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.

Applications of PDM Software

PDM software is used to:

  • Keep track of the iterations of artifacts and the complex interrelationships between them, allowing individuals to save their progress, as well as revert changes.
  • Release engineering documentation to downstream participants, including manufacturing, procurement and other departments, with the textual and graphic specifications for products.
  • 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, including suppliers, customers and partners.

Keep in mind that the scope of PDM software can range widely. This scope can include: managing MCAD artifacts (a.k.a. CAD Data Management); tracking engineering documentation like specifications (a.k.a. Engineering Data Management); and controlling all artifacts related to products across the enterprise (a.k.a. Enterprise Data Management).

Capabilities Provided by PDM Software

  • Check-in and check-out actions to get and update artifacts. The check-out action downloads either the latest or a specific version of an artifact. The check-in action uploads 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 generates Bills of Materials in PDM software. This software has similar functionality for managing ECAD artifacts, MCAE or Simulation artifacts and Software artifacts.
  • Exposing artifacts to non-technical stakeholders. PDM software users can reveal information within artifacts, which have often been created using technical software that is not widely accessible, to non-technical stakeholders during the development process.
  • Searching for specific artifacts. With this function, users can find and reuse artifacts based on text-based or shape-based matching, instead of recreating the artifacts.
  • Sharing artifacts securely with external stakeholders. The user can grant artifact access to suppliers, customers and partners with this function. This access includes a view only option, 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 and 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 that focus 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 PDM Software

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, this is often closely connected to 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 PDM Software

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.