Together we believe we can deliver a meaningful answer on the question: What are the complementary roles of PLM and PIM? In this post, our first joint introduction.
Note: The topic is not new. Already in 2005, Jim Brown from Tech-Clarity published a white-paper: The Complementary Roles of PIM and PLM. This all before digitization and connectivity became massive.
Let’s start with the abbreviations, the TLAs (Three-Letter-Acronyms) and their related domains
PLM – level 1
(Product Lifecycle Management – push)
For PLM, I want to stay close to the current definitions. It is the strategic approach to provide a governance infrastructure to deliver a product to the market. Starting from an early concept phase till manufacturing and in its extended definition also during its operational phase.
The above image is nicely summarizing the expected benefits of a traditional PLM implementation.
MDM (Master Data Management)
When product data is shared in an enterprise among multiple systems, there is a need for Master Data Management (MDM). Master Data Management focuses on a governance approach that information stored in various systems has the same meaning and shared values where relevant.
Interestingly, in the not-so-digital world of PLM, you do not see PLM vendors working on an MDM-approach. They do not care about an end-to-end connected strategy yet. I wrote about this topic in 2017 here: Master Data Management and PLM.
PIM (Product Information Management)
However, due to digitization and global connectivity, product information now becomes crucial to be available in real-time, wherever your customers are in the world.
In a competitive world, with an omnichannel strategy, you cannot survive without having your PIM streamlined and managed.
Product Innovation Platforms (PLM – Level 2 – Pull)
Let’s dive more profound in the two scenarios that we meet the most in business, PLM driving PIM (my comfort zone) and PIM driving the need for PLM (Squadra’s s area of expertise).
PLM driving PIM
PLM is a collection of best practices, dependent per industry to increase product revenue, reduce product-related costs and maximize the value of the product portfolio (source 2PLM)
This definition shows that PLM is a business strategy, not necessarily a system, but an infrastructure/approach to:
- ensure shorter time to market with the right quality (increasing product revenue)
- efficiently (reduce product-related costs – resources and scrap)
- deliver products that bring the best market revenue (maximize the value of the product portfolio)
The information handled by traditional PLM consists mostly of design data, i.e., specifications, manufacturing drawings, 3D Models, and Bill of Materials (physical part definitions) combined with version and revision management. In elaborate environments combined with processes supporting configuration management.
PLM implementations are more and more providing an enterprise backbone for product data. As a result of this expansion, there is a wish to support sales and catalogs, more efficiently, sharing master data from creation till publishing, combining the product portfolio with sales and service information in a digital way.
In particular, due to globalization, there was a need to make information globally available in different languages without a significant overhead of resources to manage the data or manage the disconnect from the real product data.
PIM driving the need for PLM
Because of changes in the retail market, the need for information in the publishing processes is also changing. Retailers also need to comply with new rules and legislation. The source of the required product information is often in the design process of the product.
A good example is ingredients and recipe information in the food retail sector. This information needs to be provided now by suppliers or by their own brand department that owns the design process of the product. Similar to RoHS or REACH compliance in the industry.
Retail and Wholesale can tackle own brands reasonably well with their PIM systems (or Excels), making use of workflows and product statuses. However, over the years, the information demands have increased, and a need for more sophisticated lifecycle management has emerged and, therefore the need for PLM (in this case, PLM also stands for Private Label Management).
In the image below, illustrates a PLM layer and a PIM layer, all leading towards rich product information for the end-users (either B2B or B2C).
In the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) world, most innovative products are coming from manufacturers. They have pipelines with lots of ideas resulting in a limited number of sellable products. In the Wholesale and Retail business, the Private Label development process usually has a smaller funnel but a high pressure on time to market, therefore, a higher need for efficiency in the product data chain.
These examples make it clear that more and more information is needed for publication in the sales process and therefore needs to be present in PIM systems. This information needs to be collected and available during the PLM release process. A seamless connection between the product release and sales processes will support the changing requirements and will reduce errors and rework in on data.
Market changes and digital transformation force us to work in value streams along the whole product lifecycle ensuring quality and time to market. PLM and PIM will be connected domains in the future, to enable smooth product go-to-market. Important is the use of data standards (PLM and PIM should speak a common language) – best based on industry standards so that cross-company communication on product data is possible.
What do you think? Do you see PLM and PIM getting together too, in your business?
Please share in the comments.