Product Data Management without PDM? Yes, it is possible

June 26, 2023 Debankan Chattopadhyay

For engineering and industrial companies, managing design changes and product data effectively is crucial for success. Adopting a ‘single source of truth’ approach

For engineering and industrial companies, managing design changes and product data effectively is crucial for success. Adopting a ‘single source of truth’ approach becomes increasingly important in this regard.

By centralizing all design and product data in one place, companies can ensure consistency, accuracy, and seamless collaboration throughout the entire product lifecycle. At its core, this is the raison d'être for Product Data Management (PDM) systems.

PDM was created to eliminate the risk of outdated product information, conflicting versions and miscommunications that can lead to costly errors and delays. It enables efficient change management, allowing teams to track design modifications, assess their impact, implement updates swiftly and comply with regulations and play a vital role in facilitating Engineering Change Orders (ECOs) within engineering companies.

In today's competitive landscape, leveraging a single source of truth empowers companies to improve productivity, reduce costs, and deliver high-quality products to the market faster than ever before. But in the quest of achieving the goals of managing product data effectively and providing a ‘single source of truth’, companies have felt burdened by the overheads and rigidity of traditional Product Data Management software.

Although products like SOLIDWORKS PDM focus on SMBs and a lot of 1–2-man shops, engineering change management can be especially onerous for small and medium companies who have a need to manage product data and design changes without investing in complex, rigid or pricey enterprise software.

But let’s start with understanding the fundamentals of Product Data Management systems, the capabilities and benefits it provides, the need for cloud-based data management solutions and how ReVue eliminates the drawbacks of and provides an alternative to traditional PDM solutions in the marketplace today.

What is PDM?

Product Data Management is a comprehensive approach to organizing, controlling, and managing product data throughout its lifecycle. It involves the storage, retrieval, and management of various types of product information, such as design data, bill of materials (BOM), and other relevant data sets. It relies on effective database management techniques to ensure the accuracy, consistency, and accessibility of product data.

Product Data Management aims to establish a centralized repository or database that serves as the single source of truth for all product-related information. This repository houses design data, including 3D models, engineering drawings, specifications, and documentation, allowing teams to easily access and collaborate on the latest versions. It also includes the BOM, which lists all the components, materials, and associated information required to build the product.

PDM systems streamline the management of Engineering Change Orders (ECOs), ensuring that changes are documented, analyzed, approved, and implemented in a controlled manner. This promotes efficient change management, reduces errors, and helps organizations maintain product quality and compliance throughout the product lifecycle.

One of the primary objectives of PDM is to facilitate efficient data management. It enables companies to maintain data integrity by enforcing version and revision control, ensuring that all changes and revisions are documented and tracked. This eliminates the risk of using outdated or incorrect data, reducing errors and rework and complying with regulatory requirements.

While there are several PDM products in the marketplace focused on large enterprises including Teamcenter from Siemens, Enovia from Dassault and Windchill from PTC, there are others like SOLIDWORKS PDM and Aras that are focused typically on SMBs.

How is product data management used in engineering companies?

PDM streamlines collaboration by providing a centralized platform for cross-functional teams to work together. Engineers, designers, suppliers, and other stakeholders can access and update product data in real-time, fostering effective communication, minimizing delays and improving productivity. Product Data Management is a critical process that ensures the accuracy, consistency, and accessibility of product information. By implementing PDM systems, companies can optimize data management, enhance collaboration, and ultimately improve their product development and manufacturing processes.

PDM systems are employed to meticulously organize and store crucial design data, encompassing intricate 3D models, 2D drawings, and detailed specifications. With features such as version & revision control, PDM ensures that the most up-to-date revisions are readily accessible, mitigating the risks associated with outdated information. These systems act as a centralized database, fostering seamless collaboration among multifunctional teams by providing real-time access to and seamless updating of product data.

Furthermore, PDM facilitates comprehensive management of the bill of materials (BOM), ensuring the precision of component lists, quantities, and pertinent information. By leveraging PDM, engineering companies optimize data integrity, streamline interdepartmental collaboration, minimize errors, and bolster overall operational efficiency within their intricate product development and manufacturing workflows.

PDM plays a crucial role in enabling effective revision control for engineering companies by:

  • Version Tracking: PDM systems provide robust version control capabilities, allowing organizations to track and manage revisions of product data. Each modification is recorded and assigned a version number, making it easy to identify and retrieve specific versions when needed.
  • Revision Control: PDM systems maintain a detailed revision history for each piece of product data, including design files, specifications, and documentation. This history provides a clear audit trail, documenting all changes made throughout the product's lifecycle.
  • Access Control: PDM systems enable granular access control, allowing organizations to restrict editing and revision privileges to authorized individuals or teams. This ensures that only designated personnel can make revisions, reducing the risk of unauthorized changes or conflicting modifications.
  • Concurrent Collaboration: PDM systems facilitate concurrent collaboration by enabling multiple users to work on the same product data simultaneously. Changes made by different individuals are tracked and merged seamlessly, ensuring data integrity and avoiding conflicts.
  • Change Approval Processes: PDM systems often incorporate configurable workflows that enforce change approval processes. Revisions undergo review and approval by designated stakeholders, ensuring that modifications adhere to company standards, regulatory requirements, and design specifications.
  • Baseline Comparisons: PDM systems allow users to compare different versions of product data, enabling easy identification of changes between revisions. This helps in identifying modifications, assessing their impact, and verifying compliance with requirements.
  • Rollback and Recovery: In case of errors or undesired changes, PDM systems enable users to rollback to previous versions or restore deleted data. This feature ensures that organizations can recover from mistakes or accidents without significant disruptions.

By leveraging these revision control capabilities, PDM systems provide engineering companies with a structured and controlled environment for managing product data revisions. This not only ensures data integrity but also promotes collaboration, compliance, and efficient change management throughout the product lifecycle.

Key Product Data Management Components & Capabilities

Key PDM capabilities empower engineering companies with robust tools and functionalities to efficiently manage product data throughout its lifecycle. PDM systems maintain a comprehensive record of Engineering Change Orders, including all associated documents, communications, and approvals. Here are the essential components and capabilities of typical PDM systems:

  • Centralized Data Repository:

    PDM systems establish a centralized database for storing and organizing product data, ensuring easy accessibility, and eliminating scattered file systems. All product-related information, including design data, specifications, and documentation, is stored in one location for streamlined data management.

  • Version & Revision Control:

    PDM systems enable effective version & revision control, allowing teams to track and manage changes to design data. Revisions are documented and easily traceable, ensuring that the latest and approved versions of product information are utilized.

  • Bill of Materials (BOM) Management:

    PDM systems facilitate comprehensive management of BOMs, including component lists, quantities, and associated data. BOMs are efficiently created, updated, and maintained, ensuring accurate and consistent product information.

  • Change Management:

    PDM systems streamline change management processes by providing visibility into modifications made to design data. Changes are documented, tracked, and communicated across teams, ensuring efficient implementation, and minimizing errors.

  • Collaboration and Workflow:

    PDM systems enable real-time collaboration among cross-functional teams by providing a shared platform for accessing and updating product data. Workflows can be defined, assigning roles and permissions to ensure efficient collaboration and timely approvals. This facilitates clear and efficient communication, reducing miscommunication errors and expediting the Engineering Change Order process.

  • Data Security and Access Control:

    PDM systems offer robust security features, including access control and user permissions, to protect sensitive product data. Confidential information is safeguarded, ensuring that only authorized individuals can access and modify data. This allows companies to control who can access the data and what they can do with the data. This helps to protect the company's intellectual property.

  • Integration with CAD:

    PDM systems seamlessly integrate with CAD enhancing design and development workflows. CAD files and associated data can be directly linked and managed within the PDM system. PDM and CAD integration can help to improve collaboration between different teams by providing a central location for storing and sharing product data.

Benefits of PDM

Product Data Management systems help companies manage digital information related to their products. This information can include CAD models, drawings, bills of materials, and other documents. PDM systems provide a central repository for this information, and they also provide tools for managing changes to the information, tracking the history of the information, and controlling access to the information.

PDM systems can be used by companies in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, aerospace, and automotive. They can help companies to improve their product development process, reduce costs, improve quality, and enhance overall productivity. By adopting these systems, organizations can streamline their workflows, accelerate product development cycles, and deliver high-quality products to market more effectively.

Some of the benefits of PDM include:

  • Streamlined Data Organization: PDM systems provide a centralized repository for storing and organizing all product-related data, ensuring easy accessibility and eliminating the need for scattered file systems.
  • Efficient Change Management: PDM systems streamline change management processes by documenting and tracking modifications to design data. This allows for better visibility into the impact of changes, effective communication across teams, and swift implementation of updates.
  • Version Control: PDM systems enable effective version control, allowing teams to track and manage changes to design data. This ensures that all stakeholders are working with the latest and approved versions of product information. By maintaining version histories and tracking modifications, PDM systems enable visibility into the progression of product data through various Engineering Change Order iterations.
  • Reduced Errors and Rework: By maintaining data integrity and ensuring the use of accurate and up-to-date information, PDM systems minimize errors and rework caused by working with outdated or incorrect data. This leads to cost savings and improved product quality.
  • Enhanced Collaboration: PDM systems foster collaboration among cross-functional teams by providing a shared platform for real-time access and updating of product data. This facilitates efficient communication, reduces miscommunication errors, and accelerates decision-making processes.
  • Improved Efficiency: With quick and easy access to product data, teams can work more efficiently, reducing time spent searching for information and improving overall productivity.
  • Regulatory Compliance: PDM systems provide traceability and documentation of design changes, which is essential for data governance and compliance with industry standards and regulations.

What is “PDM in the Cloud”?

cloud-based PDM

In recent years, the engineering industry has witnessed a significant shift from on-premise software towards cloud-based technologies, and Product Data Management is no exception. The advent of “PDM in the Cloud” has revolutionized the way companies manage and collaborate on product data, offering numerous benefits and transforming traditional data management practices.

Cloud-based PDM leverages the power and flexibility of cloud computing to provide a scalable and accessible solution for storing, organizing, and sharing product data. The advent of PDM in the cloud has democratized access to robust data management capabilities, leveling the playing field for small and medium-sized enterprises. It has enabled engineering companies to harness the power of cutting-edge technology without the need for extensive IT infrastructure, providing them with a competitive edge in the market.

While there may be concerns about data security and privacy in the cloud, reputable cloud PDM providers invest heavily in ensuring the highest standards of security and compliance, often surpassing what many organizations can achieve with on-premises solutions.

As the engineering industry continues to embrace digital transformation, cloud-based PDM systems are poised to become the new norm. While companies like Aras embraced cloud at the very onset, others like SOLIDWORKS PDM already have adopted cloud technologies and currently offer cloud version of their software. The scalability, accessibility, and collaborative power of these systems will drive innovation, streamline processes, and empower engineering companies to stay agile in an ever-evolving business landscape. The advent of cloud-based PDM represents a new era of efficient and collaborative product data management, revolutionizing the way companies design, develop, and bring their products to market.

How does cloud-based PDM work?

Cloud-based Product Data Management systems utilize the power of cloud computing to revolutionize data management processes. These systems leverage a network of remote servers to store, manage, and share product data securely over the internet. Here's a glimpse into how cloud-based PDM works:

Data Storage: Cloud-based PDM employs distributed storage infrastructure across multiple servers. Product data, including design files, specifications, and BOMs, are stored in the cloud, ensuring redundancy and high availability.

Scalability and Flexibility: Cloud-based PDM systems provide scalable resources, allowing companies to expand or contract storage capacity as needed. This flexibility ensures that the system can accommodate growing data volumes and changing business requirements.

Access and Collaboration: Authorized users can access the cloud-based PDM system via web-based interfaces or dedicated software applications. They can securely view, edit, and collaborate on product data from anywhere, using any internet-connected device.

Security and Data Protection: Cloud-based PDM systems employ advanced security measures such as encryption, secure access controls, and regular backups to protect sensitive product data. Data centers adhere to industry-standard security protocols and certifications.

Integration: Cloud-based PDM systems often integrate with other cloud-based tools, such as CAD software, ERP systems, and project management platforms. This integration facilitates seamless data exchange and enhances productivity across multiple software applications.

Software Updates: Cloud-based PDM providers handle software updates and maintenance, ensuring that users always have access to the latest features and enhancements without the need for manual installations or upgrades.

By leveraging cloud-based infrastructure, PDM systems offer increased accessibility, collaboration, and scalability, empowering engineering companies to streamline their data management processes, accelerate product development cycles, and foster efficient collaboration among teams.

Cloud-based PDM systems often utilize a combination of storage infrastructure to ensure data availability, redundancy, and scalability. Here are some commonly used cloud storage technologies for cloud-based PDM:

  • Object Storage: Object storage is a popular choice for cloud-based PDM due to its scalability and durability. It stores data as discrete objects with unique identifiers, allowing for easy retrieval and management. Examples of object storage services include Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Microsoft Azure Blob Storage.
  • Distributed File Systems: Distributed file systems provide a scalable and distributed approach to storage. They distribute data across multiple servers and enable seamless access and collaboration. Technologies such as Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) and GlusterFS are commonly used for cloud-based PDM.
  • Network-Attached Storage (NAS): NAS solutions offer file-level storage accessible over a network. They provide a centralized storage location for product data and allow multiple users to access and modify files concurrently. Popular cloud NAS solutions include Amazon EFS, Azure Files, and Google Cloud Filestore.
  • Block Storage: Block storage provides raw storage volumes that can be mounted to virtual machines or containers. It is commonly used for storing virtual machine images, databases, and applications associated with PDM systems. Cloud providers like Amazon EBS, Azure Disks, and Google Cloud Persistent Disks offer block storage services.

Cloud-based PDM systems leverage these storage infrastructures to ensure data resilience, scalability, and high availability. The choice of storage technology depends on factors such as performance requirements, data access patterns, and specific cloud provider capabilities.

Why is Cloud used in PDM?

Cloud computing is used in PDM for several reasons including scalability, accessibility, cost-effectiveness among other things. Here are some of the key reasons:

  • Enhanced Collaboration: Cloud-based PDM enables real-time collaboration among geographically dispersed teams. Engineers, designers, and stakeholders can access and work on the same product data simultaneously, fostering seamless collaboration and eliminating the constraints of physical proximity.
  • Increased Accessibility: With cloud-based PDM, product data is accessible from anywhere and on any device with an internet connection. This flexibility allows teams to work remotely, access information on the go, and collaborate across time zones, resulting in improved efficiency and faster decision-making.
  • Cost Efficiency: Cloud-based PDM eliminates the need for companies to invest in expensive hardware infrastructure and software licenses. By leveraging a subscription-based model, organizations can scale their PDM capabilities according to their needs, reducing upfront costs and providing a more cost-effective solution.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Cloud-based PDM systems offer the advantage of scalability, allowing companies to expand or contract their storage and computing resources as required. Additionally, updates and enhancements to the PDM software are seamlessly deployed by the provider, ensuring access to the latest features without the need for manual upgrades.
  • Data Security: Cloud-based PDM providers prioritize data security & governance and employ advanced encryption and authentication measures to protect sensitive product information. Data backups and disaster recovery mechanisms ensure that valuable data remains safe and accessible even in the event of hardware failures or unforeseen incidents.
  • Seamless Integration: Cloud-based PDM systems can integrate with other cloud-based tools and platforms, such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, and project management tools. This integration streamlines workflows and enhances overall productivity by facilitating the seamless exchange of data between different software applications.
  • Scalable Collaboration: Cloud-based PDM fosters collaboration beyond organizational boundaries. Companies can easily collaborate with suppliers, manufacturers, and customers by providing controlled access to specific product data, ensuring efficient supply chain management and enhancing customer engagement.

Overall, cloud-based PDM solutions offer several advantages over on-premises solutions, making them a good choice for companies of all sizes. Here are some additional benefits of using cloud-based PDM systems:

  • Reduced costs: Cloud-based PDM systems can help to reduce costs by eliminating the need to purchase and maintain hardware and software. This can save companies money on upfront costs and ongoing maintenance costs.
  • Increased agility: Cloud-based PDM systems can help to increase agility by making it easy to scale up or down as needed. This can be helpful for companies that experience fluctuating workloads or that need to quickly deploy new products or services.
  • Improved collaboration: Cloud-based PDM systems can help to improve collaboration by making it easy for users to share and access data. This can help to ensure that everyone is working with the latest version of the data and that everyone is on the same page.
  • Enhanced security: Cloud-based PDM systems can help to enhance security by using the latest security technologies to protect data. This can help to protect companies from data breaches and other security threats.

A new way to managing product data and design changes…without PDM

PDM alternatives

While the obvious need and benefits of a Product Data Management system in engineering organizations is undeniable, it can be daunting for small and medium-sized businesses. Even with products like SOLIDWORKS PDM that are focused on SMBs, there are significant IT overheads, process rigidity and cost implications that deter a major swathe of companies from adopting typical PDM systems. Such companies use a mix of spreadsheets, cloud storage and other procedural methodologies to manage design changes and generate engineering change order documentation. Clearly, there are inefficiencies built into such an approach that, among other things, are prone to errors.

ReVue provides a new way of managing design changes, without PDM. It empowers everyone within the company and outside to modify CAD designs without the rigidity of PDM-like processes. There are no IT overheads associated with complicated installation and set-up so prevalent with traditional PDM systems.

With ReVue’s rich graphical user experience, design changes can be understood and managed easily. Users can securely share 2D & 3D CAD designs and capture design feedback, track design changes in the context of the CAD and manage their designs by implementing their own design release process easily.

Frequently Asked Question

Product Data Management (PDM) plays a pivotal role in engineering organizations by serving as the central hub for managing product-related information throughout the product lifecycle. PDM systems streamline critical processes, from design and development to manufacturing and maintenance. They enable teams to collaboratively create, store, and access design files, CAD drawings, documents, and specifications, ensuring version control and data integrity.

PDM fosters control over product data, ensuring that all team members work with accurate and up-to-date information. This precision reduces errors, minimizes rework, and enhances overall product quality. Moreover, PDM solutions help engineering organizations comply with stringent industry standards and regulations, which is especially critical in highly regulated sectors such as automotive, aerospace and healthcare.

Additionally, PDM systems enable efficient retrieval of historical design data for analysis, facilitating data-driven decision-making and continuous improvement initiatives. By serving as a repository of knowledge, PDM empowers engineering organizations to maximize productivity, innovate with confidence, and expedite the delivery of high-quality products to market.

Product Data Management (PDM) is utilized for several critical reasons in engineering organizations. Firstly, it ensures the orderly management of product data, including CAD files and technical documentation, guaranteeing version control and data integrity. Secondly, PDM enhances collaboration among multidisciplinary teams, reducing errors and facilitating smoother workflows. Thirdly, it aids in regulatory compliance, crucial for industries with strict standards. Lastly, PDM systems enable data analysis, supporting informed decision-making and continuous improvement efforts. PDM is employed to optimize efficiency, quality, and innovation throughout the product lifecycle and provide a single source of truth for design data across the enterprise.

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