3 reasons PDM implementation can cost you more than you expected

3 reasons PDM implementation can cost you more than you expected


Engineers don’t like PDM (product data management) and consider it as an unnecessarily evil. At the same time, complexity of data in engineering environment is skyrocketing. Companies are losing time and money on searching and organizing engineering data. As a result, many manufacturing companies are looking how better organize engineering and product data. PDM eventually has the answer. However, it often comes with cost and complexity.

Tech-clarity article and animation Getting started with PDM sponsored by Siemens PLM. According to Jim Brown,

It’s part of a series of animations we’ve done to help companies understand the business value of PDM, recognize the choices they have for different styles of PDM systems, and learn how they can start fast without painting themselves into a corner.

I’m in agreement with the idea of expandable PDM. But my attention was actually caught by the following two slides presenting duration and price of PDM implementations. According to Jim Brown,

the research on the cost of PDM was not conducted by Siemens. It was a survey executed by Tech-Clarity. 



Just think about the numbers – 8 of 10 companies need to spend more than 1 month to implement PDM and more than 50% of companies need to spend at least $50K before it will happen. After many years, PDM is remaining an expensive project. I didn’t find numbers about PDM projects going out of planned budget, so if you have one – please share.

These numbers made me think about what are potential reasons to spend more than you expect on PDM project. I came with top 3 reasons I’ve seen in many companies.

1. Data is not centralized

In most of PDM implementation, the first tasks is centralize data that potentially can be scattered across multiple locations – desktop computers, remote drives, shared network location. These are typical places. IT people are usually surprised how much information lives in cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and others these days. To collect all the data and make it available and import into PDM system is a bigger task that you can think about.

2. Specific CAD versions are not supported

Engineering projects have long lifecycle and it is not an unusual thing that data is produced by multiple CAD systems with different versions. A potential problem can be caused by incompatibility between PDM and specific CAD software versions. It might require additional development services.

3. You messed up with data mapping between CAD and PDM

This one is a potentially biggest sucker of resources. As we know, everything works during demos. However, when you bring real data to PDM system is the time when rubber hits the road. CAD files are full of custom data that needs to transferred to PDM. It is not trivial process and in many situations you might have a significant expense to make alignment between PDM systems and your data.

What is my conclusion? To implement PDM is still an expensive project. Existing desktop CAD were created to store data using files systems and never been prepared to support data management systems. Therefore PDM implementations are painful. You can avoid some problems, but you cannot eliminate it completely. Every PDM implementation is a compromise between complexity of CAD files and databases. New generation of cloud CAD data management systems will have to rethink the way data is managed by eliminating files from data management process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

[Update 29-Sep-2016] this blog was updated following the comment made by Jim Brown. 

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


Share This Post

  • Oleg, we usually see things the same way but with a couple of differences. On this post, I need to set the record straight on a couple of things before responding.

    Fact Check 1: The animation is sponsored by Siemens, but it’s not a “sales pitch.” It’s part of a series of animations we’ve done to help companies understand the business value of PDM, recognize the choices they have for different styles of PDM systems, and learn how they can start fast without painting themselves into a corner. So fact 1 to correct is that this is education, not a sales pitch.

    Fact Check 2: This research on the cost of PDM was not conducted by Siemens. It was a survey executed by Tech-Clarity. The numbers are mine, not Siemens, and they are actually from an earlier report.

    With the facts corrected (please) let me get into the areas we agree and disagree. You won’t be surprised.

    Agree: On the data aspect (point 1), we agree. Many companies try to get everything under control at once and cost themselves a lot of money. Point number 3 relates to that as well.

    Disagree: On the process perspective (point x, the one that’s not in your post), I think you are missing something. PDM is not just about data. It usually involves some basic process processes like approvals, release management, versioning, and change management. Companies can also spend a tremendous amount of money on these if they don’t have consistent, repeatable processes in place prior to PDM. This is also where a lot of the value comes in. But it’s important to recognize that there are standard practices (and templates in many PDM systems) that can get you up to speed quickly without having to reinvent the wheel.

    The Bottom Line: Keep it simple to start, and then grow. There’s is a lot of value (the “necessary evil” of not overwriting files, losing data, …) to be had and it doesn’t HAVE to cost a lot of money. But it certainly can.

    Thanks for listening.

    Bonus Point x2 – Another area that can cost a lot of time and money is integration. It can also provide significant value. If any of your readers have opinions on that they are welcome to share them in our PLM Integration Survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/plmint-os I would be happy for you to share it with your readers.

  • beyondplm

    Hi Jim,

    Thanks for your input! First of all, the blog was updated to correct fact checks you raised. It was hard to understand from the blog post, so thank you for quick response. Please let me know if current version is presenting the work in the way it was done with credit to Tech Clarity for research.

    Also, thank you for bonus point :). I’m sure my readers will take an opportunity to check PLM integration survey.

    I think you’re making a very valid point about process improvement. This is a point I believe many companies are in disagreement about border between PDM and PLM. I think, for many users PDM is strictly about getting CAD files under control – vault, versions, search, etc.

    Did you get any sense in your research about what %% of users are defining PDM as CAD file management only without expanding into process improvement step?

    Thanks for your comments!

    Best, Oleg

  • Thanks Oleg. I guess it depends on how much process is process? Over 1/2 (58%) use PDM for release management and about 1/2 (51%) manage change. A slightly lower number manage approvals. Is that managing processes? I would say yes, although sometimes release can be handled with a simple change of state / status without any real workflow associated with it. So I would say about 1/2 are doing more than just managing data. On the other hand, I don’t know how many of those actually improved processes as opposed to automating existing processes. I might have some data on that, but as you suggest it would probably be for PLM rather than PDM.

  • beyondplm

    Thanks Jim for sharing the information! You’ve made me think again about boarder between PDM and PLM. Few readers came with the same questions offline after I published the blog. So, I might be coming with this topic again next week.