The differences between product information management (PIM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) systems are easily misunderstood — even among business owners in an e-commerce environment. Although both of these tools are designed to streamline how products are brought to market, they have distinct roles and value. Fortunately, they are able to work together to create efficiencies across your business operations.
Learn more about the unique features of both PIM and PLM systems so you can determine if you need one or both!
What is PIM (product information management)?
Product information management (PIM) is the process of collecting and managing all the needed information — from descriptions to images and more — about a given product, in a single source or database. PIM software allows you to collect, input, and adjust all the information for a product. Approved product listings can be sent to all your marketing, digital, and storefront applications. PIM solutions help you reduce the time needed for product data management while ensuring accuracy and consistency at every level.
PIM works by creating a centralized location for all of the product data created by various departments and tools. A PIM system ingests product specifications and other basic information from a source system like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform and photographs and videos from a digital asset management (DAM) system, while providing a place for marketing to input descriptions and other copy.
When adjustments to product data must be made, PIM systems allow them to be changed one time, rather than manually updated in every distribution channel. It’s not hard to see how this could significantly reduce the time you currently spend making and tracking changes in various places. The end result? You have more time to spend on your company's core business process.
To learn more about product information management in e-commerce, check out this in-depth article about PIM for ecommerce applications.
What is PLM (product lifecycle management)?
Product lifecycle management (or PLM) is the use of software tools to take a product from concept to shelf (physical or virtual) in the consumer marketplace.
By implementing a PLM system, businesses can manage every aspect of the product development process more efficiently. This can in turn increase productivity during the manufacturing process and provide you with the information needed to promote higher profits in the marketplace.
What does PLM do?
PLM tools provide support for all stages of the product design and development process, from initial idea to prototyping, manufacturing, and distribution. PLM systems also make it easier to manage the disposal or return of any unsold products. It is a single source for all product development data, and can serve as a valuable resource for your business operations. Some of the information contained in your PLM solution may include design data like 3-D models, prototype specifications, versions, revisions, manufacturing drawings, and information on the physical parts that make up the product.
Benefits of PLM software
Some of the most essential benefits of PLM platforms for your business include the following:
- Reducing the time needed to get your products to market
- Improving productivity throughout the development process
- Increasing the quality and utility of your products
- Lowering the costs of production now and in the future
- Creating innovative solutions for developing new products
- Increasing profitability for your business
By taking your products from start to finish with PLM, you can ensure the most efficient use of your available resources at every stage of the product development, manufacturing, and distribution process.
PIM vs. PLM – which is better?
Thinking about PIM and PLM as opposing or exclusionary processes can prevent your company from achieving the best results for your e-commerce efforts. PLM versus PIM is not a practical way of considering these tools when you’re evaluating which you need.
Often, it’s not an either-or decision. Instead, it may be helpful to think about the ways in which these systems can work together to promote increased productivity, brand consistency, customer satisfaction, and ultimately, improved profits.
PIM is primarily used to deal with the current properties, attributes, and descriptions of your products. PLM solutions can sometimes populate this information in the PIM from the notes and logs kept during the PLM process. By creating accurate product information via PLM from the very beginning of the process, and transferring it seamlessly to your PIM database, you can save time and effort in managing important data.
In this way, PLM can be used to drive your PIM implementation. Proper product lifecycle management practices will make it much easier to create consumer-friendly descriptions, and generate accurate and consistent information for marketing materials across all your sales channels. PLM is also a critical part of the customer service process. It allows members from every team in your organization to provide the same detailed, up-to-date answers to specific product-related questions whenever they arise.
It may help to think of PIM as the system for current description and information about your products, and PLM as the platform for historic information about how the product was made, all of its component parts, and how it was brought to market.
Choosing PIM and PLM systems for your business
Choosing PIM and PLM systems that work seamlessly with each other can supercharge your marketing and e-commerce efforts. At Widen, we specialize in content management solutions for brands. We’ll help you uncover your challenges and goals and recommend next steps. with a Widen advisor today.