We have a raging debate here at EvD Media. Harsh words have been spoken. Tears have been shed. And nameless individuals have found themselves sleeping in doghouses and whipping themselves in penitence for “being a meany-head”. The madness must stop, and in order for that to happen, we’re going to have to come to terms with a little gremlin called Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).

The War on PLM

If you’re a PLM skeptic, these three little letters represent a range of symptoms spanning from eye-rolling exasperation to anxiety to raised blood pressure to full on double-dose-of-Valium-I’d-rather-chew-on-tin-foil-and-broken-glass-than-deal-with-this-nightmare depression. On the other hand, if you’re like nameless others here at EvD Media, you believe that ‘PLM’ is as globally applicable to all topics of conversation in the same way that bacon bits are the universal garnish for every food product on earth.

Clearly, PLM is a source of conflict, and over the next few weeks we’re going to dive headlong into the fray, and see if we can make sense of this foggy, nebulous mess known as PLM.

The debate has nothing to do with specific PLM offerings from Autodesk, Dassault, Siemens, PTC, or anyone else in particular, but with PLM itself. What does it really offer an organization, and how does that translate (or not) to increased productivity?

The case for PLM:

PLM is not any one piece of software, but rather a way of connecting various parts of an organization into a single cohesive system. It allows designers to more easily take manufacturing issues into consideration, and allows manufacturers to synchronize operations with marketing and distribution. It’s a way of linking design and engineering to marketing to manufacturing to retail and logistics; it’s a way of making big, complex problems more manageable.

The case for stabbing your eyeballs out with screwdrivers:

The PLM-skeptic crowd see PLM software systems as antithetical to a truly creative, dynamic working culture. They see PLM as a way of squeezing every last inch of flexibility out of a system, and forcing everyone in an organization to comply with a particular way of thinking and working. They are the Davids to PLM’s Goliath, the hippies to PLM’s Nixon, the Steve Jobs’s to PLM’s ‘reality’.

To the anti-PLM kids- there’s a reason why most great ideas begin on bar napkins: creativity happens when we are relaxed enough to let our organizational schemes float away with a pint of Old Rasputin. Oppressive software systems, they argue, force us (or at least ‘strongly encourage’ us) to structure our working lives into predictable patterns that stifle divergent thinking and generally suck the joy out of life.

What do you think?

We want to know what you think about PLM. When has PLM saved/ruined the day? What PLM systems are you using, and how are they affecting your organization?


Adam O'Hern is an industrial designer, designing products ranging from laptops to power tools, classroom toys to bathroom fixtures, and pro audio gear to guitar tuners. In 2008 he founded cadjunkie.com, and in 2010 co-founded EvD Media with Josh Mings of SolidSmack.com, and the two collaborate on the EngineerVsDesigner.com podcast.