With the growing number of product-related information and an increasing number of teammates and stakeholders, it’s becoming a challenge to store, share, and manage product data. According to the Best Practices for Managing Design Data survey, 92% of companies that don’t use PDM (Product Data Management) face data management challenges.
The problems occur because documentation is stored in various formats, opens in a variety of applications, and is accessed by several teams. As a result, it’s often scattered over spreadsheets, shared drives, and emails. Hence, access is often time-consuming and difficult. What is more, some pieces may even get lost or deleted by accident.
In the end, the project lacks data completeness and accuracy, which leads to poor data quality. This results in increased costs: according to Gartner, an average annual cost for businesses almost reaches $13 million.
Product data management software is a viable solution to consider. In this article, we’ll elaborate on PDM’s meaning, components, and benefits.
Product data management is a centralized system to store project-related data, including those regarding design and engineering processes. The solution allows you to store design documentation and manage MCAD artifacts (or CAD files), as well as engineering documentation like test data, file metadata, coding, and more, in a single secure repository. Therefore, it facilitates the management of artifacts that describe, define, and simulate mechanical and electrical product hardware.
PDM streamlines product development, allowing you to:
- Keep track of changes through check-in and check-out actions. You can either download a specific version or upload a new interaction of an artifact. This also boosts integrity and allows for more control over the development process.
- Create derivative artifacts through mining. When you check in assemblies from MCAD or ECAD software, Bills of Materials are generated. A similar approach is used for MCAE or Simulation artifacts.
- Share artifacts with non-technical team members, clients, or external stakeholders in an accessible and secure way. This allows for enhanced collaboration with non-tech departments like manufacturing or procurement, which can now easily receive textual or graphic specifications.
- Easily find the required artifacts and reuse them based on shape-based or text-based matching. No recreation is required.
In the end, product development is enhanced through streamlined collaboration across global teams, as well as secure data storage and management. The latter reduces the chance of poor data quality by ensuring its accuracy and completeness during development.
While both PDM and PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) systems ensure product-related data management, including updates and seamless access, they are used at different development stages.
|Secure data storage of product-related engineering and design documentation for efficient management across a team during a development process||Collection, storage, tracking, maintenance, and distribution of information related to a product or set of products within further lifecycle phases.|
PDM serves as a foundation for PLM, where the data migrates as the product is released from the development cycle into the marketplace. The data is synchronized across ERP, PIM, and eCommerce systems, allowing for smooth updates throughout its whole lifecycle. As a result, it facilitates continuous product development. Besides, product management is much easier when all the data is stored in a centralized repository.
Not all companies require PLM. It’s useful when you need to orchestrate complex data relationships throughout continuous product development. Often, however, PDM is enough to manage product-related data.
PIM (Project Information Management) is pretty similar to a PDM solution, as they are a part of project lifecycle management and allow you to store, organize, and manage product-related data. The type of data and project stage is where they are different.
|Storage and management of engineering and design files||Collection, storage, management, and distribution of product data, with the focus primarily on sales and marketing|
|For a development team and non-tech stakeholders involved primarily in the building phase||For sales and marketing teams that work with the product when it’s released|
While PDM focuses on the so-called raw product data, PIM comes in at the market release stage and incorporates the PDM data into the user journey path in order to provide a rich customer experience, as well as to streamline sales and marketing processes.
Both systems allow for facilitated product development: PDM – in the development stage, and PIM – in the marketing stage to improve sales, order value, and revenue.
PDM tools vary depending on the type of product and industry; however, there are some general system components that enable streamlined development. They are the following:
This typically refers to MCAD artifacts or CAD (Computer-Aided Design) data management. CAD file management allows:
- For teamwork on design.
- To have a visual representation of the future product during different development stages.
- For quick access to future product components, which facilitates its creation.
This is possible through centralized storage and logical allocation of files throughout the system. After all, there are a lot of files saved during different development stages, from initial sketches and renders to final prototypes ready for production. To foster data accuracy and completeness, these files should be easy to access by different team members. Otherwise, the team risks releasing in the final production a file without recent updates, which results in costly edits, reduced turnaround time, and undermined reputation.
With a CAD file management system, you set up a single well-organized repository, where all the revisions and iterations are ordered.
Engineering changes during development initiate a chain reaction:
- They should be reviewed by key decision-makers and have signoffs.
- They should be fully documented to enable efficient further development.
- They should be easy to access for other team members to implement the changes.
If any of these fails, the whole development process can be undermined. For example, in manufacturing, missed significant design updates may require retooling, which may cost thousands of dollars and delay the production until the shipment arrives.
To avoid such a scenario and promote streamlined change request management, PDM ensures that change requests are documented, have the right signoffs, and are spread across departments involved in the development.
With the adoption of digital workspaces and remote work, teams can be efficient only when all members can collaborate in real time, regardless of their location. Here’s why PDM tools offer shared access with real-time changes and integration of outside data sources. This allows your whole team to access shared datasets and repositories, track live and history changes, and work on the same design together in real time.
While it drives higher team productivity and enhanced communication, for businesses it eliminates the risks of delays due to an inefficient remote workforce. This leads to faster development and better outputs, which often increases revenue and sales.
Although all product-related documentation is stored in a secure repository, data protection can still be violated by employees. With credentials being a top attack vector, according to the IBM study, employees’ access should be properly managed. This means restricted account-based access, for team members to be able to read and edit only those files relevant to their tasks. Otherwise, it may take you around 243 days to identify an attack, and another 83 days to contain it. To overcome the challenge, PDMs offer role management and access privileges.
Here are the main reasons why you should consider using product data management tools:
- Data completeness and improved data accuracy. PDM stores all edits that were made across MCAD, MCAM, MCAE, ECAD, and other development documentation which reduces the risk of losing valuable data and changes. Besides, they are distributed across the whole team, allowing for increased awareness of product changes.
- Facilitated product development supervision. By storing all data in a single repository, a product owner, product manager, team leads, and other key stakeholders can easily track progress and quickly address weak points and errors. This allows them to timely spot loopholes and compensate for them, without extra effort and excessive additional investments.
- Increased team efficiency through streamlined collaboration. Real-time collaboration allows your team to enable efficient communication, which delivers aligned work and faster development. Besides, it reduces the chance of finding errors when the product is ready for production or release.
- Enhanced product quality and faster delivery. Accurate and complete data is the backbone of efficient development, especially within a strict time frame. Team members don’t struggle to access the latest updates, can easily retrieve changes, and even save time by reusing artifacts instead of developing them from scratch.
- Reduced maintenance costs. Since data sources are consistent and have all the edits recorded, it allows the team to easily work with manual workarounds and custom code. The PDM system standardizes files into uniform formats, allowing for streamlined development and maintenance. Besides, data sets are applicable to several applications, which reduces the risk of inconsistencies.
- Simplified data integration. Designers and engineers often store their deliverables in different applications, which makes them spend more time importing and exporting files. Besides resending links or documents, they also have to adjust formats to use the file in another program. PDM solves the challenge by aligning all the stored data in a single online repository that is easy to access and has the formats unified for collaborative usage.
There are different types of PDM systems to consider, depending on your business needs. If you need only PDM capabilities to streamline the development process, consider the following solutions:
- SolidWorks EPDM from Dassault Systemes. It’s an enterprise PDM with a focus on design data that enables secure storage, indexing, fast retrieval, and version control.
- Adept from Synergis Software. A PDM that offers all major functionality to efficiently manage and store engineering files. The software allows for real-time collaboration and workflow automation for increased control and reduced operational risks.
If you need a more complex system to orchestrate all product-related files, even when the solution proceeds with its lifecycle, it’s better to look for alternatives that combine both PDM and PLM functionality. While you can find such software from PDM providers like Dassault Systèmes, consider systems developed by tech giants:
- SAP PLM from SAP. A digital supply chain solution to collect and evaluate ideas, create system models, and develop a product, as well as to deliver digital services and conduct ongoing data analysis. It allows you to streamline processes, align customer-generated data with business data, and efficiently collaborate across the team.
- Fusion Cloud PLM from Oracle. The system covers all processes of product development, from idea generation to its implementation. It’s used by automotive, telecom, and other industries. Some famous users are Mazda and Orange.
- Teamcenter PLM from Siemens PLM. The system has been recognized as a market leader by Forrester research because of its customization and development capabilities. What’s more, G2 rated it as the best PLM for any company size.
Product data management systems allow businesses to streamline their development cycle by facilitating team collaboration and improving data quality. The latter directly affects the quality of the deliverables: the more accurate and complete your data is, the better your product’s performance and UX will be. Hence, you can increase the generated sales and revenue, while reducing the costs of bug fixing and improvements.
PDM tools are useful both in software development and other niches. For example, they deliver the same benefits for manufacturing companies by aligning their production with product development. This reduces the number of errors, minimizes production costs, and speeds up the turnaround time.
Need to design a product data management system from the ground-up or enhance & scale an existing system? Or you want to reduce time and effort required to process and analyze data, as well as improve your data workflows? Turn to Intetics, your reliable software engineering and data management partner.