Cloud PDM is stuck in limbo between cloud CAD and old fashion PDM

Cloud PDM is stuck in limbo between cloud CAD and old fashion PDM

Cloud PDM is the topic I’ve been following for some time. Check my articles about cloud PDM here. One of the first company that tried to mix cloud and PDM was GrabCAD Workbench. Several cloud PDM systems were developed since that time to change the way PDM is done at the age of the cloud, but I don’t see much changes and traction. As I wrote earlier this year – PDM is still far from the retirement and there is no good candidate to replace it. Onshape enterprise recently emerged as a way to improve design process and collaboration, but Onshape brings an entire baggage of enterprise and Onshape CAD, so it cannot be considered as a PDM product only. Kenesto is probably another company to check if you have strong desire to manage you CAD in the cloud, but that’s it.

Meantime, manufacturing companies are moving in full speed to cloud adoption and I can see a strong adoption for cloud file storage across between many companies these days. Usually you can see Dropbox, Google or Microsoft OneDrive Enterprise versions storing all files in a company. The question if PDM system can leverage this storage is a good one and you can find heating debates about it online. Autodesk and Dropbox made an interesting step by integrating DWG viewer in Dropbox. This is cool and neat feature. But nobody integrated 3D MCAD viewer into one of these cloud storage products yet. Can somebody make a PDM on top of Google Drive? This is an interesting question I don’t have answer yet.

This situation made me think about current status of development in cloud PDM which can be characterized by the following business, market and technical trends.

1- Business

Traditional PDM is free. Every single CAD has some sort of PDM, which is free today. Premium versions are available, but basic versions are decently integrated and supported by CAD vendor. Nothing is harder than to compete with free, so to compete with PDM is compete with free mature products coming from CAD vendors.

2- Market

Traditional PDMs are coming together with cloud storage and existing cloud PDM products. Not many vendors, but enough to get really complex. PDM had slow market for the last decade, so hard to expect some changes unless something groundbreaking will show up. Cloud CAD and collaboration products from Autodesk, Onshape, Siemens makes even most bright innovators to slow down.

3- Technical

CAD integration with PDM is complex and requires moving files. And files are hard to manage. This is where PDM started from the beginning – an idea how to manage files. Hard and complex business. Combine it with cloud perception, IP, security questions and you got scary engineers and defensive existing PDM vendors. Large vendors are working how to break the status quo with cloud CAD, collaborative platforms and cloud viewers.

What is my conclusion? Even PDM is not a product most of engineers like, it still takes time and resources from engineering department. Tshere is no good alternative on the market to replace 15-20 years old PDM products developed as a satellites for existing desktop CAD systems. Cloud CAD can be a good alternative, but since it assumes not only PDM, but CAD replacement, the adoption is possible slower than some people would expect. Cloud PDM products are weak and there are only handful of them available. So, cloud PDM is stuck between cloud CAD and clunky old PDM system. Will somebody re-invent it? This is a good question. It didn’t happen for the last 10 years, but like we all know, once somebody will get it done, it will be become almost an obvious that was expected to be done . Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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


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