PLM vs PIM: What are the Differences?


Product information management (PIM) and product lifecycle management (PLM) are often misunderstood. While they both play a role in successfully creating, marketing, and selling your products, there are some fundamental differences between the two.

What Is PIM?

PIM is the software-based process of gathering, storing, editing, and distributing product information. PIM software handles all types of product information including:

  • Titles
  • Descriptions
  • SKUs
  • Taxonomies and categories
  • Images
  • Technical specs
  • Channel specific information

PIM data is uploaded to the system from any number of external sources. Common examples include ERP systems, DAM systems, and spreadsheets. As information is uploaded, the PIM will validate the data to ensure it is free of errors.

Once the product information is in the PIM, different business users can enrich the product data so that products are optimized for each sales channel. An example of product enrichment would be adding more target keywords to the product title of an item to be listed on Amazon.

The product information is then spread to all relevant sales channels such as e-commerce websites, comparison shopping engines, and social media platforms.

With a single source of truth for product data, businesses can experience considerable benefits from using a PIM, including:

  • Improved data quality
  • Easier selling through multiple channels
  • Consistent customer experience across different touchpoints
  • Reduced management costs and risks

What Is PLM?

PLM involves the management of the entire lifecycle of a product. The typical product lifecycle has four phases:

  1. Development: an idea is generated, researched, and designed (e.g. a prototype is created).
  2. Growth: the product is manufactured, marketed, and distributed
  3. Maturity: the product reaches its peak; it’s widely available and other competitors enter the market
  4. Decline: the demand for the product decreases as it becomes obsolete or loses market share to competitors

PLM software provides a data store for all the information needed for the design and manufacturing of a product. This improves the efficiency of the design and production cycles by making essential product information available to different teams across the organization.

The software can integrate data with other business systems such as ERP systems and manufacturing execution systems (MES). This brings clarity to ownership during different stages of product development and reduced time to market.

Because PLM focuses on the development of the product, it does not manage customer-facing product information. The information managed by a PLM generally includes:

  • Manufacturing drawings
  • 3D models
  • Bill of materials
  • Prototype specifications
  • Versions
  • Revisions

How PIM and PLM Can Work Together

PIM and PLM systems serve different purposes and can be used effectively together. Making design data available to marketing and sales teams through the PLM can give them a better understanding of how the product is made. As a result, they can market and sell the product more effectively. PLM data can also help customer service reps. With a detailed understanding of an item’s specifications, they can answer product-related questions with greater ease.

With the customer-facing information available through the PIM, developers can better understand customer preferences. They can then use this understanding in the development process to create products that better match the customer’s needs.

To learn more about how a PIM can integrate seamlessly with your current e-commerce ecosystem, check out Fabric’s Product Information Manager.


Topics: Product
Bradley Taylor

Tech advocate and writer @ fabric.

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