PLM Interest Group














Class A PLM

Class A PLM


All well-established corporate PLM implementations regard themselves as Advanced, and examples of PLM Best Practice.  Class A PLM provides the opportunity to prove it.


The concept of Class A PLM takes the general ideas of 'Advanced PLM' and shapes them into a methodology that can demonstrate that you are doing PLM as well as possible.


Class A PLM is an improvement methodology, a process, and an achievement.


Its effect is to provide an external appraisal of your implementation that you can run in-house in the course of carrying out your work.


Working towards Class A PLM generates direct improvements to your implementation; hybridises your current thinking with ideas from the wider PLM world; produces a KPI framework that can demonstrate high performance; and focuses future roadmapping on worldwide best practice.


Class A PLM


Global Head of PLM

Any move towards Class A PLM must be led by the 'PLM Prime Mover' for the whole enterprise.

For large corporations, this will normally be the Global Head of PLM.  In smaller companies, it will be the person who has the most senior direct responsibility for PLM - the leader of the PLM Team, or even the sole PLM Manager in an SME.

The important point is that a Class A PLM environment permeates across the entire organisation to its complete geographical extent.  It therefore follows that a single, integrated PLM management and support function exists to maintain and develop it.  Class A PLM must be assessed and adopted from the top level of this function.

If you are a PLM Manager who is isolated to only part of the company; or if there are several different PLM Managers with different remits; then you should use the PLM Self-Assessment Toolkit to identify and resolve this problem before commencing.



Class A PLM is assessed against neutral, verifiable metrics, so the PLM Prime Mover must be prepared to deal with the reality of the situation, and not the perception.  One of the benefits of following the approach is that it highlights and overturns misconceptions about PLM and produces a written, quantified picture of the actual PLM situation.



Class A PLM is a very high, consistent and pervasive level of performance.  It is usually higher and more comprehensive than the status quo.

The PLMIG tools and the Class A PLM process lead you towards this high level, but they are most effective when used with the ideas of continuous improvement and business transformation - aspirations that the PLM implementation should become the best that it can reasonably be.



Class A PLM


One-Year Programme

The process of establishing Class A PLM falls naturally into 9 Steps, in 4 Stages, that can be carried out over the course of a year.  PLMIG tools and handbooks enable you to enact the detailed and technical elements.


Stage 1:  Months 1-3


Status Review: 3 actions to analyse the 'As-Is' situation.

The path to Class A PLM begins with a formal written overview of the current situation, and production of the working documentation.  Begin by fulfilling the requirements of Demystifying PLM, and then apply the PLM Self-Assessment Toolkit to assess and review whether you are ready to start.  The findings can be written into the Company PLM Overview Document, which can be circulated for feedback and dissemination.

How well are the PLM Team managing the implementation, as managers?  And how good is the management structure from PLM operations up to Board Level?

The way to evaluate a company's PLM Governance is to apply the PLM Governance Standard.  This highlights to everybody the areas where the management structure is strong, and where improvements might be made - and ensures that there is a sound platform for the other phases.

The first step to evaluating PLM performance is to understand the Drivers, Capabilities and Processes that apply to PLM.  These can be compiled into a Navigation Model that will be the basis of further analysis.

Every organisation can create its own evaluation by running a Level 0 Benchmark as specified in the PLM Benchmarking Handbook. The results make it clear why PLM is running, what it is capable of doing for the business, and its current impact on operations.


Stage 2:  Months 4-6


Extend the Analysis to the wider landscape.

In Advanced PLM, the entire lifecycle needs to be covered with equal emphasis, from cradle to grave - not just the areas that are under the PLM Manager's immediate control.

This requires synergy between many different disciplines, such as CRM, Portfolio Management, Requirements Management, PLMuERP, SCM, MRO, IoT, and modern internet applications.

In most implementations, Lifecycle Management is seen as a subject that is "implicitly part of PLM", and which therefore should be covered by general PLM thinking.  In Class A PLM this subject is reviewed in full detail, so that the full extent of lifecycle implications and possibilities are covered.

At the end of this Step the findings are written into the Company PLM Overview Document as the basis of future thinking.

As with Lifecycle Management, very few implementations take a focused and thorough look at CPD. At every interface in the Customer and Supplier chains there are PLM effects, and the quality and detail of the PLM interactions may vary in each case.

This Value Chain ecosystem needs to be mapped and annotated across as many levels as are visible, so that the performance, risks and opportunities for improvement can be determined.

At the end of this Step the findings are written into the Company PLM Overview Document as the basis of future thinking.

The new 'Digital Wave' is largely a new technology solution chasing a problem, and it finds some of those problems in PLM.

Whilst Digital inter-connection of everything offers many opportunities, and is likely to change the future business landscape, it needs to be viewed in the context of accurate PLM thinking.  PLM itself has been 'Digital' for years, and without a proper PLM infrastructure the results of infinite connectivity will be disastrous.

In this Step, the Class A PLM methodology generates an 'As-Is' position statement and a SWOT of future possibilities than can then be mapped back onto the other subject themes.


Stage 3:  Months 7-9


Look deeper into the business, and prepare for the future.

PLM is not a theoretical exercise - it is carried out to impact and improve the business.  Traditional thinking has shied away from this, in the belief that PLM is somehow unquantifiable.  In a Class A PLM implementation, hard figures are produced to show the financial benefits.

The preparation for this is to carefully review three of the fundamental PLM Concepts as they apply to the current implementation:-

  • PLM Permeation
  • PLM Traction
  • PLM Best Practice

The PLM Justification Handbook is then used to produce financial figures that support the current level of implementation, as a baseline for moving forward.

The key to PLM roadmapping is to understand the maturity of all of the elements of your implementation in full detail, measured against the 16 Axes of PLM.  The low scores and the gaps will show exactly where you can improve on the way to Full PLM Maturity.

Full PLM Maturity will take some years to achieve, but a Class A implementation will have the Roadmap evaluated, agreed and published.  The Maturity Manual enables you to calculate your scores, and explains how to set out the results to create the Roadmap.


Stage 4:  Months 10-12


Review and Analyse the findings, and plan for the next 12 months.

The whole Class A PLM methodology is iterative.  Experience has shown that this level of detailed analysis reveals actionable insights very quickly, so the findings and documentation generated at each Stage can yield improvement projects that can run while the later Stages are still being actioned.

In Stage 1 you thoroughly review the fundamentals of your implementation, and start to generate the documentation set that will be required for Class A PLM.

In Stage 2 this same approach is applied to the wider issues of Lifecyle Management, CPD and the Digital Future.

In Stage 3 the investigation becomes much more technical, with the use of the Justification and Maturity toolsets.

Now in Stage 4 everything is analysed and reviewed against PLM Best Practice and criteria such as Scope, Balance, Metrics, Rigour and Documentation.  The results are formalised and presented at internal workshops where the PLM Team and leading stakeholders can plan for the Follow-On.

At this point it will be clear which aspects of the implementation are 'Class A' and which need improvement, and the target is to improve this year on year.




Class A PLM


Multi-Year Follow-On


Achieving Class A PLM is not the end of the story.  It shows that your implementation is being run to the highest neutral standards and is on course towards Full Maturity, but the upward path continues.

Large corporations can easily incorporate the Class A PLM framework into their global PLM implementation structure to identify and confirm their current areas of Best Practice, and to generate Board-approved financial targets and results.

Smaller companies and early adopters can use the PLMIG framework to move optimally along the PLM development path and to follow PLM Best Practice as they do so.

The first three Stages in the first year will have revealed detailed areas where the implementation is strong, and where improvements can be made.  There will therefore be many improvement projects under way in the areas which will impact most value.  

The full Review & Analysis in Stage 4 will have mapped out the objectives and plans for the next two or three years, in a way that is integrated with the Strategy and Goals of the business.  

Year 2 consolidates the gains that have been identified and utilises the enhanced management and documentation framework that Class A PLM requires.  The whole implementation is being run in a more effective and comprehensive way.  Existing KPIs can be maintained, and new metrics developed in areas such as Validated Vision, Financial Management, Standardisation and adoption of Digital.



Class A PLM


Benchmarking and BRM


As more organisations adopt Class A PLM it will become possible to run constructive PLM Benchmarks to compare strengths, weaknesses, and to share techniques.

At present, if any two companies benchmark their PLM environments together the results are likely to be of conversational value only, because the setups will be so far apart.

However, companies that are adopting Class A PLM will be approaching Best Practice across the board, and their management, metrics and planning will be much easier to compare.  Several companies can come together at once to use the PLM Benchmarking Handbook to carry out high-level benchmarks at Level 1, and to drill down into detail at Levels 2 & 3.

This will generate common metrics for benefits and performance that can become the basis for a neutral PLM Benefits Reference Model.  A BRM can show in advance what PLM projects can be expected to achieve, without the need for internal feasibility studies and justification exercises.

Such a Model was first envisaged in 2006, but failed to materialise.  As Class A PLM is a multi-year process, the PLM Benefits Reference Model can finally become a reality.



Class A PLM


How to Adopt Class A PLM

Class A PLM is a comprehensive achievement of high PLM performance across the board.  It requires all of the tools mentioned above, together with a determination to work to improve the current and future potential of PLM within the enterprise.

For those with well-organised PLM Teams, it is possible to follow the process in-house via:-

Individual Membership
Individual Membership of the PLMIG provides the full set of PLM tools in electronic format, with Q&A support; and keeps you up to date and involved with the developments throughout 2024.

The PLM Interest Group has been a leader in this area for over a decade, and has created the Class A PLM framework.  The PLMIG will manage and support the Class A PLM process for the full year's programme, with on-site support and documentation, via:-

Corporate Membership
Organisations that are applying PLM on a truly corporate or global scale can use Corporate Membership to embody PLMIG best practices and metrics within their implementation.

More information can be found via the links above or by contacting .

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