When running a hardware product organization, you can use many different tools to make your job easier and increase your organization’s efficiency. Everything from computer-aided design (CAD) to enterprise resource planning (ERP) to compliance management can help you achieve your goals and increase profitability

One of the more powerful tools is the subject of today’s post: product lifecycle management (PLM) software. 

What is product lifecycle management software (PLM)?

Product lifecycle management software helps you track, process, and manage all product-related information. As product launch schedules become more compressed and competition increases, it’s important to ensure that you can quickly and efficiently manage all product data (e.g., requirements, part specs, CAD, drawings, quality, etc.) and track the changes that occur across the entire data set. 

Benefits of PLM software

There are many value drivers of having PLM. The benefits listed below will help you understand why PLM is important as a data management system and how it can increase the efficiency of your business and streamline your product data management processes

Centralized data management

Centralizing your data allows you to improve business processes and create cohesion across your workplace. When you don’t have a single source of truth for your data, you can risk data errors and inadvertently construct silos where certain information may only be accessible by certain departments or individuals. With centralized data management, you can access information from a common location and reduce mistakes that may result from decentralization. 

Greater production efficiency

PLM software can improve your production efficiency by helping you automate repetitive tasks. When you have a cloud-native PLM solution in place, you can increase cooperation and collaboration on product development which results in higher levels of production preparedness. You can also drive innovation by centralizing product feedback that can contribute to better product-based decisions through a broader exchange of ideas. 

Higher-quality products

Another major benefit of product lifecycle management software is the ability to create higher-quality products. When it comes to product creation, quality trumps quantity, and PLM helps you share information across disparate teams, allowing mechanical, electrical, software, manufacturing, and all other related teams to stay in sync. A central data source also ensures that all product details (e.g., component pricing, sourcing options, specifications, etc.) are kept consistent across all teams.

More flexibility and accessibility

Product lifecycle management software also helps increase the flexibility of and accessibility to data across your organization. No matter who you are in the organization, a PLM system creates a standard for best practices that everyone can understand. It allows you to make changes using real-time data the moment the need arises, rather than waiting for people with specific permissions to give other employees access to critical data. It will also help your teams collaborate and adapt to new changes without slowing down your processes.

The 9 best product lifecycle management software

Now that you understand why product lifecycle management software is a valuable asset for your business, let’s look at some of the best PLM software options on the market.

1) Duro

Duro is a powerful product lifecycle management software that helps businesses overcome challenges with siloed departments and a lack of data visibility. Duro, which can be implemented in as little as a day, enables teams to streamline change management, enable engineering with accurate sourcing information, as well as increase cross-departmental collaboration. These capabilities ensure accurate costing, lead time, and NPI launch dates for new products.

Duro is utilized by disruptive hardware companies across a broad range of industries including: space technology, industrial robotics, consumer electronics and farm technology. Duro is easy to use, quick to get set up, and comes with out-of-the-box options that help businesses avoid setup costs that are typical in the industry. 

Key capabilities 

  • Fast implementation: Unlike many other tools on this list, you can get Duro PLM up and running within the same day of purchase.
  • Free data integrations: There is no cost to getting data into Duro from other applications and there’s no need for integration consultants.
  • Easy to use: Any team member can quickly use Duro without extensive training or specialized knowledge.
  • Off-the-shelf (OTS) sourcing data: The data pulled comes from numerous suppliers to give engineers and buyers real-time data on availability, lead times, and pricing.

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2) Oracle Agile PLM

Oracle Agile PLM is a legacy first-generation cloud platform. It’s a comprehensive solution that allows you to track product requirements and complex product information. It can also help you track profitability and develop new solutions to launch your products faster and improve product quality. However, Oracle is no longer focused on developing the roadmap for this product. As a result, the product’s cloud capabilities are not up to date.

Key capabilities

  • Quality management: Get immediate visibility into any problems that pop up in your supply chain.
  • Portfolio management: Manage schedules, resources, and product data for your entire product development portfolio.
  • Master Data Management: Consolidate product data from all your enterprise applications, including PLM, ERP, and CRM. 
  • Cost management: Improve the request for quote process.
  • Model complex products: Build models to analyze product performance and user experience prior to release. 

3) Propel

Propel is an extension of Salesforce’s customer relationship management (CRM) solution. This can help keep data consistent between your CRM and PLM, but can make managing high-complexity, low-volume engineering tasks more difficult. It’s a popular solution for medical device manufacturers.

Key capabilities

  • Product value management: Manage the product over its lifetime and optimize for successful economic outcomes.
  • Enterprise integrations: Connect with other business applications, such as ERP with Propel’s Enterprise Integration Framework
  • Project management: Features to manage schedules and tasks to gain accurate timelines. 
  • Compliance management: Stay on top of compliance needs and examine product quality, change, and issue management with Propel’s quality management system (QMS).

4) Arena PLM

Arena PLM is a legacy first-generation cloud platform. The platform has many configurability and customization options, which can take time to set up. There are an extensive number of features available within the platform, making it suitable for businesses with diverse needs. However, this can lead to difficulties in getting new employees onboarded to the platform quickly. 

Because it’s a legacy tool, some UX features don’t match most modern cloud solutions. However, the extent of customization Arena provides is helpful for complex enterprises.

Key capabilities

  • Document management: Store, organize, and access a library for all of your essential documents.
  • Compliance management: Stay current on FDA, ISO, EAR, ITAR, and environmental compliance regulations.
  • BOM management: Link engineering changes to BOMs and simplify management of parts and assemblies.
  • Quality management: Manage quality processes and track the full product record to address quality concerns quickly.

5) Odoo

Odoo is an open-source platform with various business applications for manufacturing businesses. In addition to PLM, Odoo also offers solutions for CRM, accounting, inventory management, point of sale, ecommerce, and project management. This can help businesses looking for tools that can be applied across different functions but Odoo PLM lacks the focus that specialist PLM vendors provide. 

Because this tool is modular, it has many add-on options — and businesses often need development experts to ensure integrations and setup are deployed properly.

Key capabilities

  • Engineering change management: Communicate with team members across departments with an enterprise social network.
  • Document management: Share access to multiple versions of drawings, worksheets, and BOMs with manufacturing. 
  • Real-time tracking: Align all departments by sharing real-time changes, so everyone is on the same page.
  • Integration with Odoo apps: Integrate your PLM with all other Odoo applications, including CRM and financial apps.

6) Siemens Teamcenter

Siemens Teamcenter is primarily used by organizations across defense, automotive, aerospace, and discrete engineering. It’s an on-premise solution with a robust number of features, but can be difficult to maintain. It also lacks the flexibility provided by cloud-based PLM solutions that cater to distributed, agile organizations with growing teams. It’s a better choice for large enterprises rather than small to mid-sized businesses.

Key capabilities

  • Configuration management: Manage product definitions for numerous variations with advanced BOM management. 
  • Additive manufacturing: Manufacture complex designs with 3D printing capabilities. 
  • Manufacturing process management: Learn about your processes and develop more efficient means of production. 
  • Document management: Organize and access all of your essential engineering documents.

7) PTC Windchill

PTC Windchill is another PLM platform suited for large, complex enterprises. It’s a widely established tool that is on-premise rather than cloud-based. It offers many different customization and integration options, but these tend to be lengthy to complete due to the complexity of the tool itself and the companies that use it. However, it does provide enterprise businesses with many options and tools for their needs.

Key capabilities

  • Requirements management: Unify requirements across teams and vendors and validate all product aspects. 
  • Product variant management: Validate product variants and link products to plan for different configurations.
  • Change management: Use the change review board to evaluate major and minor changes in product designs.
  • Multi-level bill of materials (BOM): View product structures and relationships in a single visual platform.

8) Aras PLM

Aras is a PLM solution used by large global businesses. Most of the customers of Aras have thousands of users and a large, diverse ecosystem of suppliers and vendors. 

The platform can handle extremely complex engineering processes successfully. However, it’s not a good option for smaller, nimbler businesses that need to adapt quickly to change and alterations in the supply chain. It requires significant and lengthy consulting services to get set up and adapt the platform to your requirements. 

Key capabilities

  • Program management: Manage resources, the status of projects, cost, and schedules to increase efficiency.
  • Manufacturing process planning: Transform an engineering bill of materials (EBOM) into a manufacturing bill of materials (MBOM) and document assembly instructions for the shop floor.
  • Simulation management: Enable automated simulations to optimize performance and improve product design.
  • Complex process handling: No matter how complicated your processes are, Aras can create custom solutions. 

9) Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain

Autodesk is a large company that has acquired many PLM solutions, including Upchain. The PLM features in Upchain  are best suited to mechanical engineering processes. The platform can be complicated to use, and the future of Upchain under its parent company Autodesk is less certain, as the business has been focused on its computer-aided-design (CAD) business rather than PLM. 

Currently, Fusion 360 Manage with Upchain is in the process of being converted from an on-premise tool to a cloud-based solution. 

Key capabilities

  • Product Data Management (PDM): Centralize and track core product data to make teams more efficient.
  • CAD integrations: Connect directly to mechanical and electrical CAD tools, including Autodesk’s AutoCAD product.
  • Product analytics: Use dashboards to understand product status and progress on KPIs.
  • Supplier connections: Improve scalable supply chain processes by accessing procurement data. 

Manage your product lifecycle seamlessly with Duro

At Duro, we believe in providing PLM-focused solutions for agile businesses that want flexibility and adaptability at the heart of their product lifecycle processes. To learn more, visit Duro and discover how we can help your business improve today.