How PLM for Engineering Is Different

May 5, 2022 Cadence PCB Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • Product lifecycles for engineered products encompass the entire development, manufacturing, and distribution process.

  • Teams use product lifecycle management (PLM) software for engineering to incorporate product development and revision processes into the PLM process.

  • While there are many PLM systems available, some cloud PLM systems are best suited for engineering teams that participate in product management and manufacturing.

PLM engineering

Every company that develops and manufactures engineered products needs to manage its product data throughout the product’s lifecycle. Highly innovative teams that build advanced products need software tools that help them quickly move through the innovation process while also tracking a product’s release to market. The engineering process can’t be divorced from these processes because development teams will need to participate in designing, revising, and repeatedly releasing projects to manufacturing throughout a product’s lifecycle.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) software is used by engineering teams within the broader process of enterprise management to help track product design data. PLM software is more than a design or engineering software suite; it is used as a management tool to help guide the release of products into the stages of design, manufacturing, distribution, and eventual decline in the market. Keep reading to see how engineering teams interact with product development and management via a PLM platform.

How Engineers Use PLM Software

PLM software is used for many product development and management tasks throughout the lifecycle of a product. It is primarily a data organization and tracking tool that provides many additional functions and integrations with other platforms. Older PLM systems operated primarily as product data management (PDM) systems, usually with an integrated version control system, but today’s PLM tools allow engineering teams to operate much more effectively thanks to a broader range of features and compatibility with other engineering applications.

Electronics engineering teams use many features in PLM platforms that are found in other industry-specific or operational-specific PLM software platforms. What is different for engineering teams in terms of how they interact with PLM systems is the workflow; engineering teams are intimately involved in the development process that culminates in a release to manufacturing and ultimately to market. However, today’s modern products also require engineering teams to have greater input into the application development process, the management of manufacturing, and even tasks like field marketing and customer support.

PLM engineering aspects

All the data in a PLM system can be tagged with a lifecycle status throughout the course of the product’s entire lifetime. Whenever any of the individual portions of a system reach their obsolete or end-of-life status, they can drive the entire product to become obsolete if not addressed periodically. An organization’s PLM system enables the tracking and access of this information so that product managers can help keep their products competitive.

Physical Design and Application

Engineers play the greatest role in new product development on the front end by developing the electrical and mechanical design documents needed to eventually manufacture the product. Application data should also be included with the other physical design documentation, giving application developers and physical designers the ability to see into each other’s design data. This is very important for modern engineering teams that must collaborate with each other on complex products.

Manufacturing Data

When a design is fully evaluated and ready to be released to manufacturing, the design data needs to be generated in standard file formats so that manufacturers can create tooling for the product. CAM data can also be stored in the organization’s PLM system as part of the final assembly data, and the data can be tagged with a lifecycle status so that engineering teams can track the most recent revisions of the product. Eventually, as the design is re-engineered to extend its lifetime, the manufacturing data will need to be updated as well to ensure the design will remain relevant over the long term.

Customer Success

When we think of engineering teams and the role they play in product development, we don’t often think about their role in customer success. Documentation like user manuals, training material, sales collateral, and other data needed for a product to succeed in the marketplace are often developed by—or in collaboration with—an engineering team. All of this documentation should be stored alongside the remaining design data in a PLM system.

Some products will simply be released to market and the engineer’s direct role ends; this is typical for consumer products, assuming there are no recalls or required rounds of re-engineering. For other products, such as those to be used by other engineers or technicians, it’s common for engineers to play a role in customer success by providing training, field demonstrations, and consultations with clients. Any training materials, datasheets, application notes, evaluation manuals, and other documentation can be treated just like other project data and should be stored in the PLM system. The PLM platform’s version control system will track revisions to these pieces of data as required updates are applied.

Change Orders and End-of-Life

Eventually, products will need to be updated in order to extend their lifetime and remain competitive. If this course of action is not taken, a product will eventually be retired from the market as it becomes obsolete. Obsolescence risk for a product will increase over time, eventually forcing designers to redesign or retire a product. As requirement changes are documented and change orders are created, these can be tracked and used to modify lifecycle statuses for past revisions of the design and assembly. These processes can become seamlessly integrated across functional teams and design applications with the right PLM system for engineering.

If you are looking for a scalable solution, consider Allegro Pulse. Pulse features include a workflow engine, data management, security protocols, and search capabilities. And, Pulse integrates seamlessly into many design tools, allowing it to manage the design data behind the scenes, freeing up engineers to focus on their work instead of juggling design files.

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to our team of experts.

About the Author

Cadence PCB solutions is a complete front to back design tool to enable fast and efficient product creation. Cadence enables users accurately shorten design cycles to hand off to manufacturing through modern, IPC-2581 industry standard.

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