What is Product Data Management (PDM)?

Definition of Product Data Management (PDM)

Product Data Management (PDM) software is used to manage artifacts that describe, define and simulate mechanical and electrical product hardware.

Application of Product Data Management (PDM)

PDM software is used to:

  • Keep track of the iterations of artifacts and the complex interrelationships between them, allowing individuals to save progress as well as revert changes.
  • Release engineering documentation to downstream participants, including manufacturing, procurement and other departments, as the textual and graphical specification to which products should be made.
  • Securely coordinate and synchronize artifact progress and changes between individuals and teams, including those that are distributed globally around the world as well as those external to the company such as suppliers, customers and partners.

It is important to the note that the scope of PDM can range widely, from managing MCAD artifacts (a.k.a. CAD Data Management) to tracking engineering documentation like specifications (a.k.a. Engineering Data Management) to controlling all artifacts related to products across the enterprise (a.k.a. Enterprise Data Management).

Capabilities Provided by Product Data Management (PDM)

  • Check-in and check-out actions to get and update artifacts. Check-out allows for the download the latest or specific version of an artifact. Check-in allows for the upload of a new iteration of the artifact. Between the two, progress and changes to the artifact are captured over time.
  • Mining artifacts to create derivative ones. Checking-in assemblies from MCAD software or layouts from ECAD software each generate Bills of Materials in PDM software. Similar functionality exists for PDM software managing ECAD artifacts, MCAE or Simulation artifacts and Software artifacts.
  • Exposing artifacts to non-technical stakeholders. A number of PDM software can expose information within such artifacts, which has often been creating using technical software that is not widely accessible, to non-technical stakeholders in the development process.
  • Searching for specific artifacts. This allows users to find and reuse artifacts instead of recreating them based on text-based or shape-based matching.
  • Sharing artifacts securely with external stakeholders. This capability allows access to be granted to artifacts to suppliers, customers and partners. This can include viewing only as well as update rights.

Another set of capabilities to consider for this type of solution is the range of deliverables it can manage, including:

  • The Mechanical Design Artifacts that are created by Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD) software, including 3D models, drawings and 2D sketches.
  • The Manufacturing Artifacts that are created by Mechanical Computer Aided Manufacturing (MCAM) software, including manufacturing models, tooling models as well as raw and post-processed CNC code.
  • The Simulation Artifacts that are created by Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE) software, including models, results and results models. There are software offerings focusing exclusively on this functionality, designated as Simulation Data Management (SDM) software.
  • The ECAD Artifacts that are created by Electrical Computer Aided Design (ECAD) software, including diagrams, layouts and 3D models of printed circuit boards.
  • The range of Documents created during the development process.

Technology Enablers Related to Product Data Management (PDM)

This software is closely related to other software used to create and modify development artifacts, including Mechanical Computer Aided Design (MCAD) software, Mechanical Computer Aided Manufacturing (MCAM) software, Mechanical Computer Aided Engineering (MCAE) software and Electrical Computer Aided Design (ECAD) software.

When simulation artifacts are managed separately in Simulation Data Management (SDM) software, it is often closely connected with PDM Software.

The counterpart to PDM software is Software Configuration Management (SCM) software, which manages the artifacts used to plan, define, describe and test product software.

PDM software is closely related to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. Sometimes, PDM is considered a subset of PLM functionality.

Technology Providers of Product Data Management (PDM)

Providers that offer standalone PDM software include:

  • Dassault Systèmes offers SolidWorks EPDM
  • Stratasys offers GrabCAD Workbench
  • Synergis Software offers Adept

Providers that offer PDM capabilities as part of PLM Software include:

  • Aras offers Aras Innovator
  • Autodesk offers PLM360
  • Dassault Systèmes offers ENOVIA
  • Omnify Software offers Empower PLM
  • Oracle offers Agile PLM
  • PTC offers Windchill
  • SAP offers SAP PLM
  • Siemens PLM offers Teamcenter PLM and Solid Edge SharePoint

Providers that offer PDM capabilities as part of CAD-in-the-Cloud services include:

  • Autodesk offers Fusion360
  • Dassault Systèmes offers SolidWorks Mechanical Conceptual and Industrial Conceptual as well as various 3DEXPERIENCE services

Note that providers of Simulation Data Management (SDM) software are listed under that separate entry.