How to navigate the confusing world of information management solutions for engineering companies.
What is Product Data Management (PDM)?
Product Data Management (PDM) is managing data about a product and turning it into valuable information.
If you are an engineer or work with an engineering company, you might have heard the term "PDM". Product Data Management (PDM) is managing data created around a product. PDM software is often used by engineers to manage design files. PDM software allows you to get better control over product data and easily share information between teams.
Product. Data. Management. Let’s clarify what each of these terms mean.
- Product: When many people think of product they think of small items such as a phone, laptop, or coffee mug. But, a product can be bigger and broader. A product can be any tangible asset. A product can be a building, an airplane, a road, or wind turbines. In PDM, anything you can touch can be considered a product.
- Data: Data is abstract. Data is a collection of facts. Data is unhelpful by itself but can be controlled to be more useful. Product data can be the supplier’s name, a cost data sheet, or who last worked on a product drawing.
- Management: Since data is abstract and useless on its own, we need to make use of it. When data is analyzed and interpreted, it becomes meaningful information. This is where management comes in. A PDM can show you all the previous versions of a document, so you know which one is the latest. A PDM manages data and turns it into meaningful information.
PDM was born along with the increase in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software used by many engineers. Around early 2000’s PDM started to become available. The trend is increasing as more businesses start to realize the benefits.
Who uses it
Engineers typically use PDM since PDM is closely related to CAD software. CAD software is used for developing products and is a precision drawing tool. With CAD software, you can draw products with exact measurements needed for manufacturing. PDM is closely associated with Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), or the idea of managing data related to a product life from idea, design, manufacturing, maintenance, and retirement. Therefore, marketing, manufacturing, and maintenance teams might also interact with a PDM.
Challenges in Engineering
Imagine an electrical engineer named Emma who works in the construction industry. Emma works on designing the lighting layout for a new building. Her company does not use a PDM and instead uses shared network drives and the default file application to access files.
She works with other engineers and external consultants who are also working on the building. Such as:
- Mechanical engineers that design HVAC and plumbing
- Architects that design the building layout
- Civil engineers that design the foundation
- Construction workers who construct the building
- Owners who review the building designs
The building drawings are all connected because the lighting must fit with the building layout which can’t interfere with the plumbing. As a result, there are files with many references to other files.
This creates challenges for Emma in her everyday work.
- Finding the most up to date drawing.
- Having to re-connect the file references after receiving a new version.
- Having to re-connect the file references after someone else moved the file.
- Sharing the building drawing with the owner and other external people with all the relevant information.
- Repairing files received from other teams over email in the wrong format or version.
- Managing access to important files so no one can accidentally damage or move them.
PDM solves these challenges.
If those challenges can be solved, what does the future look like with PDM? Benefits might include:
- Increased productivity
- Making it easier to find files.
- Minimizing re-work.
- Connected teams
- Storing everything in the same place and making it easier to share files.
- Know who is working on what.
- Manage security
- Controlling who has access to see what files.
- Protecting intellectual property.
The features of a PDM can be broken down into two categories. Features for data management and workflow management.
Data management features help control product data so it can be used as information.
These can include:
- Index fields and metadata assigned to a document
- Version control
- User Management
- Reference management
Workflow management controls processes that teams use to work with each other.
These can include:
- Access from anywhere through web or cloud
- Being able to store all the files in one place “Single source of truth”
- Automating typical workflows
- Check-in/Check-out of files so people know who is working on what
- Easily sharing files with external consultants
The Future of PDM
PDM software continues to improve as teams try to keep up with the pace of technology and competition.
More and more software and storage methods are going to the cloud. PDM is not exempt. The benefits of easier access and lower IT costs for some companies makes the trend attractive. According to a survey of engineering companies by engineering.com, 42% are open to the idea and 13% are eager about implementing a cloud-based PDM.
PDM controls data about a product. Automating more processes around managing that data has a lot of potential. Automating boring and error prone tasks is key to having a better day enjoying what you like to do.
Low-Code & No-Code
There is rarely a one-size fits all in PDM. Not all companies work the same or have the same needs. Especially larger companies who are trying to fit the needs of many departments. Low-code and No-Code is a trend that makes software easily customizable and more configurable. Low-code and No-Code can help businesses better meet their needs at a lower cost.
Machine Learning & AI
Machine learning and AI are becoming a trend faster than most people expected. In short, machine learning and AI help predict how x relates to y, just on a much bigger scale and with a lot of data. AI can be used to automate processes even more and help predict relationships with the data stored in a PDM. For example, what if AI helped search for files or find relevant files? What if Machine Learning automated filling out index fields? There is a lot of potential to implementing Machine Learning and AI in PDM.
Product Data Management
PDM can be confusing at the beginning. In the end, it’s in the name. Product Data Management. An engineer’s day can be full of boring and error prone tasks. PDM helps solve challenges around managing versions, file references, and sharing files. This allows engineers to work easier and give them more time to focus on engineering. More engineering companies have started to implement PDM as a result.
Open Domain provides straightforward multi-CAD PDM solutions.
To learn more, please visit opendomain.com