Why Do We Struggle With File Names in PDM / PLM?

Why Do We Struggle With File Names in PDM / PLM?

I read David Dillon blog post on SolidWorks Geeks – File Name and PDM. This short write-up made me think about relations between File Naming and Data Management strategies. It is very interesting to see how industry is struggling to solve this problem for the last 15 years. So, I want to share with you what I think about that.

PDM – File Names vs. No Names

Since early PDMs, the question of File Names was always important. The intent of PDM systems was to release end users from File Naming hassle. Some PDMs included options to manage meaningful File Name vs. use automatic numbering mechanism. The community of engineers, actually, split in their decisions. When you are live inside of your PDM system, the File Name can be considered as an obsolete thing. However, when you start thinking about some intermediate work where PDM will not be available, the question of File Name comes again.

File Naming or File Numbering

Do you remember my old blog about Part Numbers- PLM Data, Identification and Part Numbers? I think, in the context of File Names, the same questions are coming again. To use smart numbering system vs. to use internal numbering mechanism supported by multiple PDM/PLM systems? In my view, pros and cons are the same. Intelligence naming system can be very beneficial. However, within time it becomes more and more irrelevant. People have a tendency to forget file names and numbering systems they invented in the past.

PDM / PLM No Files- The Bright Future?

I can see a very interesting trend these days. CAD systems are trying to consolidate PDM platform as part of CAD feature. Even 3-4 years ago, it can be considered as a suicide. However, technology changed these days. In addition, PLM vendors started to understand the value of embedded data management into CAD. These systems basically are going to replace an ugly PDM-CAD integration solutions. Having a complete control on CAD system, vendor can invent any data management solutions.

File Names and Cloud

Let’s take few more steps towards the future? Do you think File Names will disappear with cloud? There are some people who believe that cloud is going to release him from local hard discs and file systems. There is a good reason to think that way. However, I don’t see it happens in a visible future. In addition, cloud solutions are trying mimicking local systems (including files) on the cloud.

What is my conclusion? The File Name is dead. Long live file names! I can see a long term trend towards the situations where File Names will become obsolete. We still need file names. Even such a cool device as iPad, requires a file name get things in and out. So, for day-to-day practice, you better think about reasonable file numbering system. However, if you are going to implement  modern PDM/PLM system, you can consider starting to remove file names as an obsolete feature and hide it in data management structures.Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg,

    Great post! You make a great point about end users ultimately being split on this topic. In a PDM/PLM system, we can “find” CAD data via different attributes besides just the file name. When disconnected from the PDM/PLM system, we have no other identification of that CAD data besides the file name. I found that with a good argument, users can accept the fact that they don’t need an “intelligent” file name when looking for data in PDM/PLM. But when they need to “send” that data to a disconnected user (ex: outside design house to collaborate with), the file name becomes relevant again….

    I also think the CAD vendors are “getting” there with some new solutions, but we still have a ways to go.


  • beyondplm

    Steve,Thank you for the comment! This was exact my point. You don’t need a file name when you committed to PDM/PLM. However, as soon as you are using mixed data management strategy it can become an issue. Best, Oleg

  • Vladislav Skoupski

    Unfortunally, some modules of even CATIA V5R20 takes objectsfiles from Smarteam V5R20 and uses filename instead PN-DESC-REV. I mean electrical and tubing CATIA modules…

  • Phtyson

    Of course, once we get beyond the traditional confines of PLM this will be a non-issue. Everything of interest will identified with a URI, and filesystems will be as invisible to the PLM user as they are now to web browsers.

  • beyondplm

    Vladislav, maybe I’m missing something… What is the point? The fact CATIA is using filename too? Best, Oleg

  • Bob

    Oleg – Great post, but I think you’re not thinking far enough in the future. I think the whole notion of arbitrarily packaging data into files is going away. Consider all the newer operating systems – Android, iPhone/iPad OS, Windows Phone 7 – which have no real obvious “file” user interface. Instead you deal with objects – Contacts, Messages, Photos, Apps – without worrying about files. Ditto for web apps like Gmail, Facebook, Salesforce.com. I suspect that’s where things are headed, with all of our CAD data in databases, sync’ed between various devices as needed (my phone, my iPad, my desktop, my web app). Files will be what we export the data to for old CAD applications, not something we use day-to-day. -Bob

  • beyondplm

    Bob, thanks for your comment! I think this process already started. However, all CAD systems are still working with files. Future introducing of cloud based systems and additional CAD data management functionality, will move us to the long term goal you mentioned. Best, Oleg

  • beyondplm

    Phtyson, Thanks for the comment! I like the idea of URI. Which means local storage will die…. right? Best, Oleg

  • Oleg – I work for almost 20 years in the PDM/PLM Business and from the beginning on I was used to encrypted filenames in the vault. I even don’t want end users to have any influence on the filename. They only have to define the metadata and that is the only way to find the information.


    Menk Slot

  • beyondplm

    Menk, thanks for sharing your practice! This is a very appropriate way. However, I’ve seen some people have a problem with this practice, which mainly caused by the reason to get files out of PLM/PDM system for exchange with external parties. What is your practice for such type of situations? Best, Oleg