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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) in Aerospace and Defense

In the electronics industry, the majority of new products are an enhancement of an existing product. Typically new models are developed to be faster, smaller, lighter, or include additional functionality. However, occasionally an innovative, original concept will be conceived to address a gap in the market or to exploit a new technology or material that has become available.

To be taken forward, the new product must meet the criteria or be technologically feasible, that is possible to make using available resources and financially viable. The financial benefits of creating the product will be greater than the cost of developing and producing it.

Product lifecycle management (PLM) is a holistic approach to product development. It is the process of managing a product’s lifecycle from inception, through design and manufacturing, to sales, service, and eventually retirement. Put another way, PLM means managing everything involved with a product from cradle to grave.

Today, PLM has been adopted across manufacturing to foster collaboration, boost innovation, and efficiently support growth through designing to customer demand and product individualization

In the electronics industry, collaborative working across multi-disciplinary teams is essential for successful electronics product development. Expertise from electronics design specialists requires support from the mechanical and electrical capability to create functionally great products. In contrast, financial and marketing expertise is needed to ensure the product is successful.

PLM platforms are suites of connected software bringing together people, processes and data, creating a seamless collaborative environment. And making product creation simple, successful and sustainable.



Product life cycle

Innovation & Design: The product lifecycle begins with a basic concept or idea. Here, new product ideas are explored, and the most promising ones are selected for development. Product requirements are defined based on factors including competitor analysis, gaps in the market, or customer needs.

The requirements are written in a formal document called the PRD (Product Requirements Document). PRD includes the complete list of features to be included in the product, the specific performance metrics each feature must meet, estimated production volumes, target costs, target product release timelines, and  product roadmap.

PLM system

The vision is to manage all data relating to the design, production, support, and ultimate disposal of manufactured goods. The software makes it easy to track and share data along the product value chain, from initial design through manufacturing, supply chain management and operations, and asset maintenance.

PLM can be thought of as both (a) a repository for all information that affects a product, and (b) a communication process between product stakeholders: principally marketing, engineering, manufacturing and field service. The PLM system is the first place where all product information from marketing and design comes together, and where it leaves in a form suitable for production and support.

A PLM system gives designers and engineers access to the critical data they need in real time. The system streamlines project management by linking CAD (computer-aided design) data with a bill of materials and other enterprise data sources, such as integration with an ERP system, and manages this product data through all stages of the product development lifecycle.

The three main elements of PLM are:

  • Platform and Tools: This is all about the necessary unified platforms and systems, including the architecture, tools, and standards. Product Lifecycle Management platforms provide solutions for an array of disciplines – Engineering and Design, Manufacturing, Simulation and more. And, as each of these areas encompass various specialisms, it makes sense to provide specialist software tools for them. So, a PLM platform may connect Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software suites such as CATIA or SOLIDWORKS with Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAM) software suites such as DELMIA. And the PLM platform ecosystem connects all applications, tools and software available for use in conjunction with your PLM platform.
  • The Processes: This includes all of the people, skills, and organizations involved. Another component that also falls under Management is being able to work together in a structured way both internally and externally. So, you want to get a grip on these collaborations and be able to scale them up so far that you can work together easily, even internationally. Process Management is about how a product should be developed and what product information is related to it. For example, certifications, product documentation, manuals and change processes.
  • The Methods: This is the procedures, rules, and practices. Last, but not least, Change Management tackles the way that changes pass through an organization. This is best captured in a workflow. This is a great way to create insights for employees regarding their tasks and responsibilities.


Product Design

The goal of this stage is to design and build an instance of the product that meets the functional requirements in the PRD.  It covers the various engineering activities necessary to transform a concept into a practical solution.

During this development phase, product designs are matured, materials are selected and both virtual and real prototypes are created for testing until they meet the respective operating conditions. Most importantly, this phase is repeated to ensure that customer requirement are met with a well-defined product.

Electronic engineers design the circuitry while mechanical engineers design the enclosure. Other specialists provide design inputs for everything from user interface design, thermal management to electromagnetic compatibility.

This phase includes validation and analysis of the planned product, as well as prototype development and piloting in the field. This generates vital feedback on how the product is used and what further refinements are needed.

The PLM for manufacturing solution will manage the dissemination of product requirements and the collation and integration of design decisions into a single repository representing the electronics product development.

Aggregate Product Data

The technical, production, sales, and marketing data associated with a product comes in many forms. This could be in the form of CAD files, simulation models, manufacturing files in standard formats, or word processor documents. No matter how that data was created or what format it is in, all the data related to a product should be aggregated within the PLM system so that teams can build their functional processes around the entire set of product data. The PLM platform should act as a single point of reference for all data related to a product so that stakeholders can implement any product data into the PLM process and their functional processes.

PLM software makes this possible by integrating data across multiple enterprise systems:

CAD programs – ECAD/MCAD programs include some PLM features for managing components within a local database, but the best products can pull data from multiple systems.
Version control systems – All PLM systems should include or grant access to a version control system so that product design revisions can be tracked throughout the product’s lifecycle.
Documentation control systems – These are specialized version control systems for documents that may also include some editing or sharing features. Google Docs is a great example, but there are other systems that perform similar functions.
Supply chain and inventory management – These products focus on managing and tracking inventories for parts in the BOM, including lifecycle statuses on critical parts in the product assembly.
Quality management systems – Manufacturing data from production teams can be compiled and analyzed with a QMS. PLM systems should give manufacturers, product managers, and designers access to this data.


Computer-aided engineering and Computer-Aided Design

Electronic Computer-Aided Design (ECAD) systems support the design and analysis of the electronic elements of the product. The availability of online libraries of component data and integration of circuit simulation functionality make the verification of design decisions fast and accurate. The systems can then take the completed design and aid the designer in producing a PCB layout significantly quicker than the traditional manual processes

Visual representations of the completed layout can also be created to provide component placing information for enclosure clearance verification, thermal analysis and to support electronics manufacturing processes. Feedback from these supporting engineering activities can be integrated back into the circuit design process to adjust, refine or redesign elements after identifying conflicts or issues.

Data Management & Simulation: Computer-Aided Design is most employed by Engineers to help create, modify and/or analyze graphical representations of product designs. Its applications stretch across a multitude of industries due to its many popular benefits.

Mechanical Computer-Aided Design

Mechanical Computer-Aided Design (MCAD) systems support the design and analysis of the mechanical elements of the product. The availability of 3D visual representations of proposed plans makes the verification of design decisions quick and straightforward. The systems can then take the completed design and aid the designer in producing manufacturing templates and specifications. Integration with the ECAD system will provide a fast cross-check of dependencies such as the physical clearances between components and parts or the available airflow volumes and rates for thermal management.

CAD software innovation continues to improve the quality of design through greater accuracy and the reduction of design errors. CAD software is also capable of improving communication due the centralization of design data and documentation, creating a single source of truth for engineers and manufacturers.

CAD Data Management enables organizations to easily access detailed product design information, making the most of current and historic design versions. This product data, your organization’s Intellectual Property (IP), is kept secure and accessed only by those with appropriate permissions.

Computer-Aided Engineering

Next, validation, simulation and optimization tools and used to perform various product tests. These range from Stress Analyses to Finite Element Analysis or Computational Fluid Dynamics. Computer-aided engineering most used by Engineers for the simulation and analysis of product designs.

Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE) systems support the simulation and analysis of the overall product design to validate the completed and integrated solution. Techniques such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA) allow modeling performance in an operating environment to validate compliance with environmental requirements such as thermal performance or resistance to shocks and vibrations.

Similar to prototyping, these processes help to prepare a product design for real world stresses.  The results can be fed back into the electronic and mechanical design processes as an iterative refinement until the predicted achievement of compliance. Engineers to make better product design decisions and revisions – this ultimately leads to better product performance and customer experiences.


Digital twins provide a fully functional simulation model of your product. These can react to real time data and provide invaluable insight when it comes to real world analysis of your product.


Manufacturing & Marketing: After your design is complete, product manufacturing begins. This phase is defined by the tools and methods used to produce your product.  Feedback from the pilot is used to adjust the design and other components to produce a market-ready version. The production of the new product is scaled – followed by launch and distribution to the market.

PLM tools such as Production Planning, enable organizations to develop more agile and efficient production processes. This phase is key to achieving a faster time-to-market. And to manufacturing a successful product at launch.

The PLM solution will also support the management functions that control production. Marketing processes will feed in the requirements for production rates and delivery schedules to meet predicted demand. The design processes will generate bills of materials that, in combination with production rate data, feed into the supply chain management and procurement processes to ensure sourced components are available when required by the electronics manufacturing processes. The supply chain management processes will also drive the distribution processes, managing transportation, and warehousing of finished products.

Computer-Aided Manufacture

Computer-aided manufacturing is commonly used by Manufacturers – rather than Design Engineers – to plan, manage, control and automate manufacturing operations. CAM software uses CAD designs to infer machining instructions while optimizing part production efficiency and material usage.

Computer-Aided Manufacture (CAM) systems can then take the finalized and validated design information to manage and control automated electronics manufacturing processes. PCB manufacture, component placement, mechanical parts manufacture, and assembly. An integrated PLM solution can automatically link design processes to manufacturing facilities, eliminating the risk of error during the transfer of design data to production processes.

Maintenance & Repurposing: Following the launch of the new product, the period of time when service and support is offered. Companies continue to collect feedback on the product in order to maintain and optimize future product versions. This valuable product data is used to report on real-world performance.

Maintenance, repair and operations tools enable you to provide vital in-service support to your customers. And this information can also be used to prepare your product for the next phase of its lifecycle. At the end of the product’s lifecycle, its withdrawal from the market must be managed – along with any retrials or absorption into new concept ideas.

PLM platforms enable organizations to participate in the circular economy, maintaining value in the product lifecycle, by providing the necessary tools to close the manufacturing loop. PLM can even help you to recycle, reuse and repurpose component parts of your product at the end of its lifecycle. This helps to reduce waste and can even cut back resource outlay in future product development. And, where materials are unable to be repurposed, PLM helps to ensure the responsible handling of waste.


PLM benefits

PLM is proliferating because the economy has gone global. Outsourcing and new supply chain initiatives, along with shorter production runs require that companies have reliable and up-to-the-minute information for manufacturing

Today, supply chains have become more global and PLM software is a solution that manages all of the information and processes at every step of a product or service lifecycle across globalized supply chains. This includes the data from items, parts, products, documents, requirements, engineering change orders, and quality workflows.

As a technology, PLM software helps organizations to develop new products and bring them to market. In an age where innovation is key to business survival and success, PLM plays a critical role in helping manufacturers develop the next generation of products, at a lower cost, and with a faster time to market.

PLM lets global organizations work as a single team to design, produce, support, and retire products while capturing best practices and lessons learned along the way. PLM empowers your business to make unified, information-driven decisions at every stage of the product lifecycle.

The following are five key reasons why companies choose to invest in PLM solutions.

  1. Improvements to development, engineering efficiency, and effectiveness: Results from the Industry Week survey found that silos are the biggest challenge to engineering team performance. PLM enables the bi-directional flow of real-time data to support better knowledge-sharing and collaboration. PLM  prevents designers and engineers from operating in a disconnected vacuum, giving them insight into external sources of information like customer and analyst feedback on current products, performance data on products in the field, and visibility into the limitations of downstream processes like manufacturing. A PLM system also benefits teams beyond design and engineering. It can provide ‘single source of truth’ visibility to business stakeholders and/or suppliers for easy delivery of feedback early in the product development process.
  2. Elimination of errors during the engineering release process: It’s far simpler – and cheaper – to rectify product issues that are identified earlier on. PLM helps to reduce cost and offers the additional environmental benefit of reducing manufacturing waste.
  3. Reduced time to market: Offering a single source of truth with up-to-date information at every phase of the product lifecycle, PLM empowers project managers to control overlapping timelines and get products to market faster.
  4. Improved project delivery: A cross-enterprise, digital PLM solution supports advanced workflow management. In this use case, PLM allows a team to precisely calculate product costs and more effectively manage the handover to manufacturing new designs.
  5. Higher quality designs: PLM offers designers and engineers a deeper level of insight into product requirements. Ingesting data from many different internal and external sources, a PLM system with integrated machine learning can turn performance data and customer feedback into new feature suggestions


Current Trends in PLM

Today, supply chains have become more global and businesses are shifting their operating models. For example, many companies are using embedded software services, such as product-as-a-service (PaaS) to sell new products or services. As a result, these organizations are discovering that they need a cloud-based PLM software that is ready to help them be adaptable and responsive.

“PLM is constantly evolving in all its facets. For example, the design philosophy, “Cradle-to-Cradle” is increasingly linked to PLM, says Technia. This philosophy states that every raw material, and materials used for a product, must also be reused. The extra dimension of this idea is that the raw material should not lose value when reused. Recycling and upcycling are becoming an essential part of the traditional design process.

Another development is that organizations have increasingly unique lifecycles. The traditional picture is, of course, when companies do their own development; have their own production; and also provide services for their product. But this is not always the case. This means that working together with different organisations and suppliers plays a big role. This cooperation should be seamless and have a very low margin of error.

We are also seeing a shift in business models where PLM can make its appearance. Think of product as a service and lease models. In these cases, the product is not in possession, but a service is taken to use the product. This gives a completely different view of product development because it becomes essential to extend the life of a product. Preventive and predictive maintenance will then become invaluable.”

PLM supports digital twins

Simply put, a digital twin is a digital representation of a physical asset. Digital twins leverage the aggregation of current, historical, and representational data of a product to reflect its real-world use. When a physical object’s data is made available, a digital representation—a digital twin—of the same object can be computer simulated to model the behavior of the object as it’s designed, built, maintained, or manipulated, creating a virtual profile of the object at every step of a product’s lifecycle.

For digital twins to have the highest impact, they need to be supported by systems that are interconnected and reference the same information through the digital thread, enabled by modern a PLM software. This way, any changes to the digital twin can be made quickly and accurately in real time, and every person accessing the digital twin can be confident their decisions are based on the most up-to-date information.


Aerospace and Defense

The proliferation of PLM in Aerospace has been a gradual process because of fundamental business differences. The product lifecycles in aerospace are 10 years of development, and then three decades of product service. This means that engineering and product data fidelity has to exist for that extended period. The aerospace industry has also changed today with the major aerospace OEMs evolving more as aggregators with a lot of success, responsibility, and risk sharing with major system suppliers. The enterprise PLM system has to help manage the extended partner chain more closely.

Some of the requirements of PLM for the aerospace industry are

  • Integrated quality management throughout the product development cycle and even extending coverage of the quality requirements from suppliers
  • Solutions for field testing to enable capture of actual test data for specific systems and tracking the issues to closure in the engineering change process
  • MRO solutions to maintain product data as equipment or components require maintainance, repair, or changes in the field
  • Seemingly simple solutions like robust document management in PLM for effective compliance requirements


Like all major industries, compliance is a key requirement in the aerospace industry. In today’s environment, the introduction of new regulations is forcing the industry to work toward ‘green’ initiatives – designing more fuel-efficient engines, bringing down harmful exhaust, designing for ergonomic cabins.


There is increasing focus on outsourcing design and analysis in the aerospace industry that presents additional challenges. In the past, all design and analysis occurred inside the company or by consultants that worked within the company premises. Nowadays, more and more outsourcing by design/analysis occurs, and often to multiple vendors. Unlike CAD, the tools and software that the aerospace companies use within the organization might not see use by the vendor teams often spread across multiple continents, nor are they integrated into some central data repository for handling analysis/simulation data with appropriate access rights and permissions.


A single central database/repository to handle the huge volume (gigabytes) of day-to-day simulation data required for collaboration between aerospace companies and vendors is just not feasible, and both aerospace companies and the vendors struggle with bandwidth issues to send across huge files.

The aerospace majors will usually work on technologies and products for both the commercial and defense sectors. This places many stringent requirements on the OEMS and their partners to adhere to the security regulations.  To comply with such requirements aerospace industry, must have an ITAR compliant facility.

To address security concerns PLM systems deploy a user/role-based strategy that allows the software to recognize every individual user of the system and applying a security and permission policy defined by system administrators. These policies can define each user’s ability to access specific datasets/elements of the PLM system such as documents, items, parts, Bill of Materials (BOMs), formal changes, etc. The system also provides the ability to define business processes (such as workflows, stages, and phase-gate processes) that can also control when users can access certain data elements in the system. Once the administrators have established the security and permission policies, the system applies those automatically when users log in to the system.

Aerospace companies often have to deal with export control regulations on the data, which presents another layer of security and compliance complexity. It is not just restricting the data to persons outside your company or within certain internal groups, but you now have to restrict the data to persons of certain nationalities or citizenship. Companies not only have to deal with controlling security of the electronic data but also the printed data or even controlling access to your computer screen.

Addressing compliance requirements involves two key mechanisms: Data collection/storage and reporting. PLM systems provide the ability to store compliance documents (such as supplier certificates) and metadata (such as material composition). Thus, manufactures have one place (the PLM system) to access all necessary data during internal and external audits. Most PLM systems have built-in reports that allow manufacturers to inspect, visually, their products (from any level of the product structure or across multiple product lines) to quickly identify any non-compliant aspects.


Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Software Market

The product lifecycle management (PLM) software market was valued at USD 21. 71 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 32. 42 billion by 2026, registering a CAGR of 6. 92% during the forecast period of 2021 – 2026.

Digitalization is transforming products from physical goods and tangible services into digital twins, which is an exact replica of the physical product. Industry 4.0 is an important focus aiming at increasing competitiveness by targeting the reduction of production costs while improving product quality and production scalability utilizing the digitalization of products. SAP is exploring digital supply chain scenarios where different suppliers submit offers directly to a blockchain platform to improve effectiveness across their business networks.

Due to future autonomous vehicle penetration, the developers working on autonomous vehicles have to face various and increasingly complex challenges, and consequently, need to reevaluate their current processes and toolset.

Fully-functional autonomous driving systems require some of the most sophisticated software implementations that the carmakers have ever faced for combining a variety of data feeds (e.g., information from sensors, traffic data from the cloud, data coming from other vehicles or infrastructure) and tying it all into the vehicle’s electronic and mechanical components to create a network of onboard systems that all work together reliably without user input or correction.

Siemens PLM Software offers a full set of autonomous vehicle solutions for all key technical domains, from chip design to full vehicle validation. NX is one of the company’s most potent CAD tools, helping clients run their product designing activities on the software.

The demand for robust data analytics software platforms in the industry is increasing. These trends have been augmented by the increasing adoption of IoT across the manufacturing industry. PTC’s Windchill is an instance of the PLM software embedded with analytics for discrete manufacturers looking for IoT capabilities. This software can boost the PLM solution to sprint with flexibility.

The increasing use of digital manufacturing and the rising integration of IoT in producing autonomous cars is one of the key trends that is expected to drive the PLM software market in the automotive sector during the forecast period. Tesla has integrated ENOVIA (cPDM software) and CATIA (CAD software) with DELMIA to simulate the manufacturing facility and process in the manufacturing of its model.

PLM software, however, is too slow, as proper plannings for the network bandwidth, server configurations, system configuration, etc. are not done. In addition, the lack of interoperability among dissimilar product versions, coupled with the low acceptance of PLM services by SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are expected to hinder the market growth.

The introduction of the cloud has a significant impact on the PLM market. PLM in the cloud is a helpful tool for product data management because it allows the manufacturers to consolidate information about product development, streamline or change orders and requests, and improve communication with the suppliers. SaaS solutions for the companies are looking to increase collaboration, manage product data, and improve workflows without substantial IT overhead or hardware commitments.


North America to Account for a Significant Share

North America’s strong financial position enables it to invest heavily in advanced solutions and technologies that have provided a competitive edge in the market. Moreover, the region has the presence of several major product lifecycle management software vendors, such as IBM Corp. (United States), PTC Inc. (United States), Oracle Corporation (United States). Hence, there is a strong competition among the players.


The automotive sector is growing at a significant rate in North America. As the economic growth of the region has a direct impact on the sales of passenger cars and commercial vehicles, PLM software is mainly used in the product development stage, which starts long before manufacturing begins in the automotive industry. It ensures advanced safety features, electronics, and embedded software content in vehicles.


For instance, America Makes (a leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing (AM)/3D printing (3DP) technology and workforce development) chose to migrate to AWS and use the Siemens PLM Teamcenter solution for its digital storefront. America Makes has saved about USD 30 million, compared to the cost of building an in-house solution. This factor helped in creating new solutions that help in boosting the growth of the PLM software market.


Competitive Landscape

The product lifecycle management (PLM) software market is highly competitive and fragmented, due to the presence of numerous global players. Various global players are moving in R&D with latest software techniques that are creating a high level of competitiveness in the market. The key players are Siemens, Dassault Systemes Deutschland GmbH, Autodesk Inc., etc. Some of the prominent recent developments in the market include:


DELMIA 3DEXPERIENCE enables manufacturers to create digital models that virtually simulate products, processes, and factory operations. It incorporates Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) through ENOVIA with the additional integration of Dassault Systèmes’ other brands such as SIMULIA for Simulation, CATIA for Computer-Aided Design, and more.

There are a number of different manufacturing tools and applications which are included within DELMIA 3DEXPERIENCE: Process Engineering, Ergonomics, Robotics, Machining, Additive Manufacturing – Powder Bed & Deposition, Plant Layout and Virtual Factory

Some PLM systems available on the market today, such as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, provide single sign-on access to multiple CAD, CAE, and CAM tools. This improves productivity and efficiency by working on the same data from different people at each stage of product development.


Next, a marketing strategy is developed to identify your key target audience. Various communication modes and methods are applied to convey your unique product vision. PLM solutions provide comprehensive tools to support marketing teams in bringing your product to market.



References and resources also include:





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