PDP and PLM Approach

The product development process (PDP) describes all the processes a new product goes through from the initial idea to its manufacture and subsequent sale. In many companies it is the no. 1 competition-determining process, and has long been the case in the automotive industry and its suppliers: Here, a successfully implemented product development process is one of the most important foundations for competitiveness and sustainability.

PDP and PLM Approach

Planning and Acting across Industries and Products

What applies to the automotive industry and its complex products and processes can also be transferred to other industries. Mastering the PDP core process plays a part in determining the fate of a company: The ability to innovate, the further development of new products or the implementation of customer requirements are only some of the corporate goals that are achieved with a transparent and lived product development process.

The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) approach serves the all-encompassing, company-wide control and administration of all data about products and processes. This concept encompasses the complete life cycle of a product from product development, production, sales, maintenance to dismantling.

In this context, one of the goals of the Product Lifecycle Management concept is to support the product creation process by means of central and consistent data management and to increase the productivity of development. Numerous IT-based Product Lifecycle Management solutions exist for the implementation of this concept.

Basics of the product development process

In order to realize the product development, many companies use a phase model, which represents the product development process in its partial phases. The basis for this is a process-oriented organization and a mature product management.

Neither a uniform phase model for the PDP nor a generally valid nomenclature for the individual phases and their contents can be found in the literature. In the automotive industry, however, there are many similarities in the planning and implementation of product projects with regard to product creation. In order to be able to master the new market requirements, companies have introduced the standardized product development process.

In companies that repeatedly manufacture comparable products, a standardized description serves to simplify, standardize, plan and execute these projects. An interdepartmental phase model is also intended to illustrate that, in addition to technical development, other departments such as production, controlling, quality, sales, marketing, logistics or purchasing are also involved. A phase model also requires results that can be checked. In this way, quality and success in a project can also be measured. The measurements enable a permanent target-performance comparison in product projects. Thus, the topic of risk management is also a constant companion in the project.

Once a standardized product development process has been implemented in the day-to-day business, it can be used as the basis for a continuous improvement process. The entire PDP is thereby alive and constantly optimized by the consideration of improvements.

Phases for the product development process

Product projects in industry and especially in the automotive environment are often divided into predefined and firmly scheduled milestones. The respective phase model should then support the successful achievement of the milestones. The product development process often begins with the idea for a new product. If this is a product that has never been implemented before, a development phase follows.

The physical product creation then takes place - during the production phase. The PDP must be able to optimally master the current challenges. In addition to product customization and ever-shorter life cycles, cost, quality, complexity, environment and politics also play a significant role. A guarantee for success today is the consistent use of virtual development methods in the PDP.

Simulation plays an important role and should help significantly to shorten the development time and ensure the mastery of variant diversity. The saving of hardware loops as well as the increase of the testing quality of prototypes are further goals.

Advantages for the Product Lifecycle Management 

The potential benefits emanating from Product Lifecycle Management can be found in all areas along the value chain, in line with the life cycle approach and the associated holistic perspective.

With the help of this concept, the time-to-market (time from product development to placing the product on the market) can be shortened. Better services are made possible in the use phase of the product. The disposal can be planned in advance in the product concept. 

Financial advantages 

Financial potential is particularly evident in increased profits, which can be realized, for example, by launching the product earlier on the market and thus increasing sales, or by reducing costs. A reduction in costs is possible, for example, in the areas of prototype construction, material costs, production costs, storage costs, service costs or wage costs.

Time advantages

An additional benefit of implementing a PLM system is the reduction of time-to-market. The efficient design of processes results in a reduction of project processing times, lead times, problem solving times and thus a reduction in time-to-market.

Quality advantages

Product Lifecycle Management can also be used to realize advantages in quality. The word product quality does not only refer to the quality of the product in terms of its geometric dimensions or the fulfilment of its functions. It can also be used to better identify the correspondence between customer requirements and the performance potential of the product. PLM not only enables production errors to be detected in good time and reworking or customer complaints to be reduced, but also enables product variants that are more in line with requirements to be realized.

PLM Software supports the PLM approach

In practice, the implementation of PLM concepts is enabled or supported by PLM Software. The demand for PLM software has increased across all industries in recent years. Most PLM-based methods and tools link processes and data. In particular, the integration of data is realized by the IT system. Software providers often refer to these IT systems as PLM software.

Some PLM software providers sell their products themselves and carry out the implementation independently. Other providers offer PLM software exclusively or additionally through sales companies. These have mostly specialized in industries and have already adapted the original PLM system to a large extent. When selecting a suitable IT system to support the desired business functions, service providers assist by providing a directory of software functionalities at the same time.

Use PLM software sensibly in many industries

In the past, the use of PLM was mainly in the manufacturing industry (aerospace, automotive). Today the implementation of the PLM concept can be found in almost all industries. It has been recognized that the management of data and information as well as the networking of processes brings potential benefits that can also be realized in the production of shoes, clothing, jewelry or chemical plants.

Use of PLM software useful in many industries

In the past, the use of PLM was mainly in the manufacturing industry (aerospace, automotive). Today the implementation of the PLM concept can be found in almost all industries. It has been recognized that the management of data and information as well as the networking of processes brings potential benefits that can also be realized in the production of shoes, clothing, jewelry or chemical plants.


  • Widmann, Ulrich: Produktentstehungsprozess. In Handbuch Kraftfahrzeugtechnik, hrsg. U. Seiffert; H.H. Braess, Wiesbaden 2011
  • Raubold, Ulrich: Lebenszyclusmanagement in der Automobilindustrie, Diss. Universität Cottbus, Wiesbaden 2011
  • Feldhusen, Jörg; Gebhardt, Boris: Product Lifecycle Management für die Praxis, Berlin Heidelberg 2008