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PLM Encyclopedia

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Aerospace & Defense. Companies in the A&D industry were among the first that embraced and adopted initially PDM and then PLM technologies, particularly because of the need to manage the highly complex product configurations and keep track of configuration changes during the often decade-long life cycles of their products.


Application Programming Interface. A library of functions, procedures, methods and/or classes that support the customization and functional extension of PLM Systems through custom-written programs.


Advanced Product Quality Planning. An NPDI approach based on the Phase-Gate Methodology that is used in the US automotive industry and is focused mainly on developing high quality products.


An attribute is a specification that defines a property of an object, element or file. The information stored in an attribute is called metadata. COTS PLM Systems typically come with preconfigured attributes for item number, name, revision and description. Other company specific attributes can usually be added as part of the configuration of the PLM System.


A user who adds information (metadata, documents, files, etc) and initiates workflows in the PLM System. Authors typically require a fully functional software license, often called Author or Heavy User license. Users who only view information that is vaulted in the PLM System are often referred to as Viewers, Consumers or Light Users.



Bill of Material. A structured list of components and materials that together comprise a product. There can be several types of BOMs as a product moves through its life cycle:

  • EBOM: Engineering BOM or As-Designed BOM
  • MBOM: Manufacturing BOM or As-Manufactured BOM
  • SBOM: Service BOM or As-Maintained BOM

See also Beyond BOM 101: Next Generation Bill of Materials Management



Computer Aided Design. The creation of digital product models and drawings with the help of dedicated computer software (CAD software).


Computer Aided Engineering. The virtual analysis and simulation of product characteristics, behaviors and functionalities with the help of dedicated computer software (CAE software).


Computer Aided Manufacturing. The machining of physical parts using dedicated computer software and CNC machines.


Corrective And Preventive Action. A term mainly used in the medical device and life science industries.


Computer Aided Software Engineering. The use of dedicated software to assist in software development.


Collective term for computer aided technologies, i.e. CAD, CAM and CAE.


Computer Integrated Manufacturing. The term was first introduced in the 1980’s by machine tool manufacturers and the CASA/SME (Computer and Automated Systems Association/Society for Manufacturing Engineers) and defined as “the integration of a manufacturing enterprise by using integrated systems and data communication coupled with new managerial philosophies that improve organizational and personnel efficiency.” It is today often considered a predecessor of PLM.


Computer Numerical Control. Usually used in connection with a machine tool (CNC Machine) whose operations are controlled by a computer and NC Programs.

Configuration (Application)

Definition of company-specific settings of a PLM System or application, including attributes, workflows, users, groups, roles, access privileges, etc, using the available out-of-the-box functionality of the system. Existing configurations generally are maintained during system upgrades and do not have to be reconfigured.


Commercial-off-the-Shelf. A PLM System that is developed by a PLM Software Company and sold as a commercial application. COTS PLM Systems generally come with preconfigured functionality that allows a faster and less expensive implementation.

Customization (Application)

Development of company-specific functionality or modification or extension of existing out-of-the-box system functionality using the application API. Customizations can include company specific workflow behavior and extensions, custom forms and other user interface changes, and application integrations. They are generally created by writing software code in a standard programming language, such as C, C++, HTML, XML, Java, etc or a system specific programming language, such as ABAP (SAP) or ITK (Teamcenter). Customized functionality often has to be re-written after upgrading a system, which generally makes customizations very expensive to maintain over the life of a system.



Design History File. The DHF describes the design history of a finished medical device. The DHF is a formal document in accordance with FDA regulation CFR Title 21 Part 820 that has to be prepared for each medical device. It can be either a collection of the actual documents generated in the product development process or an index of documents and their storage location.


Design-to-Order. A process wherein a new product or product variation is designed and manufactured according to the specific requirements of a customer order.

Document and File Management

Document and file management is the capability of managing electronic documents and files and all their revisions and versions throughout defined, company-specific life cycle states in a PLM system.



Engineering Change Notification.


Engineering Change Order. Second phase of an engineering change process wherein a change that was initiated through an ECR is now planned, implemented and closed.


Engineering Change Request. First phase of an engineering change process wherein a potential need for change is identified and a requested change is analyzed for its feasibility, benefits, costs and impact. If the ECR is approved, an ECO will be initiated to implement the requested change.


Engineering Data Management. See also PDM.


Engineer-to-Order. A process wherein a new product or product variation is engineered and manufactured according to the specific requirements of a customer order.

Evaluation (Software)

Systematic analysis of the functionality, fit, costs and value of one or several PLM systems against a predefined set of criteria or requirements. The objective of an evaluation is the selection of the PLM system that best meets all requirements and provides the highest value for the business. See also 10 Best Practices for Successful PLM Evaluations and PLM Evaluation.



Food and Drug Administration. The FDA is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for regulating and supervising the safety of foods, dietary supplements, drugs, vaccines, biological medical products, blood products, medical devices, radiation-emitting devices, veterinary products and cosmetics. PLM systems can help companies that do business in these areas to meet regulatory requirements issued by the FDA. See also Government and Regulatory Standards and Requirements.

Floating License

A software licensing method used by some PLM systems wherein a license can float among many users, but can be used by only one user at the time. Once the user has completed his work and logs out of the system, the license is released and can be used by a different user.



Hypertext Markup Language. A programming language used predominantly to develop web pages for the World Wide Web. It was conceived by Tim Berners-Lee, a physicist at CERN in Switzerland, who was working on a system for CERN researchers to use and share documents. This system would later become the World Wide Web. The first publicly available description of HTML was a document called HTML Tags, first mentioned on the Internet by Berners-Lee in late 1991. Today HTML is often used to develop, configure and/or customize the Thin Client user interfaces of PLM Systems.



International Organization for Standardization. The ISO is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards. The ISO is a network of the national standards institutes of 161 countries, one member per country, with a Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland, that coordinates the system.


International Traffic in Arms Regulations. ITAR is a set of United States government regulations that control the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List. ITAR regulations dictate that information and material pertaining to defense and military related technologies may only be shared with US Persons unless authorization from the Department of State is received or a special exemption is used. US Persons (including organizations) can face heavy fines if they have, without authorization or the use of an exemption, provided foreign (non-US) persons with access to ITAR-protected defense articles, services or technical data (Source: Wikipedia). Most PLM Systems feature some or extensive access control functionality, which can help significantly to ensure ITAR compliance.


A distinct object that can be uniquely identified, usually through a number. An item in a PLM System can represent a part, a component, an assembly, a drawing, a document or any other object managed and uniquely identified in the system.



Data about data. Metadata is structured information that describes and allows to find, manage, organize, control and understand other information. Metadata typically includes information about content, quality, condition, and other characteristics of data. In PLM Systems, metadata is usually captured in attributes and includes number, name, revision, material and other information about parts, components, documents, files, etc.


Named User License

A software licensing method used by a majority of PLM Systems wherein each license is assigned to a specific (named) user. For every user that uses the system there has to be one Named User License. Unlike a Floating License, a Named User License is not available to other users if the assigned user does not work on the system.


Numerical Control.


New Product Development and Introduction.


Net present value. The present value (PV) of one or a series of future cash inflows or savings minus the present value of one or a series of future cash outflows or costs resulting from an investment. All future cash in- and outflows have to be reduced to today’s value or the present value by an appropriate discount rate. If the resulting NPV is positive, the investment should be made; if it is negative, the investment should not be made. See also ROI.


On-Demand (Software)

See SaaS (Software as a Service)


Out-of-the-Box. Often also referred to as COTS. Functionality in a PLM System that is available in the application as provided by the PLM Software Company. OOTB functionality may have to be configured to meet the specific needs of the end user, but does not need customization.



Portable Document Format is a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 for document exchange. PDF is used for representing two-dimensional documents in a manner independent of the application software, hardware, and operating system. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout 2D document that includes the text, fonts, images and 2D vector graphics which compose the document.

Formerly a proprietary format, PDF was officially released as an open standard on July 1, 2008 and published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) as ISO/IEC 32000-1:2008.


Product Data Management. A subset of PLM focused on the management of engineering data, specifically CAD models, assemblies, drawings and BOMs. PDM was often also referred to as EDM. See also PDM and PLM.

Phase-Gate Methodology

The Phase-Gate Methodology is a project execution approach wherein the overall project or process in broken into a series of sequential phases and a gate after each phase. Each phase consists of different activities that must be accomplished and deliverables that must be completed before a gate can be passed and the next phase can be started. As the project moves through the phases, it progressively gains maturity, and each gate provides clear and distinct criteria to measure whether previously defined objectives have been achieved and to make a decision whether to continue or abandon the project.


Product Lifecycle Management → Definition



A controlled release of a document and/or file that replaces previous releases. Each release is usually identified by an associated number or letter code, termed the “revision letter “revision level” or simply “revision”. The purpose of revisioning is to maintain the history of a document and/or file in order to be able to return to a previous release at any point in time. PLM Systems typically maintain all revisions of a document/file throughout the life of a product and often also for many years after its obsolescence.


Request for Information. Request made typically during the early investigation or project planning phase to potential suppliers to obtain more detailed information about PLM Systems and/or Services in consideration. RFIs often include a PLM Requirements Specification to determine the suitability of different options and to narrow down the number of possible candidate systems for a more detailed evaluation.


Request for Proposal. Request made typically during the evaluation or project realization phase to potential suppliers to obtain detailed technical and commercial information about PLM Systems and/or Services that need to be purchased. RFPs often include a detailed PLM Requirements Specification to compare different options and to allow the selection of the product or service that best meets the company’s business needs.

Rich Client

Sometimes also called Fat Client or Thick Client. User interface that requires the installation of dedicated software on the user’s computer or workstation. Many activities and functions are performed locally on the user’s computer; a connection to the server is mainly required to access and vault data.


Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, or short Restriction of Hazardous Substances.


Return on Investment. The ratio of money gained or lost (realized or unrealized) as a result of an investment relative to the amount of money invested. ROI is usually expressed as a percentage rather than a fraction. See also NPV.



Software as a Service. Often also called Software On-Demand, SaaS (typically pronounced “sass”) is a software delivery model in which the PLM System is hosted by a PLM Vendor or Service Provider and made available to customers over the Internet. The advantage of this delivery model is that it typically does not require customers to purchase, install, operate and support their own software and hardware. Rather they use software that runs on the vendor’s hardware and pay a monthly subscription or service fee per user. One PLM On-Demand or SaaS system is Arena.


A central computer that provides services used by other computers - often called clients - and/or stores data for different users. Depending on their purpose, there are different types of servers, including application servers, file servers, web servers and database servers. A PLM System requires one, several or all of the before-mentioned server types depending on the number of users and the system architecture.


Standard for the Exchange of Product model data is an ISO standard (ISO 10303) for the computer-interpretable representation and exchange of product manufacturing information.

Typically STEP can be used to exchange data between CAD, CAM, CAE, PDM/PLM and other CAx systems. STEP is addressing product data from mechanical and electrical design, geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, analysis and manufacturing, with additional information specific to various industries such as automotive, aerospace, building construction, ship, oil and gas, process plants and others.

STEP is developed and maintained by the ISO technical committee TC 184, Technical Industrial Automation Systems and Integration, sub-committee SC4 Industrial Data. Like other ISO and IEC standards STEP is copyright by ISO and is not freely available


Thin Client

Often also called Web Client. User interface that requires only a web browser on the user’s computer or workstation to interact with the PLM System. All activities and functions are performed or processed on one or several central servers.


Waterfall Method

The waterfall method is a sequential process, often used in software development and implementations, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards (like a waterfall) through different phases. The original waterfall method included the phases Requirements Definition, Design, Implementation, Verification and Maintenance, but there are many variations dependent on the type of project or area of application.


Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.



Extensible Markup Language. XML is a simple, very flexible text format derived from SGML (ISO 8879). Originally designed to meet the challenges of large-scale electronic publishing, XML is playing an increasingly important role in the exchange of a wide variety of data on the Web and between applications. The main purpose of XML is to store and transport data, whereas the main purpose of HTML is to display data. Today XML is often used to develop integrations between PLM Systems and other applications, such as PDM, ERP, MRP and CRM systems.

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