What is Green PLM ?

Let’s face it, our world has changed, and in between the international economic crisis and melting icebergs, the PLM planet has also shifted. More than ever, OEMs and their partners are approaching PLM differently. New questions being pondered and discussed in hallways and boardrooms include:

“Will the product generate less carbon emissions if we chose X material instead of Y?”

“Is the packaging ecological enough, and will it still attract our regular buyers?”

“Can I sell it in the EU too, or will it be banned for not meeting requirements?”

All legitimate questions. All real issues.

In this introductory series about Green PLM, we’ll look at what gives Green PLM its color. Maarit Cruz, our manager of CSR and “green” issues, tells me that Green PLM can be broken down into two broad categories: a product’s compliance to international norms, and its overall environmental footprint. Throughout this Green PLM series we’ll examine both categories.

But first, what is Green PLM?

According to Maarit, Green PLM can be summarized as: “product conception processes that help to minimize the product’s impact on the environment throughout its entire lifecycle.”

The European Union estimates that more than 80 percent of a product’s environmental impact is determined in the product conception phase. And depending on the product in question, the impact peaks differently. For example, because of the energy it consumes, a durable good like an appliance has the highest impact during usage, while a single-use product, like a paper napkin, has its biggest impact once it gets picked up by the garbage truck.

But there’s another side to Green PLM, and that’s cost. I’ll bet we all agree that Green PLM is great for our planet, but is it good for our budgets? In a blog post by Jim Brown entitled The ‘Unconventional ROI’ of Green PLM, he says that

“A sustainable change requires profitability and not just a good, warm feeling that you are doing something right.”

To get your banker (well, you may want to start with your boss) to smile, Jim calls manufacturers to:

“Reduce the cost impact of going green on yourself, your supply chain, and ultimately the consumer. Be smart about the design process, and leverage tools like PLM and regulatory management solutions that help lower the cost of green- not to mention the cost of mandatory compliance which you are probably already facing.”

Do you agree that PLM can reduce the cost of going green, or are you perhaps turning green? 😉

Before you reach any final conclusions, I invite you to stick with us for the rest of this blog series. If you’re not already receiving 3D Perspectives posts in your email, Twitter or RSS feed, why not subscribe to receive the full series? I’ll dedicate my next Green PLM post to compliance, particularly compliance assessment and impact analysis, and will share a video about this I took interviewing Mike Zep, Dassault Systèmes’ environmental compliance expert.



  • Milind Agrawal

    Is there any way to find out how green is ones existing PLM? We can have some sort of questionnarie to guess it from various interested users..

  • Kate

    Agree, I see green is important issue. But in most cases it appears as “product environmental impact” – According to Maarit, Green PLM can be summarized as: “product conception processes that help to minimize the product’s impact on the environment throughout its entire lifecycle.”

    But in addition to environmental responsibility, green can drive product or building to more optimal design.

    Will be glad to discuss.
    Oleg Shilovitsky

  • Hi Milind and Oleg, thanks for your comments!

    Milind, I think your point about being able to analyze how green is a company’s PLM practice is really interesting. Do you mean in terms of regulatory compliance or evaluating carbon footprint? I’ll dig around a bit and see what I can find.

    Oleg, please tell us more about what you mean regarding optimal design. Do you mean materials optimization? I think there are many facets to green PLM and would love to hear more about your perspective.


  • Maarit

    Hi Oleg,

    indeed, one of the positive “side effects” of green design is that it often leads to optimizing a given product’s or processes’ overall design. Rethinking the types of materials used and the way they are combined, they way they can be produced (ie in a mold) the way they are put together (ie without using screws), they way they can be maintained (ie easy to open for maintenance) and the way they can be taken apart, will often lead to “leaner” products and processes that ultimately not only result in less environmental impacts but also help manufacturers save time and money.

    Have you been working on any particular products in this context ? If so, we would be very interested to find out more about them,



  • Maarit

    Hi Milind,

    concerning a questionnaire, we are actually planning to design a green plm survey which will include questions like the one you mentioned above, definitely a good suggestion! If you work in a given industry, do you have other ideas of the types of industry-specific questions that could be included in a questionnaire on green plm?



  • Can PLM reduce the cost of going green?

    What will the product’s impact be on the product on the environment?
    I think a better question would be does that product does anything towards replacing oil and coal – two major carbon emitters?

    Acceptance is the major part of green technologies – even if the product has a design that helps to save a little bit of environment, there is not going to be a major impact. The major impact is going to be when the technology will help to replace or reduce carbon reduction for oil and coal, and it will be widely accepted by industry and manufacturing. That’s when the majority of environment will be saved, not just improved.

    Solar and wind is not a long term viable solution for renewable energy or drastic improvement of the environment. It will help to replace 10-20% of the energy, but what about the other 80-90%?
    Also, what should those 10-20% do when there is no wind or after dusk? Stay in the dark? So the solutions for this sector should be around designing a better storage for the solar or wind energy.

    My point is to make the real tangible impact the PLM solutions should be concentrated around the four major carbon emitters – oil, coal, steel and cement, or reducing carbon emission during their production.

  • Hi Feyzi, thanks for your thoughtful post. I think you’re right about our real success being when the products/technologies are widely accepted by industry and manufacturing. It reminded me of a chat I had with someone I had the other day about powertrains. Seems we have the technology to manufacture ones that use fuel more efficiently, but because the knowledge about the technology is dispersed among different stakeholders, it’s difficult to holistically evaluate risks, make decisions and start producing them, not to mention reconciling such change with inherited organizational/manufacturing structures. If we could only start from scratch, being responsible would be much easier.

  • Hi

    Thanks for writing about Green PLM.
    According to my understanding, it is not always that you need a large investment to go for cleaner product development. So even a small level of awareness and mind set to accept changes would do a lot.

    And for massive changes, the major challenges are of the energy – in the form of heat and electricity to be made available in required quantum and low cost.

    Would like to have more clarifications on the same.


  • Hi Amit, thanks for furthering the discussion.

    I fully agree with you about the small level of awareness that can already create a difference. Bringing eco-design and cleaner production awareness to the designers is something that we’ve been promoting for several years through our SolidWorks Sustainability initiative (http://www.solidworks.com/sustainability/) for instance.

    As for massive changes, energy is of course one big chunck but not the only one. To be as exhaustive as possible, product design should go through LifeCycle Analysis (LCA) which includes all aspects (including energy but not limited to) from materials extraction, production, transportation, usage to end of life. Check out this other article http://blogs.3ds.com/perspectives/design/3d-3p-sustainable-innovation/ to have a quick overview of sustainable innovation (with LCA and stakeholder engagement).