PLM Tech and A Path To Sustainability

PLM Tech and A Path To Sustainability

Sustainability is getting more awareness in the modern world. According to IBM Institute for Business Value.” Sustainability at a turning point,” we can see increased awareness about sustainability. IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) surveyed more than 14,000 adults from 9 countries (Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Mexico, Spain, United Kingdom, and the United States). The research revealed that the pandemic significantly shifted people’s perspectives on environmental sustainability. A full 93% of global respondents say COVID-19 affected their view.

A similar portion of people is focused on social responsibility issues, with roughly 3 in 4 consumers saying access to education and ensuring good health and well-being are significantly important to them. 72% said the same of ending poverty and hunger.

Here are some interesting data points from the research:

  • 93% of global consumers say COVID-19 influenced their views on sustainability
  • 22% more consumers say environmental responsibility is very or extremely important when choosing a brand than in 2019
  • 62% of consumers now say they’re willing to change their purchasing behavior to help reduce the negative impact on the environment (up from 57% in 2019)

Researches and Sustainability Awareness in PLM

The view on sustainability is changing businesses and research and manufacturing firms, industrial companies are preparing to react. I found a good compilation of materials about Sustainability and PLM in Jos Voskuil’s article, who is super passionate about sustainability topic. Here are a few interesting passages from Jos’ article, which I highly recommend you to read.

sustainability should not be equated with climate change, which gets most of the extreme attention. However, the discussion related to climate change and carbon gas emissions drew most of the attention. Also, recently it seemed that the COP26 conference was only about reducing carbon emissions. Unfortunately, reducing carbon gas emissions has become a political and economic discussion in many countries

The goals and challenges of Product Lifecycle Management and Sustainability share much in common and should be considered synergistic. Where in theory, PLM is the strategy to manage a product along its whole lifecycle, sustainability is concerned not only with the product’s lifecycle but should also address the sustainability of the users, industries, economies, environment, and the entire planet in which the products operate.

Another piece of information can be found in CIMdata webinar Sustainability in PLM. Check it out

The time of humans as the dominant species has been but a blip since the Big Bang. But human activity has had an outsized impact on the planet, particularly since the Industrial Revolution. The result of this impact is becoming all too clear, and it has turned sustainability from a “nice to have” corporate social responsibility to a global imperative. Sustainability is a systemic issue that demands a broad-based response. CIMdata believes that PLM strategies and enabling solutions have a big role to play in any company’s response, even if they are not manufacturers. CIMdata is initiating a global survey of industrial companies to look at their strategies, tactics, current status, and sustainability program plans to better understand this topic. This Webinar will set the context for this research and will serve to kick off the survey effort.

The manufacturing industry has traditionally used a “cradle-to-grave” model for product design, production, and disposal. This traditional model can be seen in the way manufacturers collect scrap metal to recycle it into new products, or how they use resources like steel, copper, and aluminum to make their final products. It is important that manufacturers find ways to reduce their carbon footprint while maintaining an efficient business process.

As sustainability gets more awareness, manufacturing businesses and industrial companies starting to take notice.

One way of doing this is by incorporating sustainable practices into your Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system when designing new products. CIMdata is kicking their Sustainability Survey as part of their research and earlier this year delivered a webinar about sustainability in PLM:

According to Stan Przybylinski, CIMdata’s Vice President and the host of this webinar, “Sustainability has gone from something often a part of a company’s broader corporate social responsibility program to a global imperative. It is a systemic issue that requires a system response from businesses in every industry. Our research will focus on how both industrial companies and their industrial clients are addressing this existential threat.”

From Product to Sustainable Services

As sustainability takes more awareness, manufacturing and industrial companies need to answer any questions related to sustainability. In order not to get political, businesses need to start measuring the entire lifecycle in order to get a holistic view of the topic. Moving from products to services is a key element of how sustainability can turn into a holistic instrument helping manufacturing companies to measure different aspects of new products as service models. This trend was getting stronger over the past decade, but now it is time for an additional dimension – if an industrial company can collect an entire set of information bout what happened with the product from the time it was designed to the time it was recycled., refurbished, disposed of (etc), this data can become one of the most important elements to measure sustainability.

Can PLM Technology Help?

A big question to all PLM technologies, architects, visionaries, and analysts – can PLM technology help to drive into a more sustainable future or it is just a modern hype that will end up with nothing? In my view, the proof is in the data. If PLM technologies will be able to connect these two dots (sustainability and product information), then PLM vendors will have something tangible to offer to industrial companies. Here are 3 areas where PLM can give some uniqueness

Global data benchmarks

The data about sustainability, criteria, performance, and impact is global. Having this environmental impact and environmental performance information accumulated, analyzed, and used as a baseline to measure the sustainability of products and services can be a solution that will turn sustainability from abstract conversations to measurable metrics.

Manufacturing Companies and Product Data

The real data collected from products (services) will become a foundation to perform the actual measurement similar to how regulation and compliance were managed for the last decades. What data to capture is an interesting question, but I have no doubt that an entire product lifecycle data cycle must be analyzed to collect metrics about different product lifecycle phases, product functions, hazardous substances, sustainable production, environmental impact, sustainable product development, and many others.

Real-time sustainability KPIs

The last and the most interesting question is how to bring fully data-driven sustainability KPIs that can be measured by every manufacturing company to provide a holistic lifecycle assessment about environmental impacts and lead to a more sustainable paradigm in product development, services, and maintenance. PLM software that will be capable to provide such a set of KPIs based on global data benchmarks and real lifecycle assessment will take a key place in manufacturing activities in production, raw material usage, eco-design, cleaner production, and many other measurable aspects.


In my view, the real challenge for PLM to be applied for sustainability measurement is to be able to collect enough information (globally in the industry and locally from specific product data) to be used as a guide for industrial companies. Otherwise, the entire process will be very fast turning into another sustainability-washing (like Greenwashing and Climatewashing). This is a note for PLM architects – be ready for questions about sustainability and software vendors – to figure out technology that is capable to help. Just my thoughts…

Just my thoughts…

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing a digital network-based platform that manages product data and connects manufacturers, construction companies, and their supply chain networksMy opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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