PLM works as a web-based interface and is typically installed “on-premise” or on a company’s server. However, it can now increasingly be operated on cloud computing or mobile devices.

For the system to function properly, a company must assess which of the three operating options best meets its strategic needs and goals.

“There are different logical threads to use one or the other,” says Charles Benoualid, CEO and vice president of R&D at vendor Visual Next. “If you work in the cloud, everyone can access the product online, all of the time. However, you have to work outside your corporate environment and technology which is not always ideal for speed, storage and costs.”

“You are essentially borrowing someone else’s technology.”

On-site hosting can cut hardware maintenance costs, Benoualid says. However, “the downside is people who want to link to your PLM may have a poor internet connection,” limiting seamless, real-time communication, he adds.

PLMs is also increasingly used on mobile devices. However, these offer limited functions and are not yet available with all PLM suppliers, including some of the “big five” like Lectra, which is working to roll out the technology next year.

Whether on site or in the cloud, PLM must be merged with a company’s ERP and other enterprise software to work efficiently.

“The cloud is only a host application,” explains Benoualid. “You still need to bridge your data to it to have a proper PLM system.”

Linking to the cloud works similarly to implementing PLM on site. Your software provider will need to transfer your enterprise data onto the new platform, ideally through a next-generation Application Program Interface (API). If your vendor does not use this technology, it should be able to marshal independent IT consultants to set up other bridges, Benoualid says.

PLM also works differently depending on the vendor.

Visual Next, for instance, uses Microsoft’s SQL server and its Azure Cloud solution, while rival Lectra runs its latest Lectra Fashion 4.0 software on Oracle servers.