Finding software can be overwhelming. We've helped thousands of manufacturers choose the right manufacturing software so they can optimize quality and reduce costs of production.

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Fishbowl Manufacturing

Fishbowl Manufacturing is a business automation and inventory management platform for small to midsize manufacturing companies. The app offers QuickBooks integration for accounting management, as well as tools for inventory control,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 140 recommendations

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E2 Shop System

E2 by Shoptech Corporation is a manufacturing solution that offers scheduling, purchasing, shipping, customer management and accounting. It’s designed specifically for job shops, contract and a variety of make-to-order manufacturers. E2... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 53 recommendations

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Henning Visual EstiTrack ERP

Henning Software has helped small to midsize manufacturers and job shops for 30 years. Visual EstiTrack ERP has complete material requirements planning, product lifecycle, supply chain, customer relationship, human resource and manufacturing... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 32 recommendations

Platforms: Win
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Global Shop Solutions

Global Shop Solutions offers ERP software to serve clients across manufacturing industries of all sizes. The multi-modular application is comprised of independent modules for customer relationship management, inventory management,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 18 recommendations

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IQMS ERP Software

IQMS’ flagship product, EnterpriseIQ ERP, is developed specifically for SMB and large discrete, and batch process manufacturers in the aerospace, medical device, automotive, food and beverage, consumer products, plastics, packaging... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 16 recommendations

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Infor VISUAL ERP

Infor VISUAL is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System with end-to-end functionality built for manufacturing organizations looking for a complete solution that supports the entire operational lifecycle, from planning to sourcing,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 15 recommendations

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E2 Manufacturing System

Shoptech’s E2 MFG System is a fully integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution designed for discrete manufacturers of all sizes utilizing make-to-order, make-to-stock, engineer-to-order, assemble-to-order and mixed-mode... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 13 recommendations

Platforms: Win
Deployments: On premise
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MIE Trak PRO

One word sums up MIE Trak Pro: flexibility. You may be using tired old spreadsheets or an ERP system that can't scale with your manufacturing company. When your organization grows, MIE Trak Pro adapts to your needs, striking a balance... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 12 recommendations

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Vicinity Software

Vicinity Software is a cloud-based or on-premise solution designed for process manufacturers with a specific focus on food & beverage (VicinityFood), chemical (VicinityChem) and breweries (VicinityBrew). Features include MRP, centralized... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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COSS ERP

COSS ERP is a cloud-based integrated manufacturing and enterprise resource planning solution that caters to businesses of all sizes across various industries such as aerospace and defense, automotive, machine building, metal fabrication,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 11 recommendations

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ICIM ERP and Accelerated ERP

ICIM ERP by Metasystems offers small and midsize discrete manufacturers a comprehensive ERP that brings together order management, engineering, manufacturing, CRM, financials and warranty management. It supports the business needs... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 10 recommendations

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Genius ERP

Genius Solutions delivers a complete enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, including software, implementation services, and field expertise for small to mid-sized custom manufacturers across the US and Canada. Genius ERP is... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 9 recommendations

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Epicor Manufacturing ERP

Epicor ERP is a comprehensive on-prem and cloud-based ERP solution that provides manufacturers with robust capabilities for job costing, supply chain, inventory control, pre-production materials planning and manufacturing execution... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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Made2Manage ERP

Aptean Made2Manage ERP is designed for manufacturers in job shops and dynamic “to-order” and mixed-mode environments. It's suitable for SMB manufacturers in industries like industrial equipment, electronics and fabricated metal,... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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ApparelMagic

ApparelMagic is the central hub behind many of fashion's top brands. As an integrated inventory solution tailor-made for retailers and wholesalers of apparel and accessories, it's the one-stop shop the fashion industry relies on from... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 8 recommendations

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EVO~ERP

EVO~ERP is an enterprise resource management (ERP) solution that helps small and mid-size businesses to manage inventory, accounting, warehouses and manufacturing. The solution supports multiple languages, currencies, exchange rates... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 7 recommendations

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Skulocity

Skulocity is a cloud-based ERP system for manufacturing and distribution businesses. It offers functionality for warehouse management, inventory planning, manufacturing management, payroll, shipping management, and financial analytics. Skulocity’s... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 7 recommendations

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WorkWise ERP

WorkWise ERP is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that helps midsize businesses in the manufacturing industry with their management processes and operations. It can be deployed on-premise or in the cloud. WorkWise ERP... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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Datacor ERP

Datacor ERP (formerly Chempax) is an integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) application designed specifically for chemical process manufacturers and distributors. The solution can be... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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MasterTools ERP

Online Computing designs and develops a proprietary ERP software called MasterTools. MasterTools combines all aspects of production planning, project management, shop floor control, inventory control, e-commerce, and financial analysis... Read more

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Recent recommendations: 6 recommendations

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Buyers guide


Last Updated: June 5, 2020

The goal of product lifecycle management (PLM) is to provide an infrastructure that companies can use to improve product quality. This is achieved by creating a centralized system to organize all data on all products, from initial conceptualization, to manufacturing, to sale and eventually to recycling.

For large companies with geographically dispersed teams, managing these processes and integrating data from throughout the supply chain is a complex strategy that requires software to help automate and connect disparate technology solutions. PLM software is the technology that ties these solutions together.

Here's what we'll cover in this guide:

What Is PLM Software?
Common Features of Product Lifecycle Management Software
Important Considerations
Market Trends to Understand

What Is PLM Software?

PLM software can be thought of as an application designed to help users track all information around product design, production and consumption. It integrates all technology and systems throughout the product lifecycle, from design and simulation technology to procurement and manufacturing solutions.

The advantages to using PLM software can be distilled to three main benefits:

Faster production. Through the use of computer-aided design software, designs can be quickly and easily created, and at lower costs. Meanwhile, computer-aided manufacturing functionality can manage machining processes to create more products, quickly.

More accurate production. PLM software can reduce the chance products deviate from design specifications during machining. Its users can also simulate and test designs before production to ensure finished products will be reliable.

More efficient production. Users can communicate with coworkers throughout the organization and share designs, production forecasts and other data. The creation of definitive, automatic processes for product build, assembly and disassembly.

These benefits combined lead to more organized, profitable product development.

Common Features of Product Lifecycle Management Software

The modules and features found within PLM applications will vary vendor by vendor: some systems are fully featured suites, containing modules to handle every step of the lifecycle, while other solutions offer phase-specific functionality to handle only one aspect of the lifecycle. Most applications act as the “integrator,” connecting various applications and data sources into one, coherent solution.

When evaluating PLM software, here are the key features and functionality to be aware of:

Application Description
Computer-aided design (CAD) CAD applications create two-dimensional drawings and three-dimensional models of components. Users of CAD software are able to produce designs more accurately and at greater speeds than professionals who design by hand. In addition, engineers can also reuse and update designs as needed.
Computer-aided engineering (CAE) CAE is an essential process to simulate products, anticipate weaknesses and build-upon preliminary designs to create safer and more structurally sound assets. Its features commonly include performance simulators, finite element analysis, mechanical event simulation and fluid dynamics analysis.
Computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) CAM ensures that manufacturers create products precisely to design specification. Its applications communicate with machinery to create items exactly as intended, while creating the necessary documentation to trace manufacturing trends at later dates. These applications can greatly reduce raw material usage and improve production efficiency.
Manufacturing process management (MPM) MPM software manages and automates all of the processes that take place to machine products. MPM is also a key component in streaming processes through various reporting functions that look to reduce lead times and inventories.
Product data management (PDM) PDM creates a central repository for all information on product design, requirements and processes. PDM modules are often accessible from any device and offer data security features for users who need to secure production information. Bill of materials (BOM), CAD files, supplier and materials data and information on machine processes are accessible through PDM modules.
Reporting and analytics Analytics can be used to find where lead times are getting out of hand and costs are greatly overshooting estimates. Many systems feature pre-built reports, as well as ad hoc reporting that users can customize to their own needs.

Important Considerations

When evaluating PLM software, there are a few key considerations that you should keep top of mind:

Integrated suite vs. best-of-breed software. Buyers have a lot of options in this market. Many of the major vendors in this space offer multiple applications with varying degrees of functionality. When it comes time to purchase software to assist with PLM, buyers have three main options:

  1. Purchase PLM software from your ERP vendor. Most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems offer PLM functionality with their suites. Example vendors include: SAP, Oracle and Infor.
  2. Purchase a best-of-breed PLM software application. There are PLM-specific vendors that offer a suite of modules and applications to manage every step of the product lifecycle. Example vendors include: Siemens, PTC and Dassault Systemes.
  3. Purchase PLM modules on a stand-alone basis. Buyers may also choose to purchase CAD, CAE or other modules on as stand-alone tools. Example vendors include: Autodesk, MasterCAM and CAMWorks.

All three options have their merits and faults for particular buyers. We recommend buyers first evaluate their needs, consider the systems that new PLM technology must integrate with and then evaluate the systems that best meet this criteria.

Cloud-based vs. on-premise. Cloud-based PLM software is still in its infancy, but many of the big vendors now offer to host some functionality and allow applications to be accessed via the Internet. The benefits of using PLM software in the Cloud are similar to many other applications, such as low upfront spend and easy online access.

Because of the proprietary nature of the information stored in PLM software, many buyers choose to deploy this type of system in a private Cloud, or an online network managed by the users’ company, rather than by the software vendor. This allows buyers to enjoy the cost- and access-related benefits of the Cloud while maintaining tighter control around their data.

Market Trends to Understand

As we look to the future of PLM, there are some glaring trends on the horizon. First and foremost is the advancement and blurring of the lines that we’re seeing in connected devices. Over the next 5-10 years, more and more products will become connected. While this will lead to exciting product performance and maintenance monitoring, it’s also a new component of product design that must be taken into account.

From a manufacturing perspective, more and more products are going to require baseline software components built into them. This will add another team for existing design, mechanical, electrical, and other manufacturing teams to work with. Organizations will have to determine where, when, and how to embed software teams into the traditional PLM processes.