Introduction to Product Data Management

Product data management is focused on capturing and maintaining detailed information on products and/or services through its development- and manufacturing times and the whole lifecycle of the product. Product data management (usually called PDM) can utilize some specific (PDM-) software or other tools to track and control data related to a particular product. In practice only software based solutions can effectively cover the PDM-needs in modern manufacturing and business process.

Software based PDM system can be seen as an important part of Digital Product Process (DPP), in which all data related to the product, generated in different phases, is available through the whole product process and life cycle of the product to those who need it. PDM systems can also be applied in a company which does not use Digital Product Process in every stage.

Blue arrows in the next picture illustrate typical Product Data needs and transfer in a company’s business process. In the optimal case it could form a Digital Product Process, DPP, in which all data from the very beginning to the end of the lifetime of a product is maintained and used from the same database.

PDM, about contents and coverage

The business process of a product needs wide range of related product data in many phases. Data is needed from making quotations and leaflets, in manufacturing process to delivery of the product with related documentation. The process from sales through manufacturing to delivery can take time. This means that, when applied effectively, PDM-system should be able to connect or integrate in many other systems in the company operation like:

  • CAD, (2D, 3D, mechanical electronic,..)
  • ERP (, Enterprise Resources Planning or production steering, sales, purchase and economy, etc
  • Office- and workgroup systems
  • Quality steering systems

Major part of data related to a specific product is created or defined in R&D phase. CAD systems are widely used in R&D also in smaller companies today. Typical information created in product development is primary needed in company’s production process. But the data is important in company’s other, and not only, internal operations. Thus data management in PDM module offers many advantages. Typical product data in a company includes:

  • Part number
  • Part description
  • Supplier/vendor
  • Vendor part number and description
  • Unit of measure
  • Cost/price
  • Schematic or CAD drawing
  • Material data sheets
  • Tooling and manufacturing specifications

This is why PDM is often used primary by engineers. But the product information can and should be also utilized in the whole business process. For example the use of product data management allows a company to track also the various costs associated with the creation and launch of a product. PDM is also a part of product life cycle management. It can be a strong supporting tool in customer service and after sales activities:

  • Customers (leaflets, user and service manuals etc)
  • Supplier/vendor (technical data)
  • Partners, (R&D co-operation, service, spare parts)

PDM, advantages:

  • Track and manage all changes to product related data
  • Accelerate return of investment;
  • Spend less time organizing and tracking design data;
  • Improve productivity through reuse of product design data;
  • Enhance collaboration.
  • Effective use of PDM in R&D phase helps to avoid very costly needs to design changes later on:

According to recent research, a company can, by using PDM and DTP systems effectively

  • Shorten R&D and project or delivery times by up to 50%
  • Save up to 30% in total costs
  • Use its capacity more efficient
  • Develop more new products
  • Gain in quality of products and operations
  • Develop customer service processes

PDM and a SME company

The primary goal in PDM is the idea that any product related data, once created or defined, is registered in the PDM system. After that the same data should be available and used in every occasion. This offers considerable time savings in finding the right data and eliminates the risk of using different parallel versions in different situations. In a company with limited production it may be handled somehow without specific PDM-software tools, but probably with limitations.  Setting up and implementation of a PDM system in a small company is a development process. As mentioned before, it largely benefits from integration to other systems in a company. Those might not yet exist in (especially in a smaller or newly established) company or are might not be compatible.  On the other hand, most of the product data t is created in R&D process and there different CAD-tools are already largely used. Many CAD software can be extended (or perhaps linked in) with compatible PDM software from the same vendor. One example of this is well known CAD software, SolidWorks, enhanced with Aton PDM or Solid PDM. (See links below

This type of approach, starting from CAD-systems connected or integrated with compatible PDM system could be a good starting point for a SME company to build up PDM. A very view companies have comprehensive business software compatible with some PDM software. Building connections or integrating PDM to other, existing or invested software tools is a major development project needing lot of time and resources. It can’t normally just be “jumped in”.   Also one optimal situation to consider PDM is when a company plans to invest in or change CAD, production management or ERP-systems.

Related links:

PDM in general:

Selecting of a Product Data Management System:

Some PDM products and vendors:

Education related to PDM/PLM:

R&D related to PDM/PLM:


Communities related to PDM/PLM:



Conferences related to PDM/PLM:

Trade-fairs related to PDM/PLM:



Finance related to PDM/PLM:



Examples/software related to PDM/PLM:


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