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Do you work with products on a regular basis? Have you found yourself wondering if there is a better process for keeping up with all the information related to a product? Are you just one of many people who interact with a product in your company? Well, product data management may just be the tool for you.

Product data management (PDM) is what a company does when they use a centralized software system to store all the information related to a product. This system feeds all the other systems within the company that require information about that product (e.g. the ERP or Webshop). This information can include everything from the raw materials used to construct that product to how it was built. The data can be used across a variety of business functions, from design to marketing, and can include computer-aided design (CAD) data, models, parts information, manufacturing instructions, requirements, notes, and documents.

The ideal PDM system is accessible by multiple applications and multiple teams across an organization and supports business-specific needs. Choosing the right PDM software can provide a company in any industry with a solid foundation that can be easily expanded into a full product lifecycle management system (PLM) platform. A PLM includes the systems to which the PDM feeds data, such as an internet repository used for marketing the product online. A PLM is a more encompassing strategic series of systems used by the business to communicate about the product. A PLM encompasses every aspect of a product from inception to market deployment.

At its core, a PDM system provides solutions for secure data management, process enablement, and configuration management.

The History of Product Data Management

PDM was originally used primarily for the computer-aided design (CAD) process. Engineers needed a better way to keep up with paper documentation related to the development of a product. This centralized system was designed to keep up with all the data associated with a product.

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PDM continues to be used very heavily by engineers today but is also used by many others who build any product through a series of processes and raw materials. Any business user who interacts with a product throughout its lifecycle benefits from the use of this information collected.

Information typically stored in PDM includes:

1. Technical specifications – measurements and materials.
2. Drawings – electronic or manual visuals of the product.
3. Bill of materials – or BOMs, for raw materials.
4. Engineering documentation– how a product is constructed.
5. Other documents – for example, photographed images of the final product.

Secure Data Management through PDM

PDM systems capture and manage product information, ensuring that information is delivered to users throughout the product lifecycle in the correct context. File ownership, version control (check-in and check-out of files), revision management, and release status are all managed by the PDM system.

Security and administrative functionality protect intellectual property rights through role management, project-based security, and associated access privileges.

What Does Metadata Mean?

Metadata management is the administration of data that describes other data. It involves establishing policies and processes that ensure information can be integrated, accessed, shared, linked, analyzed, and maintained across the organization.

Metadata is generated whenever data is created, acquired, added to, deleted from, or updated. For example, document metadata in Microsoft Word includes the file size, date of document creation, the name(s) of the author and most recent modifier, the dates of any changes, and the total edit time. Further metadata can be added, including title, tags, and comments.

The goal of metadata management is to make it easier for a person or program to locate a specific data asset. This requires designing a metadata repository, populating the repository and making it easy to use information in the repository.

Benefits of metadata management include:

  • Consistency of definitions of metadata so that terminology variations don’t cause data retrieval problems.
  • Less redundancy of effort and greater consistency across multiple instances of data because data can be reused appropriately.
  • Maintenance of information across the organization that is not dependent on employees’ knowledge.
  • Greater efficiency, leading to faster product and project delivery.

When an organization is establishing policies to manage metadata, it is important for managers to gather together and agree upon a common data vocabulary and taxonomy. Intra-department variations should be addressed, and custom usage eliminated or replaced.

Process Enablement

Workflow and process capabilities enable both internal product teams and external partners to participate in the product lifecycle.

A PDM system can help you establish, manage and execute automated workflow-driven processes that reflect company-specific best practices for change planning (what-if analysis), change incorporation (execution), and change verification and communication.

A PDM system can also support other established processes, including phase-gate standards.
Configuration Management
PDM systems provide the visibility necessary for managing and presenting a complete bill of materials (BOM). It facilitates the alignment and synchronization of all sources of BOM data, as well as all lifecycle phases, including the as-designed, as-planned, as-built and as-maintained states.

PDM systems provide change management capabilities that allow you to see the BOM before and after changes are made.

Lifecycle visualization provides sharing and on-demand representations of the product and its underlying assemblies and parts, without the need for a CAD authoring tool or special technical knowledge. Digital mockup capabilities can reduce the need for costly physical prototyping.
Benefits of Product Data Management (PDM)

A good PDM system has many benefits, helping to:


· Find the correct data quickly
· Improve productivity and reduce cycle times
· Reduce development errors and costs
· Improve value chain orchestration
· Meet business and regulatory requirements
· Optimize operational resources
· Facilitate collaboration between global teams
· Provide visibility for better business decision-making

Product Data Management versus Product Information Management (PIM)


PDM stands for Product Data Management (see also this article on Wikipedia) and just like a PCM, is very similar to a PIM in terms of functionalities. The biggest difference is actually in the name: the difference between data and information. Data in this case is something “rough” and unorganized. It has to be transformed before it is made comprehensible – that is, before it is information.

In this case, data is mainly relevant for manufacturers and all processes that are going on throughout the entire life cycle of the product, while information is mainly usable by e-commerce specialists and marketers. Logically, the information collected and stored in PIMs is largely based on product data. Because we also talk about the processes during the life cycle of a product with PDMs, there are also many PDM modules within ERPs. Although these modules can hardly or hardly convert that data into valuable information.

You could therefore see PIM as an extension of PDM, which you need in the further marketing of your products after their production.

The product Data Management (PDM) system is a subset of the Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system. PDM systems mainly handle CAD-related product data. Design departments are the prominent input providers for a PDM system.

Want to learn more about PIM?

If you have any questions regarding Product Information Management, from PIM Selection to Implementation or how a PIM would fit in your IT landscape? Feel free to browse our Knowledge Base of articles on everything PIM related.

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