PLM and Circular Economy

Executive Summary & Goals

The idea of the Circular Economy (CE) is straight forward: to keep products and their component materials in use for a longer period of time before they are discarded or put into the trash where the value is lost forever.

However, the process of creating an inherently more sustainable circular economy from the current linear economy now practiced is not as simple. It will take transformational thinking and disruptive changes to how manufactures approach product development. This starts with reimagining what the delivered “product” actually is; as example, a recurring service instead of one-off sold good.

The transition to a CE will motivate industries of all types to design and manufacture their products in more mindful and thus more sustainable ways, reducing extraction of the planet’s finite resources with less environmental impact. This transformation will create many new business models, investments, technologies, and professional opportunities in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) in which PLM Green contributors like CIMPA PLM Services are excited to participate.

Historically, PLM strategies and implementations typically focused on improving multidisciplinary digital collaboration across the enterprise and value chain from the ideation stage of a product concept through its engineering design, virtual prototyping, production, maintenance, and finally end of life. PLM-enabling software solutions have already proven they can power this strategy across individual departments and global-spanning business units.

Now is the time to apply the capabilities of PLM to address the requirements of sustainability across the world, including that of the Circular Economy.

A Circular Economy can best be achieved by applying business strategies that employ and extend PLM technologies which enable the reuse, life-extension, repurposing, and remanufacturing of products and component materials back into a repeating regenerative cycle, minimizing waste and value erosion at each stage.

With that background, the PLM Green Global Alliance theme on the Circular Economy aims to gather knowledge, share examples, perform research, and discuss insights on the role and value of PLM strategies and solutions in supporting the Circular Economy.

In doing so, our aspirational goal is to help reverse the following disturbing statistics cited by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

  • 80% of all European consumer products end up in landfills after one use cycle.
  • 30% of all produced clothes are never sold, and another 30% leave the store with a discount.
  • Packaging accounts for 40% of all plastics used globally. Since most packaging is only used once, an estimated 100 billion dollars is lost to the economy yearly.
  • 10-15% of all material becomes waste during the construction of a new building.
  • 30% of all food is wasted throughout its value chain.

PLM and the Circular Economy Theme Moderator(s)

Patrice Quencez
Director Consultant at CIMPA PLM Services




Focus & Objectives

Our near term focus will be on how best to take advantage of “PLM Levers” for supporting the Circular Economy, and defining what new advancements in capabilities,  implementations, and user applications will be needed.

The Circular Economy encompasses business models and objectives that seek to:

  • Maximize the duration of the use time and maximize the availability of products/services with the lowest consumption of resources, parts, and materials (maintenance, repair).
  • Development, increasing services (and/or businesses) to follow-up, support, and take charge of products all over their lifecycle (development to services).
  • Ensure their adaptation to the use cases and market expectations in the time (upgrade, retrofits).
  • Ensure reuse of the products and/or their component in other contexts (reconditioning, re-manufacturing).
  • After their use, ensure their recycling minimizes impacts or returns natural materials and/or energy to the environment (recycling, cradle-to-cradle development).
  • Ensure the same capabilities for the processes and means involved in developing, producing, distributing, and supporting these products.
  • Reduce waste in production, manufacturing, and logistics, reduce reworks, and ensure “right in the first time.”
  • Manage and monitor the business with adapted performance KPIs linked with sustainability and objectives defined over long periods.

PLM’s digital capabilities are essential to enable these Circular Economy business objectives and, more specifically, as examples:

  • The support and sharing of all data about definitions and performances of products, services and industrial systems all over their lifecycles with the memory, traceability of their evolutions retained.
  • The support of robustness engineering capabilities such as management of products, processes and manufacturing Failure Mode & Effect Analysis, management of key. characteristics, calculation, and simulation of Mean Time Between Features.
  • Modeling and simulation of CE requirements and solutions in product, services and industrial systems.
  • Drive of the maturity/lifecycle collaborative management process.
  • The connection and integration of data about systems of systems, products, and services to support the development of the services businesses.
  • Management of all data and provide traceability needed to meet regulation requirements.

Based on the above observations, we can distinguish different levers of actions to be used by the PLM solution providers, consulting professionals, and their industrial customers:

  • Define the performances and requirements and set-up management/steering processes to meet sustainability objectives.
  • Rethinking, move the business models to the new market paradigm of a sustainable world.
  • Adapt and transform developments and operations value chains to deliver these new business models.
  • Accelerate ramp-up and maturity of PLM digital platforms’ capabilities as a critical enabler of the business processes transformation.

We believe the primary mechanism for the development and acceleration of the CE value chain lies within the PLM system digital architecture. This includes the adoption and integration of new technologies – like AI/ML, virtual prototyping, digital twins, and even gaming – to meet the sustainability challenges humanity now faces.

Agenda & Activities

We propose in our PLM & Circular Economy theme working group to exchange experiences, thought leadership, and most importantly, professional support and encouragement to amplify and accelerate our voices and actions.  As in the other PLM Green themes, we will do so by educating, advocating, and collaborating across the boundaries of technical disciplines, different industries, and international borders.

We will pursue these objectives using a plan composed of several elements that could include: points of view commentaries, use cases, topical discussion groups, virtual round-tables, articles and blog posts, book and paper reviews, recorded interviews, industry surveys, conference presentations, and participation as guest speakers in webinars hosted by others.

No one association, business, or NGO, regardless of how large or small, can produce all the advancements and innovations for sustainability that are needed. Thus communicating, cooperating, and collaborating (not competing) with other aligned professionals, companies, organizations and alliances will be needed which we enthusiastically look forward to.

Invitation to Participate & Collaborate

To participate in our PLM and Circular Economy group, we invite you to first, if you have not yet done so, to join the PLM Green Global Alliance LinkedIn Group at, then contact our moderator Patrice Quencez @ CIMPA to share your special interest and expertise.

Announcements & Updates

Check back soon to this website page as we announce activities for 2024, or register HERE to receive our news, updates, and announcements of events.

To follow our progress, or better yet join PLM Green in making a difference, send an email to

References & Resources

Here below, we have begin to share a curated list of featured case studies, white papers, blog posts, presentations, webinars, and recorded interviews on the role of PLM-enabling technologies in manifesting a circular economy.

We invite you to send us resources and examples for inclusion you have come across in your work, company, industry, or country to

Circular Economy of Large Complex Systems from CIMPA - In this article from Patrice Quencez, Director Consultant of CIMPA PLM Services and PLM Green Circular Economy (CE) contributor, discusses the deployment, completion, and reinforcement of PLM capabilities to meet sustainability stakes of complex systems with long lifecycles, such as those found in aviation and aerospace. Patrice writes: "Even if… Continue Reading
PLM Green Expands Circular Economy Coverage - The PLM Green Global Alliance (PGGA) is excited to announce that Patrice Quencez, Director Consultant and Deputy Director of CIMPA PLM Services, has volunteered to lead our coverage of the role of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) strategies, technologies, and solutions in creating a new global Circular Economy. The concept of the… Continue Reading
How PLM sustains Sustainability and Circular Economy - PLM & Sustainability with Circular Economy: How PLM sustains Sustainability & Circular Economy This article published as a LinkedIn Newsletter by PLM Green Circular Economy moderator Patrice Quencez from CIMPA PLM Services introduces a reading grid using a systemic approach to scope PLM levers to tackle Sustainability-Circular Economy and frame… Continue Reading
Aras Publishes Circular Economy White Paper - The PLM solution provider Aras has announced availability of the white paper "The Circular Economy as a Model for the Future." The paper authors write "Awareness of sustainability is growing. Today’s consumers are often making an extra effort to purchase products whose suppliers produce them in an environmentally friendly way,… Continue Reading
Discussing Sustainability with PLM Solution Provider SAP - The PLM Green Global Alliance recently hosted its first in a series of panel discussions and interviews that will explore sustainability topics with enterprise PLM solution providers. These forums will extend our recent article on the Intersection of PLM and Sustainability where we next hope to learn about examples of… Continue Reading
The Circular Economy Can Help Save The Planet - From a recent World Economic Forum article "The circular economy can help save the planet if we start innovating now – Transitioning to a holistic circular economic model is critical to reducing environmental degradation and prioritizing biodiversity and nature, while also delivering on future competitiveness. In a circular economy, waste is… Continue Reading
Circular Economy Crucial to Achieving Paris Climate Goals - From a World Circular Economy Forum + Climate press release: "The circular economy is crucial to achieving the Paris climate goals - If we are to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, the world needs to transition to a circular economy. A circular economy will reduce greenhouse gas… Continue Reading
Resourcing the Energy Transition - PLM Green Alliance moderator Bjorn Fidjeland recommends reading the KPMG report on "Resourcing the energy transition: making the world go round" which explores the transition to renewable energy, a growing dependence on natural resources other than oil, and the crucial link to the circular economy. From the KPMG website "A… Continue Reading
PLM and Product Design for a Circular Economy from Infosys - In this whitepaper on "PLM and Product Design for a Circular Economy" from Infosys the authors write: "In order to achieve the building blocks of a circular economy, there are two broad initiatives that equipment suppliers should adopt for product development in its evolution to match industry needs. Product Lifecycle… Continue Reading
Low Carbon Circular Economy - This Think2030 paper on "A Low Carbon and Circular Economy" looks at the opportunities for the circular economy to reduce the EU’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with three of its most carbon-intensive sectors: the built environment, mobility, and food, and makes recommendations for policies within the 2030 time horizon… Continue Reading
From Linear to Circular - From Linear to Circular is one of Ellen MacArthur Foundations' flagship learning programmes aimed at postgraduate students and professionals at the start of their circular economy career. It is a fantastic opportunity if you want to bring greater purpose to your work or research and want to become a circular… Continue Reading
How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change - Completing the Picture: How the Circular Economy Tackles Climate Change - From the Ellen MacArthur Foundation "Completing the Picture highlights the indispensable role that the circular economy plays in tackling the climate crisis. It aims to demonstrate how circular economy principles and strategies significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Read this… Continue Reading
Rebooting PLM for a Circular Economy - "Rebooting PLM for a Circular Economy - Product lifecycle management needs a reboot. Growing concerns about sustainability, combined with recent technology advances, have driven the need to redefine product lifecycle management (PLM)."  Read more in this Forbes Council Post from Jeff Kavanaugh. Continue Reading
PLM for Sustainable Manufacturing - PLM and Sustainable Manufacturing - PLM Green Alliance theme moderator Lionel Grealou introduces the connection between PLM and Sustainable Manufacturing in his recent blog post. Continue Reading
Redefining PLM in a Circular Economy from Tata - In this whitepaper on "Redefining Product Lifecycle Management in a Circular Economy" from Tata Consultancy Services the authors write that "Companies can move to a circular economy by implementing the 5R approach (reduce, reuse, repurpose, remanufacture, and recycle). This shift will drive sustained growth, and impact how Product Lifecycle Management… Continue Reading
Circular Economy and PLM from Technia - In this article on the Circular Economy and PLM from Technia the author writes "At Technia we are looking into developing the PLM tools that will enable companies to switch to a fully circular approach...PLM systems should serve as a major help for companies looking to switch to a circular… Continue Reading
Will the Circular Economy Save the Planet? - What is the "Circular Economy" and what is its role in the production of durable consumer products? Read more in this timely article on "What is the Circular Economy" from Sierra Magazine. . Continue Reading