3 Reasons for not growing existing PDM into the full PLM system

3 Reasons for not growing existing PDM into the full PLM system

One of the most commonly used PLM sales scenarios is to sell it as an expansion of existing PDM system. It was used by CAD / PLM companies for years and it is still very popular. There are many examples of why PLM is the next step after PDM. Here is the last one that caught my attention – Upgrading to PLM when PDM Falls Short.

Jim Brown of Tech-Clarify brings reasons why PDM is not enough and requires the upgrade. Here is the passage from the article:

But more often, a solution that fulfilled company needs at a certain point in time just isn’t enough anymore due to: product complexity, product development complexity, growth, globalization, outdated software, Increased product innovation maturity, the need to achieve value beyond product development, the need to support digital transformation

I agree completely with Jim, an average PDM system will fall short to provide a scalable and reliable solution to solve these problems and challenges. However, the question I wanted to ask if expansion towards switching from PDM to PLM is the right one.

Here are some data points. A typical PDM system these days is a system that bundled with the CAD system and typically sold by CAD vendor. Most of PDM technologies and products are old and developed 15-20 years ago. Most of engineering and manufacturing organizations have legacy data developed using existing CAD systems.

Unless you’re happy to go with your CAD vendor of choice, you might think about why to expand PDM into PLM might not be a good next step to deal with challenges like globalization, digital transformation, value chain communication, and downstream information and process management.

1- Old data management foundation

Existing PDM systems are on premise system, using proven relational databases combined with proprietary technologies to manage files. While these technologies are proven by years, to manage CAD files is hard and introduce multiple complexities when a company is trying to scale this system for additional complexity and global access.

2- Complexity of downstream integrations

PDM+PLM bundles are good to have vertically integrated systems, but these solutions can backfire. Thee solutions can bring many weak points when exposed to downstream processes. What is good for the engineering department, often fall short when a solution leaves the doors of engineering. The complexity of data and workflows is a downside.

3- Limited web, cloud, global access options

Most of existing PLM systems were developed during early web and pre-cloud technologies. Many of them are adapting, but at the same time, they are still behind when it comes to modern cloud technologies, global access and web integrations.

The choice is really hard. On one side, the demand for vertical integration is high. To have disconnected data silos are bad. So, to push towards PLM strategy derived from existing PDM sounds like a reasonable choice. At the same time, modern cloud and PLM technologies can bring so many advantages in global manufacturing, connected devices, and web integrations.

What is my conclusion? In an ideal world, organizations would like to have a completely vertically integrated system from engineering to downstream usage by production planning, procurement, support, and maintenance. However, the reality of many companies is different. Companies are facing multiple choices. One is to scale up PDM into fully-fledged PLM system, which includes all PDM functions. An alternative is to explore modern cloud-based technologies to build a solution from online services including existing CAD/PDM data assets. Which option do you prefer? Growing up legacy technologies vs fast ROI and advantages of new systems? What solution will have fewer risks and faster ROI? These are questions to ask first. 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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