Top Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software 2020

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Product lifecycle management software, often called PLM software, plays a core role in business today. For organizations with complicated or advanced product portfolios, tracking the various aspects of the design, manufacture and delivery process is challenging. This is where PLM software comes in.

Product lifecycle management software does exactly what the name suggests — it manages the entire life of a product from its birth in the mind of a designer through all the phases of development and delivery to customers until the day people stop using it. As PLM software evolves, it often leverages cloud computing or artificial intellience.

The heaviest users of PLM systems tend to sell physical products. For example, automotive and aerospace companies were among some of the earliest users of PLM software. Other industries that use PLM tools include food, apparel, consumer packaged goods, defense and life sciences. Some of the top PLM vendors tailor their products for the unique needs of these different industries or offer customizable solutions that can adapt to different industries.

The exact capabilities included in PLM solutions can vary quite a bit. However, most of them include design capabilities or integrations, bill of materials (BOM), documentation management, change management, parts management, change management, quality management, portfolio management, product data management and some analytics and reporting capabilities. Beyond these core features, vendors distinguish themselves by adding other abilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things (IoT) tracking, digital twins, mobility and others.

Because product development processes and PLM tools vary so widely, selecting the best PLM software for your organization's needs can be very difficult.

How to Select PLM Software

With PLM software, it is almost impossible to avoid vendor lock-in. Product lifecycle management is incredibly complex, and organizations often need to customize the software in order to make it work for their unique processes and procedures. For that reason, organizations need to be even more careful than usual when doing their due diligence and evaluating the options. Here are some tips:

  • Consider your deployment needs. Will you deploy your PLM software on your own servers or in the cloud? PLM applications are trending toward the cloud, and many cloud-native options are available. On the other hand, if you prefer traditional deployment, you will need to look for a vendor committed to supporting traditional on-premise deployment.
  • Look for industry-specific features. Certain vendors specialize in serving particular verticals. If you are in the food or fashion industry, a PLM vendor that primarily serves automotive customers might not be the best fit for your needs.
  • Make sure your PLM software will integrate with your other tools. If you already use a lot of tools from one of the large enterprise software vendors like SAP or Oracle, it might make sense to get your PLM solution from the same company. If you use software from a wide variety of different vendors, it might make more sense to go with a product with open architecture. Take your unique workflows and processes into consideration.
  • Try before you buy. All the vendors offer demos so that you can try the PLM applications before you purchase. Take full advantage of these opportunities to ensure that you are making a good long-term choice.

Jump to:

Top PLM Companies

Aras

Arras is a pure-play PLM vendor that targets the aerospace and defense, automotive, consumer packaged goods, energy, high-tech, manufacturing, life science, shipbuilding and transportation industries. Some of its best-known customers include Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Airbus, Microsoft, General Motors, Motorola, GE Aviation, Dow, Honda, FOX Electronics, The U.S. Army and others. Headquartered in Andover, Massachusetts, the privately held company was founded in 2000 and has around 500 employees.

The Aras Innovator PLM platform incorporates a broad range of PLM capabilities, including product engineering, change management, requirements engineering, CAD connector, configuration management, document management, digital twin core, and much more. It is built on a low-code, open, scalable, cloud-based platform. Training is available, and the company website also has subscriber portals and active discussion portals for users.

Compared to some of the alternatives, Innovator has very straightforward pricing. The platform is available as a free download for companies that want to run a demo or proof of concept. It is available on a SaaS basis with fees that depend on the number of users. Companies with more than 100,000 users will pay $13 per user per month, while those with less than 250 users will pay $79 per user per month.

Pros

  • All Aras applications are included with the cost of the subscription.
  • Low-code platform allows for flexible deployments that are well suited to Agile and DevOps environments.
  • Free download makes it easy to test drive the platform.

Cons

  • Installation can take longer than expected.
  • Learning to use the software can also take some time, and the interface is not a user-friendly as it could be.

Arena

Arena focuses on two types of software related to product development: product lifecycle management software and quality management system (QMS) software. It boasts more than 1,300 customers, including Square, First Alert, Nutanix, Citrix, Peloton, and others, primarily electronics and medical device vendors. It has won awards for being a top work place in the Bay Area, as well as for being a green supplier.

Arena's PLM solution is cloud-based and highly scalable. The company says that it speeds up the review process and ramp-up while ensuring regulatory compliance. It includes product development, change management, training management, supply chain collaboration, project management, requirements management, product record control and quality management capabilities.

The product has subscription-based pricing and promises low total cost of ownership, but it does not disclose pricing on its website. It does offer a free demo.

Pros

  • Arena gets high reviews from customers.
  • The cloud-based model enables scalability and easy deployment.
  • The company offers a solution built on AWS GovCloud that is designed to meet the needs of defense and other government contractors.

Cons

  • The search and filtering process could use some improvement.
  • Customers also say that customizing their particular workflows can be difficult.

Autodesk

Autodesk is probably best known for its AUTOCAD and other design software, but it also offers a wide range of other solutions, including its Fusion Lifecycle PLM software. The company serves customers in the manufacturing, engineering, architecture, construction, design and entertainment industries, and its PLM customers include TaylorMade Golf Company, Native Instruments, Thermotex, Willerby Holiday Homes, Memjet and others. Founded in 1982, Autodesk has its headquarters in San Rafael, California, and it employs more than 10,300 people worldwide. For fiscal 2020, it reported revenue of $3.27 billion.

The Fusion Lifecycle software is cloud-based and includes new product introduction, bill of materials, change management, quality management, supplier collaboration and product data management capabilities. It integrates with leading enterprise software from companies like Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Infor, Microsoft, and many others. It might also be a good option for organizations that use other Autodesk products.

The Pro version of Fusion Lifecycle costs $965 per use per year, and the Enterprise version costs $1,935 per user per year. Companies with Pro or Enterprise licenses can also purchase Participant licenses with a reduced set of features for $325 per user per year.

Pros

  • Fusion Lifecycle integrates with a lot of other popular enterprise applications.
  • Simplified pricing makes it easy to understand and forecast billing.
  • The cloud-based model makes it easy to access data and dashboards across different departments.

Cons

  • Users will need some training to thoroughly understand how to use the software.

Dassault Systèmes

Also known as 3DS, Dassault Systèmes describes itself as "The 3DExperience Company." It sells the well-known CATiA and SOLIDWORKS CAD software, as well as a variety of other modeling, marketing and analytics solutions, 3DEXPERIENCE ENOVIA product development and its Centric PLM product lifecycle management software. It serves more than 250,000 customers in the transportation, aerospace and defense, marine, industrial equipment, high tech, lifestyle, consumer package goods, life sciences, energy, construction and business services industries. Headquartered in Vélizy-Villacoublay, France, it is a subsidiary of Dassault Group and is the second largest software company in Europe.

The Centric PLM software includes features for fashion, retail, footwear, outdoor, consumer goods, lifestyle, home décor and manufacturing companies. It incorporates tools for merchandising, product development, logistics, executive management, design, sourcing, planning and more. A cloud-based version is available. The 3DEXPERIENCE ENOVIA product development platform includes CAD, document managent, PLM, change management, configuration management, and much more It is designed for aerospace, consumer packaging, automotive, industrial equipment and similar vertical markets.

The company does not disclose pricing on its website, but a demo is available.

Pros

  • Centric PLM is one of the few solutions with features designed for fashion and related industries.
  • The user interface is particularly easy to use, and it has a mobile version.
  • The latest versions have built-in artificial intelligence capabilities for image search and more.

Cons

  • Most users will require some training to use the software.

Infor

Infor's primary focus is its cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, but it also sells a range of other enterprise software for analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), HR, asset management, supply chain management and industry-specific products. Its PLM solutions are part of its CloudSuite line and come in specific versions for different vertical markets. The company has more than 67,000 customers worldwide, including 14,000 cloud customers. Headquartered in New York City, it has 140 offices in 44 different countries and 17,000 employees. In 2020, Infor was acquired by Koch Industries.

CloudSuite PLM comes in four distinct versions: CloudSuite PLM for Process for food, beverage, chemical and life sciences companies; CloudSuite PLM for Fashion for the fashion industry; Infor PLM Discrete for manufacturers, aerospace, defense and project-based businesses; and Infor PLM Accelerate, which speeds the launch of new products.

Pros

  • Infor's PLM solutions integrate with its ERP and other software.
  • The PLM solutions comes in versions tailored for specific industry needs.
  • Cloud-based software enables fast deployment.

Cons

  • Navigation can also sometimes be difficult.

Oracle

The second-largest software company in the world, Oracle is well known for its database, enterprise software and cloud computing products. Founded in 1977, the company is headquartered in Redwood City, California. In 2019, it reported total revenue of $39.5 billion.

Oracle offers a wide range of PLM software. Its cloud-based product lifecycle management solution is called Oracle Fusion Cloud PLM, or Oracle Cloud PLM for short. It includes innovation management, product development, quality management, product master data management and configurator modeling capabilities. Enterprises that use it include Bissell, Broadcom, Norton LifeLock and others. It costs $500 per user per month with a minimum of 10 users or $25 per employee per month with a minimum of 1,000 employees.

It sells on-premise PLM solutions as part of its the Agile Product Lifecycle Management portfolio. It includes Agile Product Collaboration, Agile Product Quality Management, Agile Product Portfolio Management, Agile Product Cost Management, Agile Product Governance and Compliance, Agile Engineering Collaboration, Oracle Product Lifecycle Analytics and others. It does not disclose prices for these products on its website.

Pros

  • Oracle offers a broad range of different PLM products to meet different needs.
  • Enterprises that use Oracle's database or other enterprise software will likely find it easier to integrate those tools with the PLM offerings.
  • It includes Internet of Things (IoT) analytics capabilities that help organizations take advantage of emerging opportunities more quickly.

Cons

  • Oracle's on-premise software can be expensive, particularly if organizations use many of the different available modules.

PTC

Another CAD software supplier with a product lifecycle management solution, PTC is the company behind Creo CAD software, ThingWorx industrial IoT software, Vuforia augmented reality software, Windchill PLM software and other tools. Founded in 1985, the company has its headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts. Its customers include Lego, INFINITI, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo Group, Sapura Energy, Qantas, Pratt & Whitney, Toyota, GM, Airbus and many others. In its most recent quarterly report, the company reported revenue or $352 million.

PTC's Windchill incorporates product data management (PDM) and product lifecycle management capabilities. Thanks to its open architecture, it integrates with many other enterprise applications and IoT platforms. You can deploy it on premises or in the cloud, and the company offers a wide variety of add-ons and extensions to meet organizations' unique needs.

The company does not disclose pricing on its website, but it does offer both upfront and subscription-based models. Free trials of its products are also available.

Pros

  • Windchill integrates with PTC's other design, augmented reality, and IoT software, as well as other enterprise applications.
  • The wide variety of add-ons, extensions and deployment options helps organizations get exactly the features they need.
  • Customers rate the product very highly.

Cons

  • Windchill is complex software, and new users face a steep learning curve.

SAP

The third largest software company in the world and the largest in Europe, SAP offers a wide variety of enterprise software, including its very popular ERP application. Founded in 1972, the company has its headquarters in Walldorf, Germany. For 2019, it reported total revenue of €27.553 billion.

SAP's PLM solution is part of its digital supply chain portfolio. It incorporates portfolio and project management, product costing, commercial project management, product engineering and project network capabilities. Organizations that use it include Humboldt Wedag, Kaeser Kompressoren and Sartorius. The company very recently signed a partnership agreement with Siemens (see below) that could improve its overall PLM capabilities.

Pricing for SAP's PLM tools is not available on the company's website, but it does offer a trial.

Pros

  • SAP's PLM solution integrates with its other enterprise software, including ERP and HANA database software.
  • The recent partnership with Siemens could bolster its PLM capabilities.
  • The PLM solution has very good integrated project management capabilities.

Cons

  • Some users complain that SAP's PLM does not integrate well with CAD tooling

Siemens

Another German company, Siemens offers a wide range of industrial and healthcare equipment and services, as well as PLM software. Founded in 1847, it has its headquarters in Munich, Germany. For 2019, it reported revenue of €86.849 billion.

Siemens offers several different PLM-related applications, including its flagship Teamcenter cloud-based PLM. Teamcenter incorporates BOM management, change management and document management capabilities, as well as integrating with the company's NX design and digital twin software. Customers that use Siemens PLM tools include Trek, Mahindra, Auburn University, Great Wall Wine Company and many others. As mentioned above, Siemens has recently signed a partnership with SAP, and the Teamcenter software will be the lynchpin of the companies' joint offering.

Some PLM-related software is available for purchase directly from the Siemens website, but the Teamcenter software is not. Organizations can buy the software directly from Siemens or through partners, but the company does not disclose pricing information on its website.

Pros

  • Siemens' partnership with SAP will likely expand the capabilities of its PLM software.
  • Teamcenter integrates easily with Siemens design tools and other software.
  • Teamcenter's interface is particularly user-friendly and easier to use than some of the other options in this category.

Cons

  • Teamcenter has a lot of good features that can be difficult to find if you are not an experienced user.

Upchain

Upchain is a pure-play, cloud-native PLM software vendor. Its customers include Magna, Inertia, Transpower, Xenith and others. Founded in 2015, it has its headquarters in Toronto, Canada, and in 2019 it was named to the Technology Fast 50 list of Canadian companies to watch.

Upchain offers both PLM and PDM capabilities, as well as workflows and integrations. It emphasizes collaboration, and it integrates with CAD programs and Microsoft Office. It includes BOM management, revision control, change management, dashboards and much more. And while many of the solutions on this list are targeted primarily at very large companies, Upchain also serves small and mid-sized businesses.

The software is available with four different types of licenses: View Only (free), Participant ($30 per user per month), Team ($70 per user per month) and Professional ($200 per user per month). The company also offers custom pricing and integrations for large enterprises.

Pros

  • Upchain offers features for small businesses as well as large enterprises.
  • The cloud-based solution is very easy to deploy.
  • The company gets high marks for its customer service.

Cons

  • Like many PLM solutions, it requires some training for people to use it effectively.
  • The tool is frequently updated, and as a result, the documentation is sometimes out of date.

PLM Software: Vendor Comparison Chart

Vendor

Product

Pros

Cons

Aras

Innovator

·   Simplified pricing

·   Low-code platform

·   Free download


·   Slow installation

Arena

Arena PLM

·   Cloud-based model

·   Excellent customer reviews

·   AWS GovCloud integration

·   Difficult customization

Autodesk

Fusion Lifecycle

·   Integration with enterprise applications

·   Simplified pricing

·   Cloud based

·   Poor document management

Dassault

·   Centric PLM

·   3DEXPERIENCE ENOVIA

·   Features for fashion, retail and related industries

·   Easy-to-use interface

·   Integrated AI

·   Requires training

Infor

·   CloudSuite PLM for Process

·   CloudSuite PLM for Fashion

·   Infor PLM Discrete

·   Infor PLM Accelerate

·   Integrates with ERP and other software

·   Tailored for specific industries

·   Cloud-based


·   Sometimes too industry-specific

·

Oracle

·   Oracle Fusion Cloud PLM

·   Agile Product Lifecycle Portfolio

·   Wide range of products

·   Integration with other Oracle products

·   IoT analytics

·   Limited customization for cloud version


PTC

Windchill

·   Open architecture/easy integrations

·   Multiple add-ons, extensions and deployment options

·   High customer ratings

·   Complexity


SAP

SAP PLM

·   Integration with enterprise software

·   Partnership with Siemens

·   Project management capabilities

·   Uncertainty surrounding Siemens partnership

Siemens

Teamcenter

·   Partnership with SAP

·   Integration with design tools

·   User-friendly interface


·   Hidden features

Upchain

Upchain

·   SMB-friendly

·   Easy deployment

·   Great customer service

·   Fewer features than other PLM software





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