PDM is a Personal Productivity Tool


Ready for a rousing debate on Product Data Management (PDM)? It may not be the most compelling topic, but reading up on it has its uses. In a pinch, it’s a surefire way to get to sleep on time. It’s a fine alternative to watching paint dry. And make no mistake, if you’re ever trying to convince your bosses to do something, just torture them with PDM articles until they submit.

Forgive me, I’m kidding. Well, kinda.

This is where PDM gets interesting: There are some organizations that waver on the question of whether to put a PDM system in place. That’s certainly a scary thought for the organization. However, in my eyes, it’s even more concerning for the individual. In this post, I’ll tell you why.

Enabling Secure Yet Global Collaboration
Now, if you’ve ever read up on PDM, you know the story.

PDM enables global collaboration. The engineers in your company’s technical center on the other side of the world need access to your designs. PDM provides a means to share those models. It also allows suppliers to gain controlled access, too. Along the way, it secures the intellectual property of the company.

That’s all well and good. But actually, it requires some extra steps for users. I mean, they have to login, check stuff out and check stuff in. It’s not like it happens automatically. What’s in it for them?

Offloading the Complexity of CAD
If you use CAD, you know that a product modeled in CAD is composed of hundreds if not thousands of files. There are individual components, each with their own files. There are drawings filed for each component. Then there are assemblies and subassemblies, which, again, each have their own file.

Managed using desktop folders instead of PDM, most CAD applications have adopted a ‘no overwrite’ file management approach. So every time you save, you are actually creating a new file, one whose file name is incremented numerically. All that leads to a ton of complexity.

Naturally, PDM offers a pretty straightforward solution to this. These systems can look into the CAD file, determine if it has already been checked in, and match it to the prior file. It tracks every single change. It keeps it all organized.

Managing the Design Configurations of CAD
Let’s step back for a moment to managing CAD files with desktop folders again and think through another scenario.

Most every engineering organization needs to track design configurations. Sometimes it’s about being more effective. Sometimes date-based baselines are needed when a manager wants to see how a design changed from one design review to another.

Performing this task with desktop folders is nigh impossible. A user would have to check the timestamp on each file in the folder to see which version of each CAD file was correct before the date requested. Now remember, there might be dozens of iterations of each CAD file. Sound like a monumental waste of time to you?

PDM, of course, manages this automatically.

Managing Configurations for Simulation and Manufacturing
Two last points should be noted. The nightmare of manually managing interconnected files extends to simulation and manufacturing.

For simulation, abstractions and simplifications of design models are needed. Rounds are removed in some cases. Geometry is fixed in others. That represents a branch of the design progression. And, of course, when you get simulation results, you need to match them up with the correct iteration.

Manufacturing models are much the same. Modifications need to be made for undercuts or plastic injection burn marks. They too correspond to a specific iteration of the design.

Tracking all that manually is yet another nightmare that adds no value. PDM does it automatically.

My Takeaway and Questions
Listen, I know there is value in PDM for the organization and it actually does deliver. But for me, what is even more valuable is that it frees up individual engineers and designers to spend more of their time actually designing products, not managing spreadsheets with file names. Call me crazy.

Alright folks. Those are my thoughts. Agree? Disagree? Sound off and let me know.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.

Editor’s Note: For more information, visit PTC’s simulation product page and head over to this page for a complete list of upcoming PTC simulation webcasts. To learn even more, read this Q&A interview with Mark Fischer, the director of PTC’s the director of PTC’s simulation products & CAD partner strategy.

This blog post has been licensed for hosting by PTC. The concepts, ideas and positions of this post have been developed independently by Industry Analyst Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights.

This entry was posted in Reinventing Design and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

One Comment

  1. Posted May 5, 2014 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    To make PDM valuable for individuals can be very interesting option. Usual perception is that data management (not only PDM) makes life of engineers more complicated. I posted about it here —

    How to evaluate PDM before it ruin your personal productivity.

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