Why and when to re-think PDM?

Why and when to re-think PDM?


PDM (Product Data Management) isn’t a new discipline. Nevertheless, I think, PDM is going through the time of disruption and renaissance. Cloud, social and mobile technologies are changing the way we’ve been working in the past. From that side, I can see companies that trying to re-invent PDM with a new meaning and technologies. I’ve been discussing it few weeks ago in my post –Do we need a new TLA for PDM? On the other side, analysts and established CAD and PLM vendors are trying to restate the values of PDM solutions.

One of PDM value proposition “restates” just came across my reading list over the weekend. PTC Creo article PDM Capabilities: The Right Fit for Small Organizations written by Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insight. Chad separates PDM into 3 distinct sets of data management capabilities: CAD Data Management, Engineering Data Management and Enterprise Data Management. I captured the following passage about CAD data management.

If a team is working simultaneously on a single design, CAD data management provides a means to control the chaos. Oftentimes, one design is dependent on another design, which can fall under the responsibility of two different designers or engineers. Without some means of tracking and controlling that change, individuals can quickly lose track of what their peers are doing.

However, I specially liked the recap:

CAD data management is a no-brainer for organizations of any size. Engineering data management is a natural fit for small organization as a means to organize the chaos of engineering. Enterprise data management, while beneficial to some organizations, is not worth the effort for smaller companies. The cost is not worth the return.

The article made me think again about current state of PDM. The challenging part of PDM for the last 20 years was to justify the cost of implementation and use of PDM combined with complex engineering workflow. Engineers don’t like data management. I was talking about it many times. For most of engineers, PDM is a software that slow their work and make their life complicated. Think about an engineer waiting until updated files is synchronized from the server in the morning or release of new 3D models is taking next 15-20 minutes. To put it gently, these examples are not very rare in CAD data management eco-system. Nevertheless, I’ve seen several PDM systems in the past 15 years that succeeded to find a decent balance of value vs. disturbance to engineers. Another aspect of PDM implementation is cost. For many (especially small) organizations, the cost of most existing PDM implementation is too high. Therefore, we still can see lots of organizations managing CAD files using shared network folders and excel spreadsheets.

I want to come to questions from the title of this post – why and when companies may decide to re-think their existing PDM strategies? I’d like to separate all options in the three groups: 1-we don’t need PDM; 2-we need PDM, but it is too costly; 3-PDM is part of larger PLM/Data management strategy.

1- We don’t need PDM.

This is a typical situation in very small engineering firms or micro-engineering departments in large companies. The status quo is okay for them. They are busy with everyday tasks and don’t want to look on new tech. What can make them to re-think PDM? In my view, it will come with the influence of external factors. Web, globalization, speed of changes and other factors can turn these companies to think about PDM values.

2- We need PDM, but it is too costly.

I can see many medium-size companies in this category. Usually, they outgrew their network/file sharing capabilities and have a pressure to make some order in data management. However, for some reasons budget restrictions and value/cost justification make them feel wrong about current PDM solutions. One possible solution for these companies is to buy PDM systems bundled with CAD system they use. It will be probably the most cost effective. For many of these companies CAD-PDM bundle will be a decent solution to solve their problems. However, another option is “to re-think” and bring new PDM solution with lower TCO and improved workflow for engineers.

3- PDM is part of larger PLM/Data management strategy.

Mostly large companies are coming into this category. For them, PDM is a part in the overall solution puzzle. These companies are looking about overall business processes, connectivity, multiple systems and global IT cost. These companies can be good partners to work for the future. Some of them can be good thinker how to re-invent PDM. However, don’t expect fast decisions here. To establish right strategy for them is an ultimate priority.

What is my conclusion? In my view, PDM is going to change. However, the speed of changes in engineering and manufacturing industry is very slow. Therefore, don’t expect everything to change tomorrow. Existing systems will keep serving us for coming years. At the same, time new systems potentially can make engineers’ life easier. The focus on improvements of engineering workflow and longevity of solutions is something you should consider when analyzing opportunity to bring new or change your existing PDMs. Just my thoughts..

Best, Oleg


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