Product Data Management (PDM) is not a new buzz. Lots of things where written and spoken about how to manage CAD files, revisions and related data. Decades were spent on how to create a better way for engineers to “collaborate” or work together. Nevertheless, I can see few companies are trying to disrupt PDM space and introduce some kind of “PDM renaissance” these days.
GrabCAD blog – PDM is a technology of the past, CPD is the future is a good example of PDM disruption. GrabCAD is coming with Workbench cloud application to help engineers to share CAD data, manage file revisions and collaborate. GrabCAD article claims a new approach called CPD (Collaborative Product Development) to become an an alternative to PDM and PLM that don’t work the way you [engineers] do. Article has a strong marketing flavor. At the same time, it provides a good background of why do you need PDM and what are current challenges with many of existing PDM systems. Here is a passage that summarizes what is wrong with existing PDM:
Your team is distributed… PDM requires a central server and often makes it hard to access files remotely, You work from home, PDM requires a VPN to access files, You want to spend time designing not filling out forms… PDM requires forms and configuration and overhead for each project, You want to get going immediately… PDM requires installation, configuration, and training, Your team want to be engineers not act as IT admins… You need to collaborate with non-CAD users outside your company … PDM requires someone to configure, manage, and maintain, PDM requires every user to have a paid seat, You have a limited budget… but PDM requires large upfront license, service and hardware expenses.
It made me think again about problems with existing PDMs. I can classify all of them using two main groups – (1) complexity of use; (2) complexity to administer. In my view, the need to pay for license is a separate story and not really important for the purpose of this discussion. Many PDM seats in the past were promoted and sold as bundle with CAD licenses.
Rest of PDM problems mentioned by GrabCAD blog are very annoying. At the same time, I want to defend few existing PDM systems with successful user experience mimicking Windows Explorer interface. So, speaking about usability, PDM systems seen some success in the past also by combination of Windows Explorer user paradigm with CAD user interface (integrated plug-ins). GrabCAD Workbench developers are actually agree with that as well – you can see GrabCAD Workbench integration with SolidWorks (I assume GrabCAD is doing work with other CAD systems as well). However, here is a new problem I can see these days – engineers work is going far beyond Windows Explorer. Web, mobile, global – these are characteristics of modern work environment. GrabCAD brings new web-based user experience, which is what people are looking for these days. Existing CAD/PDM vendors have hard time to adopt their existing systems. So, native web is a good differentiation factor for Workbench. We’ve seen some PDM/PLM system provided web access in the past as well. However, devil is in details. What is really matter is how well CAD/web integration works. In the past, I’ve seen lots of difficulties to integrated both web and CAD/desktop environment. These days technologies are different. Also, we can see CAD is moving to web/cloud, which is another good reason to look for PDM/web interface.
The significant differentiation of GrabCAD workbench comes from the side of administration. GrabCAD is not only native web, but also cloud based application. By brining cloud, GrabCAD is solving all problems related to IT, servers, configurations, etc. In my view, this is a place where Workbench is bringing major improvement, comparing to existing PDMs.
Now let me come to the question I raised in the title of my post – do we need a new acronym for PDM? I have to say, CPD (Collaborative Product Development) is not a completely new term. A little bit Google work and I found few records of “collaborative product development”, cPDM, etc. by CAD/PDM/PLM vendors in the past decade. Here are few links – Lockheed Martin Space Systems Selects PTC’s Windchill As Collaborative Product Development Standard, Dassault Systemes Announces IBM to Sell Complete SmarTeam Portfolio for Collaborative Product Data Management Across the Supply Chain, IBM and Dassault Systemes Introduce New Release of ENOVIA Portal to Enhance the Collaborative Product Development Process. I’m sure you can find more. So, new acronym is not very new, actually.
What is my conclusion? Do we bring new meaning to PDM by introducing it as CPD? Do you think engineers care? Meh… So, what does matter? In my view, engineers don’t like to be disturbed by data management systems. Everybody needs to manage data, but nobody wants to spend time on this and lose productivity. This is where future PDM systems should go. GrabCAD Workbench clearly brings some improvements here. TLAs doesn’t matter much, but needed for fresh marketing. So, leave it to marketing fellows. Just my thoughts…