What software is typically used to manage a company's product structures and configurations

I currently work for a small company (10-20) that is seeing a lot of growth in its product line. With that growth we’re spinning off configurations of our current products to new customers and industries. This is leading to a lot of “similar but different” products to manage.

What software do companies typically use to manage the list of products they offer, how they are packaged together, add-ons, related products, and product configurations? Is this typically done with an ERP system?


Typically ERP is used for the majority of the non-engineering functions like supply chain management and billing, SAP being one of the most widely used. PLM is the engineering tool for controlling product structure, variants, p/ns, etc. IME Teamcenter and Windchill are the two most popular.

PLM can be difficult to implement but is well worth the effort IMHO. The real difficulty is that they are customizable databases with monstrous capability and folks tend to get lost in the details of how they want it to work and what they want it to track. I learned Teamcenter at a Fortune 100 that (like most) had been using PLM for many years, so I was able to gain a decent working knowledge in an afternoon. From there I went to a poorly managed small manufacturer that was in the process of implementing Windchill, had nobody with PLM experience, and consequently were amidst a multi-year debacle. Every few months that employer would try another test project and consequently chase themselves down various rabbit holes as they weren’t used to formal workflows or process. From there, I moved to my current employer which is a mid-sized custom design firm with hundreds of engineers, many of whom had learned PLM like myself at the mega-corps. We implemented PLM fairly quickly with the biggest headache being our IT dept as setting up PLM requires some networking. Bottom line - results vary.

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