From Design to Delivery:
Increase Productivity in Your Product Lifecycle Combining PLM with CLM

How to Use a Platform Approach for Integrated and Seamless Configuration Management

One of the crucial challenges in mechanical and plant engineering is the market’s demand for ever-increasing personalization and configurability of products and systems. This requires manufacturing companies to master the resulting product complexity arising from the multitude of possible product variants.

In recent years, this product complexity and the required effort of skilled professionals for the coordination and synchronization of globally distributed configuration solutions have significantly increased. This complexity is further heightened by the combination of mechanics, electronics, and the rising number of software versions in configurable product families, leading to significant delays in the market introduction of new products, error susceptibility, higher costs, and quality issues.

There is almost always a lack of suitable configuration technology that is also capable of calculating and transparently displaying these enormous solution spaces of complex product variants. In addition, this often results in very cumbersome coordination processes between departments that work with fragmented data or incorrect documents.

This problem can sometimes lead to considerable delays in the market launch of new products, susceptibility to errors in production and therefore higher costs and quality problems.

Establish a Basis for Close Collaboration between Departments Integrating PLM and CLM

Integrating PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management) systems address this challenge as a solution scenario to enhance productivity in the development of product variants and simultaneously respond quickly and efficiently to global market demands or competitive situations.

CLM, fundamentally explained, is the strategy for cross-functional management of configuration knowledge and rules in a central, shareable configurable product model and the provision of an agnostic configuration platform that integrates all relevant business functions and systems from engineering, through sales, production, to service.

PLM and CLM are completely complementary and, in their combination, create significant added value. Configuration rules are created in the product development process by the designer and then distributed throughout the company through a company-wide, consistent flow of information. CLM and PLM enable integrated configuration management and connect existing data silos within the company. Data quality and communication between often distributed teams improve because configuration data is consolidated in a single source of truth and kept synchronized there.

Furthermore, the combination of CLM and PLM makes a significant contribution to versioning with comprehensive traceability from material procurement through production, consumption, maintenance, and decommissioning after end-of-life. Ideally, this continuity allows for a largely automated processing of an order from sales configuration to manufacturing. The resulting traceability is crucial for various other use cases, such as compliance with legal regulations, inventory management optimization, promoting sustainability goals, or increasing the efficiency of product recalls.

  • Product Development/Engineering:
    The core product, as well as the basis for planned options and variants, is defined during development.
  • Sales and Quotations/Sales:
    Product configurations are used in pricing to determine the pricing of different variants, with rules established for offering products based on local and regional market requirements and legal requirements.
  • Order Execution/Manufacturing:
    Customer-specific requirements are considered during sales and implemented during order fulfillment. Based on the variant bill of materials, material procurement coordinates various suppliers and ensures effective purchasing and production planning. CLM uses data from PLM and ERP systems to ensure consistency between both configurations. Production uses variant bill of materials to manufacture the product, aligning work orders, build instructions, and processes across multiple configurations.
  • Customer Service/Service:
    For maintenance/service, variant-specific information is required, such as the specific service bill of materials or service instructions. The interplay of PLM, ERP, and CLM plays a crucial role in this process. Variant-specific information contributes to the successful implementation of reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling for product disposal.

CLM connects and harmonizes PLM with all downstream applications from the often heterogeneous IT ecosystem of a mechanical engineering company, such as CRM, CPQ, and ERP. By connecting the closed digital loop defined by all these systems at the enterprise level, CLM not only maximizes the productivity of the product lifecycle but also that of individual teams throughout the entire company. Therefore, CLM is the core prerequisite for comprehensive digital transformation in discrete manufacturing. This allows addressing growing demands for more variants, digital offerings, and regulations, and introducing and offering new and advanced business models, such as Product-As-A-Service, Smart Services, and green products.

A globally operating company in energy and plant engineering has been able to achieve comprehensive improvements along the value chain over the years through the seamless integration of IT applications from PTC Windchill, Configit, and SAP. In addition to managing technical configuration rules and configurable Bills of Materials (BOMs) in PTC Windchill, the company has an interface to SAP to enrich cost and relevant supplier data worldwide. At the core of its architecture is the collaborative configuration environment of CLM (Configuration Lifecycle Management), where commercial and regional market rules are combined and harmonized with technical configuration rules and data.

The reduced effort for configurations, updating technical changes, or comparing different versions, along with traceability of configuration states and optimization regarding sustainability, delivery time, margin, cost, or selling price, brought quick successes in order acquisition (“hit rate”) with an 80% time savings in processing. The sales configurator, through seamless integration with the PLM-CLM platform, produces error-free and tailored quotes and quote versions, providing the ability to compare different configurations in the valid configuration solution space and reuse them for various projects.

The company significantly increased efficiency as sales configurations can now be created in a few minutes. Employees can now support significantly more product variants with the same resources, validate 100% of Bills of Materials (BOMs), and significantly shorten the time-to-market for the introduction of new products. Despite increasing complexity over the years, modeling and coordination efforts have been reduced by 90%, which is particularly relevant in times of skilled labor shortages.

Leverage Your PLM System Cross-Functionally with a CLM Solution

About the Authors

Florian Harzenetter

Dr. Florian Harzenetter is Senior Director and Global Advisor for Industrial, Electronics and High-Tech Clients at PTC. In this role, Mr. Harzenetter captures the specific needs of EHT customers and helps align their roadmaps and strategies to ensure successful adoption of PTC technologies.


Holger Senn Configit

Holger Senn is a Principal Consultant and Industry Advisor at Configit. With 30 years industry experience, Holger is responsible for advancing the understanding of Configuration Lifecycle Management (CLM) for manufacturing companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.