PIM vs. PLM – What’s the Difference?

March 22, 2018

PIM and PLM: Are they opposites or each other’s best friends? It’s important to know what’s behind these abbreviations, how these two concepts are different and why they matter.

What Is PIM?

PIM stands for Product Information Management. It refers to a software-enabled system that lets you store and organize your product data. This could include specifications on a product, as well as a lot more. From images and videos of the product to texts and documents explaining its use and value, the PIM contains all of it.

Basically, a PIM system is your single source of truth for product information. At its core a database which seamlessly integrates with other databases with product related information, allowing you to maintain it all from your PIM system. Whether you use your PIM solution internally (e.g., to help inform sales and marketing) or externally (e.g., to populate your website), having a PIM system is helpful because it removes the risk of having out-of-date or inconsistent information. It can also make you more effective at running your business across the board.

What Is PLM?

PLM is the abbreviation for Product Lifecycle Management. Like PIM, it is also software-enabled. However, the similarities stop there. A PLM system oversees the entire lifecycle of a product. It comprises the conception of the idea to its eventual design and prototyping, on to product manufacturing and release to the service required after the sale of the product, and finally the disposal of any unsold products.

The idea is to integrate product data with the business processes required and the people who manage them. Engineering and development really benefit from product lifecycle management systems because they clarify authorship and ownership of a particular stage in product development. PLMs do not manage any customer-facing product information. Its focus is wholly on business processes.

Understanding PIM vs. PLM

To clarify, PIM is different from PLM because it focuses on the current information about a product – not all of the information on the product to date. PLM systems do not carry marketing information or details that necessarily help sales. They also do not help when it comes to publishing product information, marketing across channels or anything like that.

In other words, you need both.

A PIM system gathers and combines all available product information in a single data source, then synchronizes it before finally distributing it through different systems. In contrast, a PLM system is a sort of product and development log. While it is also single source, that information doesn’t necessarily need to be distributed, or at least not broadly. PLM is more involved with how product developments are authored and how new products can be released.

How Can PIM and PLM Systems Complement Each Other?

PIM and PLM systems have completely different purposes – and that’s what makes them work so well together. When you combine product information management systems with product lifecycle management systems, you have the ability to let one side inform the other. For the sales team and marketing department on the PIM side, they can see the way products are developed and this can help them sell better. On the flip side, product developers can gain a better understanding of customer product preferences, requirements and functional demands. It’s a win-win for everyone.

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Learn more about PIM systems. Download our whitepaper “Five crucial questions you need to answer before choosing PIM”.

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