also enables companies to grant limited viewing and editing access to specific users, protecting sensitive intellectual property without the hassle of firewalls and workarounds.

5 Advantages of Cloud PLM

  1. Easy to implement
  2. Facilitates innovation
  3. Seamless collaboration
  4. Powerful product data management
  5. Low total cost of ownership

Because PLM in the cloud is a more collaborative delivery model for PLM services than on-premise software, it is being adopted in growing numbers by manufacturers around the world.

How manufacturers can leverage PLM in the cloud

While cloud PLM solutions and on-premise PLM solutions both work to manage product data, there are some unique traits of cloud PLM solutions that can benefit manufacturers. Manufacturers can use cloud PLM systems to simplify change requests and orders, streamline supply chain interactions and dramatically increase efficiency.

The challenges of global time differences, language barriers and mismatched versions of product data are reduced when companies are able to centralize, control and analyze product information including bills of materials (BOM), part specifications and change orders online. Companies who outsource parts or assembly can also benefit from cloud PLM systems because they are able to instantly update product data for suppliers around the world and be confident that suppliers are working off the latest version of the BOM.

Why PLM in the cloud is a viable solution for data management

PLM software, in contrast to product data management (PDM), is cloud-friendly because it transfers data to the supply chain and is often broken down into a series of PDF 2D drawings, which significantly reduces data weight. And although PLM software is light-weight and flexible enough to exist in the cloud, it still provides a considerable level of functionality.

PDM is designed to store the massive CAD files of mechanical engineers that are considered too large and hefty to be stored in the cloud. With such large files, it is difficult to move PDM programs to the cloud.

Questions about cloud PLM security

How cloud PLM solutions deliver superior protection:

  • Secured data centers
  • Multiple firewalls
  • Strong data encryption
  • Backup data options

One of the main skepticisms of cloud PLM systems is the level of security offered for product data. PLM in the cloud stores detailed indented BOMs, so a breach of security may compromise intellectual property.

PLM in the cloud companies, like Arena, devote significant energy to ensuring optimal security, knowing that cloud companies must deliver superior protection to be fully accepted by the market.

Arena secures its data centers with 24 hour on-site armed guards, controlled user access lists and state of the art fire detection and suppression equipment. Perimeter defenses such as multiple firewalls and in-house technicians who monitor all logs provide additional security to product data. Arena PLM provides the strongest data encryption available and offers failover and backup data reliability which is routinely tested to ensure SLA 99.5% uptime protection against data loss due to catastrophic events. Application data security available with cloud PLM is on par with cloud banking solutions today.

Arena Solutions PLM in the cloud

For over a decade, Arena has been redefining PLM with a suite of cloud applications that enable engineering, manufacturing and their extended supply chains to work better together—from first prototype to full-scale production. We believe that cloud offers an unparalleled level of functionality and flexibility to manufacturers and supply chains around the world and we continue to develop new applications for manufacturers who want more elegant solutions for everyday problems.

Arena cloud PLM products simplify bill of materials (BOM) and change management and offer manufacturers the right balance of flexibility and control—at every point in the product lifecycle. Arena PartsList and Arena PDXViewer are lightweight single-user applications that allow manufacturers to move quickly and efficiently while designing, documenting and sharing a prototype. Arena PLM provides manufacturers with a centralized system of record to control product revisions, manage the engineering change process and share up-to-date BOMs with partners, suppliers and contract manufacturers.