Life's too short!

The life of a product does not end once it has been conceived, designed and produced. Yet how many PLM solutions, and to what extent does current PLM thinking, take proper account of the entire life of the product? Right now, the “life” in PLM is too short!

Concern for the environment is continually increasing both regulatory pressure and voluntary efforts to reduce materials consumption and waste in the drive for sustainable products. But it is not enough for products simply to be designed and produced in a more environmentally friendly way; sustainability must also be ensured by actively managing products during the middle of their lifetime and at the end of it. 

Active management during middle and end of life need not be an overhead. There is plenty of scope to increase competitive advantage and create new business opportunities through better stewardship throughout all phases of a product’s life. Therefore “whole-of-life” Lifecycle Management is a reality that we will be driven to deal with. A product's life may be long, and other lifecycles, such as supply chains and service schedules, will intersect and impact the life of the product.

During this series, I have argued that Closed Loop Lifecycle Management (CL2M) is the way forward for whole-of-life PLM and lifecycle management in general. “Closing the Information Loops across All Phases of All Kinds of Lifecycles” is the way to provide the information exchange and infrastructure that is pre-requisite to address both the challenges and considerable opportunities of whole-of-life Lifecycle Management.  

Does this mean that traditional PLM solutions and thinking are becoming obsolete? Of course not; however “traditional” PLM suppliers and practitioners should examine how their offerings need to adapt not only to become information providers to enable more effective middle and end of life management, but also to be able to exploit information from those later phases in order to further improve the beginning of life processes.

So, what is standing in the way?

1.  Vision: few see clearly the bigger picture of whole-of-life Lifecycle Management and are actively embracing it. And some of those who see it, prefer to ignore it and stay in their existing comfort zone.

2.  Need for information security and confidentiality: linking the phases and closing the loops inevitably implies information exchange between different organizations, whether intra or inter-enterprise. There must be a consistent infrastructure that guarantees trust, reliability of data and its sources, no possibility of "eavesdropping" etc.

3.  Narrow focus: there are many islands of expertise and parallel, relatively narrow initiatives. Each initiative has insufficient momentum to really make the difference when whole-of-life Lifecycle Management requires collaboration across industry verticals.

4.  Lack of the necessary standards and processes: many industry-specific data exchange standards exist. However, the open information infrastructure, that is required to allow properly regulated publishing, discovery and exchange of lifecycle information, is missing.

All of the above can be addressed by two simple directions:
  • By following this series of articles you should now have seen how Closed Loop Lifecycle Management (CL2M) relates to PLM and how it is the basis for delivering whole-of-life Lifecycle Management. You can both learn and contribute more by actively participating in the community.
  • If you are interested in influencing or following the open standards development, the QLM Consortium currently being formed under the auspices of The Open Group will address the further development and promotion of open standards that will shape the future of PLM. To learn more about joining this consortium, please request further information at

If you have any comments or questions related to this, my last article in this series, please post them on my blog at

David Potter is Chief Technical Officer, Promise Innovation International Oy., and former Chairman of the Project Steering Board of the EU PROMISE Project.