Bad PDM experience?  After all, it is CAD systems’ fault…

Bad PDM experience? After all, it is CAD systems’ fault…


PDM. Product Data Management was one of the topics engineers are really hating. It was always about slow implementations, complex user experience, slow check-in and check-out, unsupported CAD versions and many other things. The relationships between PDM and CAD vendors aren’t simple either. I shared some of my thoughts about that in my blog – How CAD vendors “murdered” PDM business.

So, what is the root of PDM complexity? Actually, it goes deep to the nature of CAD system. Jon Hirschtick, founder of Onshape, speaks about PDM complexity in his last blog – Say Goodbye to CAD File Checkout & Copies. Here is my favorite passage

REMEMBER: IT’S NOT PDM’S FAULT. Even when engineers and designers love their CAD system, the odds are high that they’re grumbling about their PDM. I frequently hear the word “hate” come up in conversations about PDM, regardless of vendor or brand. But as frustrating as file checkout and file locking can be, it’s not PDM’s fault that you’re angry.

Traditional CAD systems were never designed for distributed teams. We know because we built traditional CAD. It used to be that a product was designed and manufactured under the same roof. Today, the design and manufacturing chain is often distributed across the country or even across the world.

Jon’s blog post made me think again about how cloud can transform engineering environment and solve some very painful engineering problems related to collaboration. It took me back to my post – Cloud PDM can make file check-in and check-out obsolete from last year. The power of cloud technologies can eliminate complexity of data transfer and scenarios. I was talking about PDM, but cloud CAD can take it even future by eliminating the need to transfer files to the desktop and operate from any device.

What is my conclusion? Cloud technology will change the traditional workflows of engineering systems. It is related to the amount of data moving between desktop and servers as well as the way system and people are accessing information. In my view, cloud technology can bring a paradigm shift and will allow engineers to focus on their work and less worry about check-in, check-out and data complexity. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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  • Collaboration is a multi-faceted problem – eliminating check-in/check-out certainly helps with accessibility, i.e. actually being able to make a change easily. But dispensing checkin/out doesn’t eliminate another problem – how to consolidate changes made by different users, especially if those changes conflict. In a simultaneous editing environment he who gets there first wins. This is not a problem in a simple design/document. It is a problem in a complex one, however with many participants. I know Onshape is offering a branching paradigm, but the details on merging changes so far are sparse. Do you think they have incorporated conflict resolution or just promote one branch or another to the main?

  • beyondplm

    Ed, thanks for your comment and insight on check/in/out process! If you are not registered for Onshape beta, do it and you can experiment with branching (there is also video online — Onshape is merging changes between workspaces. you can define source and target when you merge. So, you can effectively do parallel editing and bring it together. It is not clear what type of “conflict resolution” you mean, but I’m sure the capability will be evolving- onshape is still in beta :).