PLM vs. PIM: What are the differences?

Users primarily work with PLM data during product development, while users work with the data from a PIM system when marketing the final product. Learn more about PLM vs. PIM.

Product lifecycle management software and product information management software both store product information, but the two systems are not interchangeable. Supply chain leaders must learn about the differences between the two to take full advantage of their capabilities.

PLM software and PIM software both capture, store and can share information about a product. They both can also automate processes, control access to the data and run reports, among many other features. However, users primarily work with a PLM system's data during product development, while users work with the data from a PIM system when marketing and selling the final product.

Learn more about PIM vs. PLM.

What is PIM?

PIM is a centralized database for all product information relating to marketing and sales. PIM software can store information like images, product descriptions and pricing information, and users can configure it to pull information from other systems. For example, PIM software might draw on ERP data for up-to-date pricing information or PLM software for final product development specifications.

Multiple departments within a company, including marketing, sales and customer service, may use a PIM system to access current and relevant product data. Users can send the data stored in the PIM database to online storefronts to ensure the storefront product information is up to date, which can be especially important when a company sells its products in multiple countries with different currencies.

What is PLM?

A PLM system tracks all the data associated with the development of a new product. This information may include drawings, 3D renderings, documentation and manufacturing information. A PLM system lets users control access to the information and automate related processes.

Once a project comes to an end, users finalize the information stored in the PLM software and may push a subset of the data to other systems, such as an ERP or a PIM system.

The difference between PLM and PIM

While the functionality of the two systems is similar, PLM and PIM differ in many ways.

The biggest difference is the period in a product's lifecycle in which companies use each system. Organizations use PLM during the development of a product, so the PLM system stores information related to product design, production and materials such as design documents, 3D renderings or information about equipment for building the products.

The PIM system's functionality is focused on material that will help market and sell the product. Users who need current product data look in the PIM system. The information stored in the PIM database may be a subset of the data in the PLM system.

The users of each system are also different. Departments such as product development, manufacturing and purchasing all use the PLM system, and third parties who supply raw materials and support development may do so as well. Meanwhile, internal employees mainly use PIM, and users may push some of the data like product descriptions from PIM to systems that are visible to customers.

The benefits of using each system are also different. A PLM system can help reduce development time by making the development process more efficient and simplifying the manufacturing process. PIM helps users market and support the final product. The PIM system can also help keep digital storefronts up to date, eliminating the need for users to update information manually in multiple places.

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