PDM Business Stalemate?

PDM Business Stalemate?

I’m often getting emails with the questions about how to find a lightweight PDM system. PDM is around for more than three decades and still, the question about a good and affordable PDM keeps keep coming. With all experience, CAD and PLM vendors have, why PDM is still a problem and what can be done about? I addressed PDM business and product development problem in several articles earlier.

The fundamental business problem of all PDM systems is that they are built on top of another system. PDM system is 100% dependent on the CAD environment. So, the PDM business is alive is only because CAD vendors are allowing it to happen.

PDM business was alive two decades ago, but not anymore. Check my article How CAD vendors murdered PDM business.

PDM was born to manage CAD files. The fundamental idea was to solve a problem created by the CAD system. CAD systems used files to store data. But, as you know, most CAD systems are not creating a single file, but use MANY files to store data. Trying to re-use and share design was painful. You can hear customers screaming for decades about how to find the last revision of a document. So, the problem was clearly identified. The pain was here and PDM vendors came up with a value to help customers – data management systems that can keep a record of all these files and provides a set of functions to search, share, change, etc.

More than two decades later, there are not so many PDM companies left. Most of them (successful) were acquired by CAD vendors, many of the less successful disappeared. However, what I found most interesting is that pain is still here. Users are struggling to manage CAD files, revisions, re-use, search and share files.

CAD files are a root cause of all PDM nightmares and the main reason why PDM is complex and painful. But the solution is not easy. Each CAD vendor owns at least one PDM system for each CAD system and this is a business status quo effectively questioning long term opportunities for vendors to enter the PDM business. Why so, you may ask?

While the majority of CAD systems are still running on the desktop the smell of the future is here. New browser-based and cloud-enabled systems are here and each of these systems has its own embedded PDM integrated inside. You can see it with Onshape, Autodesk Fusion360 and 3DEXPERIENCE WORKS.

What is my conclusion?

As much as everyone hates PDM, it is still far from retirement. The biggest problem to retire old inefficient PDM system is CAD status quo. Once a company is invested into the CAD+PDM bundle, there is not much that can be done to move them out. Bundle CAD-PDM products are belonging to major CAD vendors, which makes their displacement very challenging. In other words, not many companies in the world will be ready to risk investing in the development of a PDM system to manage CAD files. As a result, we see a stalemate between existing CAD-PDM status quo, future PDM embedded in cloud CAD and customers are looking for a lightweight and affordable PDM systems. The business of PDM didn’t change much for the last decade and PDM-less CAD data management is just at the beginning of its journey. The move from desktop CAD systems to the cloud won’t happen overnight. PDM will be around for a long time and customers will be still looking for the solution to solve the problem. 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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