PLM Won't Solve Your Team Design Challenges

CoLab Team

August 3, 2023


min read

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) technology is a vital cornerstone in the streamlined process of product development, particularly within large-scale enterprises. It's revered for its ability to house official documents, manage various workflows, and safeguard access to vital information. However, its implementation isn't without challenges, particularly when it comes to everyday collaboration, reviews, and iterations.

Challenges of PLM in Daily Collaboration

Research conducted by Valery Merminod and Eric Blanco at the International Product Development Management Conference sheds light on the issue, concluding that PLM excels in project management but falls short in daily collaboration, especially during preliminary design.

So, what's the root cause of this limitation? It's anchored in PLM's fundamental structure. PLM software's strength lies in creating standardized workflows, but this can become a weakness when the design process needs to be more fluid. As a result, PLM tends to become inflexible and difficult to use daily.

The early design stages require rapid changes, and the tools supporting this process must be just as agile. A post from WhichPLM explains this drawback, noting that the "restrictive nature of the underlying structure" means designs often don't enter a PLM system until nearly complete. This creates extra burdens for design teams and hinders early collaboration.

The Workaround and its Drawbacks

Faced with these limitations, technical teams often look outside PLM for daily collaboration tools. Design teams turn to simpler, lightweight tools like spreadsheets, screenshots, and emails. Though these might offer quick solutions in the short term, they often lead to long-term problems.

These everyday tools become a way to skirt PLM's structure, but they can create substantial challenges in transparency, collaboration, audit trails, and more. Consequently, they might result in wasted resources and significant mistakes.

CoLab: The System of Engagement

CoLab does for design conversations what your PLM system does for product data. Unlike the restrictions of traditional PLM, CoLab is a cloud-based platform purpose-built for fast, effective design reviews. It facilitates collaboration, centralizing decisions that happen between CAD and PLM. This makes feedback more straightforward, faster, and automatically tracked in one place.

How CoLab Works with PLM

CoLab is not designed to replace your PLM; instead, it enhances it, helping manufacturing organizations get more from their investment. Here's how:

  • Integrates with Windchill and Teamcenter: Share files directly from your PLM to CoLab, preserving essential data associations. Reviewers can exchange feedback and attach review summaries back in PLM.
  • Keeps Track of Decision Making Outside PLM: CoLab lets you bring collaboration data back into PLM, integrating processes like cost optimization and lifecycle state changes.
  • Provides Secure File Sharing: CoLab ensures secure access for stakeholders who might lack the know-how to retrieve files from PLM, with fully controlled permissions.
  • Augments Markup in PLM with Complex Reviews: Use CoLab for complex discussions before formal decisions, enhancing effectiveness and reducing clutter.


PLM systems offer significant benefits but also present some limitations, particularly in daily collaboration during the early stages of design. By recognizing these challenges and adopting solutions like integrating lightweight tools, companies can create a more agile, collaborative environment that complements the robust structure of PLM.

Embracing this dual approach can supercharge the design process, ensuring that the powerful capabilities of PLM are utilized to their fullest, while also providing the agility and collaboration necessary for modern product development. It's a strategy that marries the best of both worlds, resulting in a more efficient, effective, and creative design process.

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