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Product Data Management (PDM)

Product Data Management (PDM) is a category of computer software used to control data related to products. PDM creates and manages relations between sets of data that define a product, and store those relationships in a database. It is an important tool in product lifecycle management.

Product Data Management (PDM) is focused on information relative to core operations of a product-based company. PDM is one element of a larger evolving field of Enterprise Master Data - Customer Master, Supplier Master, Employee Master, etc.

Within PDM the focus is on managing and tracking the creation, change and archive of all information related to a product. The information being stored and managed (on one or more file servers) will include engineering data such as Computer-aided design (CAD) models, drawings and their associated documents.

"Associated documents" is a collector term for: requirements, specifications, manufacturing plans, assembly plans, test plans and test procedures. The package may also include product visualization data.

The central database will also manage metadata such as owner of a file and release status of the components. The package will: control check-in and check-out of the product data to multi-user; carry out engineering change management and release control on all versions/issues of components in a product; build and manipulate the product structure Bill of Materials (BOM) for assemblies; and assist in configurations management of product variants.

This enables automatic reports on product costs, etc. Furthermore, PDM enables companies producing complex products to spread product data in to the entire PLM launch-process. This significantly enhances the effectiveness of the launch process.

Product Data Management is focused on capturing and maintaining information on products and/or services through its development and useful life. Typical information managed in the PDM module include:

  • Part Number
  • Part Description
  • Supplier/Vendor
  • Vendor Part Number and Description
  • Unit of Measure
  • Cost/Price
  • Schematic or CAD Drawing
  • Material Data Sheets


  • Track and manage all changes to product related data
  • Accelerate return on investment with easy setup;
  • Spend less time organizing and tracking design data;
  • Improve productivity through reuse of product design data;
  • Enhance collaboration.

Fields of Use
PDM is mainly used by engineers to manage their work and to access data of others in the design team. It is used in most industries but is used to an advanced level in Automotive,Aerospace and Locomotive.

A PDM system provides benefits in a number of areas:

  • Time-to-Market: Data is instantly available to all with access. There is no waiting for paper documents to be distributed nor time wasted while documents sit in an in-basket waiting for review. Time spent searching for component and product data is reduced. Collaboration features also speed and improve the process.
  • Improved Productivity: Studies have shown that engineers spend 25% to 35% of their time searching for, retrieving, handling, filing, and storing documents and information. This time can be reduced with a PDM system and its single repository, its classification and information structuring capabilities. The classification and search capabilities aid design retrieval, provide the opportunity to avoid "reinventing the wheel", and, as a result, reduce the related development effort.
  • Improved Control: Because PDM better manages configurations and assures that everyone is working from the most current data, it avoids problems of working with old data. Access control features assure that only authorized parties can access or change proprietary information. Control over engineering changes is improved with less manual effort.

Common Capabilities of PDM
PDM systems vary in their functionality, but some of their common capabilities are described below.

Access Control
Access control to each element in the product definition data base can be specified. Read only access can be given to personnel not directly involved with the design, development and planning process. Creation and maintenance access can be given to the individuals responsible for product and process design. As Product Data Management systems evolve towards Collaborative Product Commerce (CPC) systems which are used across multiple enterprises in a supply chain, access control becomes more critical and requires control to limit access to specific projects, products or parts for a specific supplier or customer.
Component / Material Classification

Components and materials can be classified and organized and attributes assigned. This supports standardization by identifying similar components/materials, eliminating redundancy, and establishing a preferred parts list. Establishing classes and subclasses with attributes allows a designer to search and select a needed material, component or assembly with minimal effort thereby avoiding having to re-specifying an existing or similar component or material.

Product Structure

Since the relationship of a product's parts is a logical one maintained by the information system rather than a fixed physical relationship as represented on a drawing, it is possible to readily maintain more than one relationship. This will allow different views of part relationships in assemblies to correspond to the various departmental needs (e.g., engineering and manufacturing product structures), while maintaining rigor and consistency of the product's definition through this single data base. Thus, this one logical data base can support product and process design requirements as well as maintain part relationships to serve as a manufacturing bill of materials for MRP II/ERP. In other words, PDM provides the ability to hold not just the physical relationships between parts in an assembly but also other kinds of structures; for instance, manufacturing, financial, maintenance or document relationships. So, it is possible for specialist team members to see the product structured from their point of view. Product data can be accessed via this complete Bill of Materials. This access includes assemblies, parts and related documents.

An integrated approach to developing, organizing and maintaining part and product definition data facilitates the design process, makes design data more readily usable and enhances integration with process requirements.

Engineering Changes
Engineering changes can be facilitated with this configuration management and administrative control embedded within the system. CAE/ CAD tools will enable engineering changes to be more thoroughly developed and analyzed to better define change impact. Once a design has been created, it can be checked-out electronically to a workstation for engineering changes. When the changes have been made, it can be returned to the central database and placed in a queue or an email notification sent for approval by designated parties. In this manner, a Change Control Board (CCB) can even "convene" and provide individual member's input electronically. In addition to supporting engineering analysis, information related to procurement, inventory, manufacturing and cost is available for members of the CCB to evaluate, designate the effectivity of the change and determine the disposition of existing items.
Process Management and Workflow

PDM systems support process management by defining process steps related to the development, distribution and use of product data. The process is defined in the form of specified process steps and release or promotion levels that the data must achieve. The manner in which the process is defined varies with every PDM system. Within a project, responsibilities are defined for the process steps - who needs to approve the data or work on the data before it moves to the next release or promotion level. While, the current process is defined in a company's configuration management or engineering change procedures and in its new product development process, often changes have to be made to take advantage of the communication andcoordination capabilities of the PDM system.


Collaboration can be supported in several ways. First, a PDM system may be the gateway that a team uses to access the information under discussion avoiding the need to copy and distribute a series of paper documents. Second, the PDM system may provide a synchronous or asynchronous collaboration environment for team members to access, present, review and product feedback on product and process information. Further, this collaboration tool may incorporate a view and mark-up capability and the provide the ability to store marked-up files or documents by collaborator. Third, what are now described as collaborative product commerce systems (CPC), provide extended PDM functionality and access control outside the enterprise for customers, suppliers and interested third parties (e.g., regulatory agencies). This speeds the distribution of information, enhances coordination, and speeds the capture of feedback.

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