Product data management (PDM) has proven its value as a critical tool in handling the enormous amounts of technical information companies generate. Now the PDM industry is applying this experience to more affordable systems targeted at smaller organizations. Several suppliers have entered the market with economical approaches aimed specifically at midsized companies. Many companies use PDM to eliminate inefficiencies in the engineering change process. Diebold, Inc. reduced engineering change cycle time by 30 percent through process automation with PDM. IBM is using PDM technology in product development for sharing data among groups, designing tools tightly coupled with release and change processes, interfacing with procurement and other services, and establishing real-time communication of data across the enterprise. Engineers increasingly are using PDM viewing features to track subsystems. Virtual-mockup capabilities enable engineers to import all the parts files for a product designed in Solid Edge, regardless of computer-aided design (CAD) vendor or file format.


Product Data Management (PDM) has prove nits value as a critical tool in handling the enormous amounts of technical information companies generate. Organizations are not asking “if” or “when” they should implement the technology, but “how” they can best apply it to their particular applications.

Since the early days of the technology, pioneering vendors have continued to advance PDM, and large organizations have invested most heavily in systems. Now the PDM industry is applying this experience to more afford able systems targeted at smaller organization s. Several suppliers have entered the market with economical approaches aimed specifically at midsized companies. Meanwhile, large companies are now able to take advantage of a wealth of experience gained by the industry over the years in implementing complex, enterprise-wide systems. So, PDM is moving into the mainstream of industry as an expanding range of companies implement it to improve their business success.

This movement to more cost- effective systems is a boon to end users at all levels who want to get PDM up and running as quickly and inexpensively as possible. On the other hand, the growing number of different types of products presents users with an often confusing selection process. Moreover, “total solution” systems generally must be built with software from multiple vendors, since no single supplier can fully deliver a PDM solution that addresses all levels of the enterprise for the full product life cycle. Compounding the difficulty are market shake-ups, industry consolidations, and new vendors entering the market from all sides.

For users willing to invest time in sorting through all the multiple products and sources, today’s PDM industry provides the widest variety of choices for building implementations that match a particular company’s size, applications, industry, and way of operating. Never before have users had so many different alternatives in systems and so great a potential in realizing the tremendous benefits of PDM.


How PDM Pays Off

Companies implement PDM for many different reasons, but they are all driven by a desire to improve their overall effectiveness and success. Today, many organizations around the world have implemented PDM successfully, and consequently have been able to reap substantial benefits. They vary widely, according to the basic objectives or motivations for the implementation.

At Otis Elevator Co., for example, PDM plays a critical role in helping the company coordinate multiple manufacturing and service facilities around the world and maintain over one million installed units, some of which are up to 100 years old. Installed in 1993, the company ’s first-generation PDM system allows service technicians to retrieve critical data at the job site using laptop computers hooked to standard telephone lines. The greatest immediate benefit of the system was in accessing up-to-date equipment information in minutes, in stead of the hours or days previously required. In this respect alone, the system is said to have paid for itself several times over since its installation.

Based on this success, development of a broader second-generation system began in 1996, and the system is now being deployed. Named Pegasus by Otis, this system is aimed at managing data through the complete product life cycle, from early concept and design stages through equipment production and field operation. computer-aided-design/computer-aided-manufacturing (CAD/CAM), simulation/analysis, and enterprise resource- planning/ materials- requirements-planning (ERP/MRP) systems will be tightly integrated, and inexpensive remote data access will be provided through a Web interface that supports multiple languages around the world.

Boeing Commercial Airplane Group reports that PDM has significantly improved its bill - of-material (BOM) procedures that keep track of the more than 3 million parts in each aircraft. In the past, parts information went through more than 800 legacy systems and 14 separate BOM programs, so components compared from one BOM to another were only about 65 percent accurate. With PDM, Boeing consolidated this information into a single source of product data that it reports is now 99.7 percent accurate.

One of the greatest benefits is that Boeing can respond faster to new airplane features requested by customers. For example, changing the design to accommodate a different-sized cargo door in the past could take 5,000 engineering hours and six months to implement. With new business processes and PDM in place, the same change is expected to take only 100 hours.

IBM is using PDM technology in product development for sharing data among groups, designing tools tightly coupled with release and change processes, interfacing with procurement and other services, and establishing real-time communication of data across the enterprise. Business benefits reported by IBM include a 70-percent compression of nonvalue process time for engineering changes and 35-percent productivity improvement in parts selection. IBM is seeing significant reductions in redundant p arts, with every l-percent improvement contributing over $200 million to its bottom line, by lowering excess inventory, scrap, rework, and supply constraints.

Many companies use PDM to eliminate inefficiencies in the engineering change process. Diebold Inc. reduced engineering change cycle time by 30 percent through process automation with PDM. U.K. automotive manufacturer Rover Group shortened the 45-day average cycle time for processing a product change request to 18 days by reorganizing work processes, and cut further to only five days with PDM, with urgent changes able to be handled in a few hours. On a communication satellite program, General Dynamics Space Systems Division reported that it lowered the number of engineering changes by 73 percent and reduced the amount of quality waivers 94 percent.

As can be seen from these examples, PDM h as been used successfully in various types of companies and can achieve many different kinds of benefits. Each organization needs to zero in on its own motivations for a PDM implementation, and focus directly on them.


Market Conflict

Despite the growing number of user success stories, increased competition in the PDM industry is creating conflict, as alternative technology approaches collide and vendors desperately try to position themselves in the fiercely competitive market. As the PDM industry continues to evolve, considerable confusion is being created, with suppliers inventing superfluous acronyms to make products look unique and convoluted explanations of the technology to gain a competitive advantage.

The problem is compounded by the growing number of vendors providing so many different types of products used in building complete solutions. These may include a primary PDM engine along with capabilities in areas such as visualization tools, legacy data access, applications integrations, component-supplier management, project management, and more. The market is being shaken up, as these and other PDM products are launched by startup companies and by established vendors from other markets developing products with PDM functionality. This is putting a big squeeze on traditional PDM vendors.

On one side, ERP based vendors that have traditionally aimed at production operations are offering systems with increased functionality in areas usually handled by PDM, such as engineering-change and document management. On the other side, mechanical CAD vendors offer local data managers and expanded capabilities that handle configuration and product-structure definition, as well as keeping track of CAD model files , functions traditionally considered part of PDM systems. Meanwhile, independent PDM suppliers continue to focus on functions such as the multiple application integrations and enterprise-wide processes and associated information.

As PDM continues to mature, vendors are increasingly moving away from “technology toolkits” that stress individual features and functions toward "problem solution" systems and services. As part of this movement, PDM vendors often integrate a wide range of third-party software components into their products, including such components as user-interface packages, view and markup tools, workflow engines, document vaults, configuration-management engines, and others. In fact, the role of many PDM system vendors is becoming more that of software-solution integrators, whose major “value added” is in bringing together all these various parts into a workable PDM solution.

Vendors are also providing systems focused more on specific tasks. Component- supplier management (CSM) systems, for example, continue their rapid growth through extensions of classification technology to support identification and retrieval of parts and their characteristics. Some other vendors provide solutions targeted directly at a particular industry, even special problems within specific industries. Bounded, packaged solutions focused on particular tasks such as this are often economical, easily understood by the user organization, and readily implemented in specific application areas.

What Is PDM?

PDM SYSTEMS CONTROL PRODUCT-RELATED data and associated work-flow processes. Information handled includes design geometry, engineering drawings, project plans, part files, assembly diagrams, product specifications, numerical-control machine tool programs, analysis results, correspondence, bills of material, and many other items.

As an integration tool connecting many different areas, PDM manages product data throughout the enterprise, ensuring that the right information is available to the right person at the right time and in the right form. In this way, PDM improves communication and cooperation among diverse groups, and forms the basis for organizations to restructure their product-development processes and institute initiatives such as concurrent engineering and collaborative product development.

Typical users have traditionally included designers and engineers. But PDM systems are expanding to include people in many other areas, including manufacturing personnel, project managers, and administrators, as well as those in sales, marketing, purchasing, shipping, and finance. By expanding PDM systems beyond engineering, people customarily left out of early project phases can contribute to product design and development. The result is faster work, fewer errors, less redundancy, greater cooperation, and smoother work flow. This translates into bottom-line cost savings and time reductions.

Five basic user-directed functions are supported by PDM systems. Data vaults and document management provide for storage and retrieval of product information. Workflow and process management controls procedures for handling product data and provides a mechanism to drive a business with information. Product structure management handles bills of material, product configurations, and associated versions and design variations. Parts management provides information on standard components and facilitates reuse of designs. Program management provides work break-down structures and allows coordination between product-related processes, resource scheduling, and project tracking.

Behind these capabilities are many utilities that enable PDM systems to function. Communication capabilities such as links to e-mail provide for information transfer and event notification. Data-transport functions track data locations and move data from one location or application to another. Data-translation capabilities exchange files in the proper format. Image services handle storage, access, viewing, and markup of product information. Administration functions control and monitor system operation and security.

PDM vendors increasingly are becoming software Integrators.


Changing Cultures

The fact that today’s enterprise PDM systems have an impact on much more than just the typical engineering department requires a major shift in thinking when it comes to the proper implementation and ongoing use of these tools. There’s no doubt that these systems can (and do) affect all aspects of the enterprise, from critical enterprise processes and information infrastructures to daily work tasks and routine procedures.

A PDM system’s ability to impact the entire enterprise has grown enormously over the years. Just the fact that a typical enterprise PDM system is no longer a single application, but rather an information infrastructure that ties together enterprise processes, data, and applications, shows the extent of its impact. It cannot be overstressed that properly implemented enterprise PDM systems affect the entire enterprise, not merely one or two departments .

The extent to which PDM impacts the enterprise varies from one company to another, depending on many factors. They include issues such as the company’s goals for PDM, how well PDM system capabilities are understood, and the flexibility and willingness of the organization to change its processes and ways of thinking to improve business success.

The most important factor listed above is the last one: Willingness to accept change has a major impact on the success of PDM implementation. Without the proper level of cultural change management and education, many PDM implementations fail or fall short of expectations. The implementation and correct use of an enterprise PDM system affects too much of the organization for this factor to be ignored.

To gain a better understanding of the enterprise’s cultural issues, one needs to understand some of the underlying battle lines that exist in today’s typical enterprise. These conflicts exist primarily between traditional departments and the enterprise as a whole. The battle lines between departments usually fall between the enterprise and the work-group structure, engineering and manufacturing, and engineering and the enterprise’s board of directors. Battle lines exist between these groups because of history and power-history, because "that is how it has always been done," and power because "those who own the information, own the knowledge and therefore the company."

Simple, inexpensive Web browsers continue to expand the use of PDM to many people in the enterprise who may not have convenient on-line access to such a broad base of information. By enabling users to become active quickly, browsers provide a "jump start" in achieving early success with PDM in organizations that might otherwise lose enthusiasm.

Browsers used with PDM are the same ones used with the World Wide Web (such as Microsoft Explorer, Netscape, and so on) for accessing data on the Internet as well as on "intranets" of interconnected computers within a company and "extranets" that include business partners, suppliers, customers, and other outside sites.

A rapidly growing number of companies recognize PDM Web browsers as incredibly cost-effective, generally simple to understand, and capable of supporting almost all users. The programs run on all types of computers, from Unix machines to personal computers and Macintoshes, providing the same look and feel across all platforms. Additionally, the use of these Web browsers can eliminate the need to install and maintain specialized "client" software on each machine.

Web browsers can be used to let users quickly access many different sources of data, including PDM as well as information from ERP, the shop floor, parts management systems, purchasing, finance, shipping, and legacy systems. Information can be combined and displayed on the screen at the same time. Databases providing the information displayed on these browsers can remain separate, and may not be linked, associated, or validated in any way. But this "placebo integration" provides a convenient way of consolidating information in one place for people who need it.

Many user companies have internally developed web connections for their PDM systems, and are pressuring vendors for increased capabilities. Feeling this demand, all major PDM vendors have focused programs to include browser technology in their products. Some vendors have already extended their capabilities beyond the initial one-way, view-only interfaces, and have developed impressive new Web-enabled user interfaces that provide access to full system functionality. Work is also underway on capabilities for hooking PDM browsers into the Internet to access online commercial databases and also enable widely dispersed users to share information easily.

Building a Multilayer System

DATA STORAGE AND COMMUNICATION across an entire enterprise often require companies to integrate multiple software packages from different vendors, including a central POM facility for coordinating overall operations tied through integration links to local data managers that handle individual applications.

Developed by the respective vendors, local data managers are product-specific systems that handle design files and other information for particular commercial application packages, such as CAD/CAM, technical publishing, and so on. Examples of CAD/CAM vendors include Pro/lntralink from Parametric Technology Corp., UG/Manager from Unigraphics, Catia Data Manager (COM) from IBM/Oassault, Team Data Manager (TOM) from Structural Dynamics Research Corp., and Euclid Design Manager from Matra Datavision, among others.

Local data managers are designed specifically to work optimally with individual CAD applications, and so provide tight integration and extensive capabilities for. storage and retrieval of documents, check-in/check-out, assembly modeling and data exchange with others using the same software.

Enterprise POM programs tie together these local data managers through integration links. Programs range in scope from those aimed at smaller and midsized organizations to systems for large-scale distributed operations. These include many of the traditional PDM systems, such as IBM’s ProductManager, SORC’S Metaphase, Sherpa’s SherpaWORKS, PTC’S Windchill, Unigraphics’ IMAN, MatrixOne’s Matrix, Eigner’s CADIM/EOB, CoCreate’s WorkManager, Autotrol’s Centra 2000, Workgroup Technology’s CMS, and several others, including vendors like Agile and Consensus. Enterprise-oriented PDM systems are now also provided by some of the traditional ERP suppliers such as SAP and Baan.

These packages are often supplemented with software specialized for specific problems such as component parts-management systems from vendors like Aspect and ICI. Additionally, he integration between POM and ERP systems, as well as to other enterprise-level infrastructure technologies, are handled through integrations of the enterprise PDM facility as well.

Browsers bring PDM to all of the users In a company.

Bringing PDM to Designers

A new generation of tools for integrating multiple data sources from different CAD systems into one viewable model of a three-dimensional assembly gives designers better insight into how parts and subassemblies all come together into an overall product. Such capabilities were first developed by CAD vendors and are now being expanded by PDM vendors and suppliers of visualization technology. This extends PDM’s capabilities as a data-access and integration tool that is more directly useful for designers, who may have regarded the technology as removed from their routine work because they use it mostly for management of drawings , documents, and processes.

CAD vendors initially began efforts to cultivate the valuable concept of virtual product mockup, and continue to develop and promote it in various forms . Recently, third-party, non-CAD vendors have also released products, and PDM vendors are incorporating this technology directly into their systems to provide a more integrated design-management environment.

The significance of these PDM-related virtual product mockup programs is that they were developed especially for view and markup of three-dimensional data from many CAD sources, and are not tied to a particular CAD system. As a result, users can import detailed data from many different sources, regardless of vendor or file format. The resulting composite product model is extremely valuable as a visualization tool in showing how parts and subassemblies fit into the context of an entire project.

Such models can reveal subtle relationships among components and operational details of the product that otherwise might go unrecognized. The model can be rotated, cross- sectioned, and manipulated in other ways to let designers view the product from any angle and zoom into critical areas for closer examination. Dimensions can be measured on the model, and various geometric and massproperty calculations made. As an integrated part of a PDM system, the model also provides a convenient viewport to access information associated with all parts of the product, including bills of materials, documents, specifications, engineering drawings, and analysis results.

Virtual product mockups also are useful to others in the company besides designers, with far-reaching implications for increasing productivity throughout the manufacturing organization. Quality engineers could use the models to check specifications. Technical publication groups could use them for creating illustrations and drawings. Manufacturing could create and verify process instructions. Service groups could determine the best ways to maintain products. And stylists could evaluate overall product appearance throughout the development process.

The benefits of such data transfer and efficient reuse of information are tremendous, of course. And continued development of these types of capabilities is another in a series of steps PDM vendors are taking to evolve the technology and improve PDM’s value to the overall engineering community.

PDM has proven its value to organizations around the world and has moved into the mainstream of industry, as more and more companies implement it successfully. Importantly, PDM is now more available to a wider range of companies, as cost-effective solutions are provided for small and midsize organizations. The opportunity to gain value from PDM has n ever been better, and successful organizations are increasingly focusing on it as a basic part of their business strategy for success.

Linking PDM and ERP

ONE OF THE GREATEST CHALLENGES facing manufacturing companies today is resolving the roles of PDM and enterprise resource planning (ERP) in their organizations. Compounding the difficulty, both technologies have expanded to encompass some of the same areas of influence.

PDM is moving beyond product design to support enterprise- wide business processes and the management of all product-related information and documents, including those on the shop floor and in manufacturing engineering departments. ERP has begun to support portions of engineering with capabilities required for PDM, such as component classification, configuration management, extended part information, document archiving, process work flows, and program management.

PDM is moving beyond product design to support enterprise- wide business processes and the management of all product-related information and documents, including those on the shop floor and in manufacturing engineering departments. ERP has begun to support portions of engineering with capabilities required for PDM, such as component classification, configuration management, extended part information, document archiving, process work flows, and program management.

In many cases, product information is transferred when design engineering releases (through PDM) a product definition to industrial engineers, who then convert it into an assembly view (for ERP). Some companies use a more direct exchange, where the PDM product structure is sent via a translator directly into ERP. A few even provide twoway translation between PDM and ERP, giving engineering and manufacturing a direct view into one another’s database. In some rare instances, companies strive for a tightly integrated system where overlapping portions of PDM and ERP information are stored in the same database and shared by both systems.

The way in which PDM and ERP are integrated depends mainly on the organization’s goals and requirements. In some cases, ERP-based PDM capabilities are sufficient, particularly for companies that don’t prioritize engineering design processes and activities, but instead focus on achieving a seamless integration between engineering and manufacturing.

Engineering-driven, design-oriented companies, on the other hand, usually require the sophisticated product management capabilities of traditional PDM systems. PDM vendors have developed product configurations with the CAD/CAM applications used in product design, and PDM engines can support the complex integration required for engineering desktop systems with 3-0 virtual mockup capabilities. The level of CAD/CAM integration required in such engineering-oriented installations generally is not yet well supported by ERP systems.

Strong Worldwide Growth

ACCORDING TO CIMDATA FIGURES, the worldwide PDM market grew 22 percent to $1.1 billion in 1997. The firm predicts the market will top $1.3 billion in 1998 and increase at a compound annual growth rate of 18 percent through the year 2002, when it expects the market size to exceed $2.5 billion.

A wide range of vendors supply products and services to the PDM market, with many different priorities. Some focus on large-scale, fully functional PDM implementations or target low-end or midrange systems. Others focus on specific application areas, such as document management, or component and supplier management.

Geographically, the largest PDM market segment remains North America. In 1997, 45 percent of worldwide PDM investments came from companies in North America, where most of the early implementations occurred and where a growing number of companies are investing heavily in extensive second-generation systems. Due to the strengthening of the dollar against many major currencies in the world, North America’s share increased 1 percent, from 44 percent, in 1996.

European PDM investments rose to 39 percent of the world market in 1997, up from 38 percent in 1996. Softness in French and German currencies against the dollar lowered reported growth. European PDM investments are still hindered by a lack of dominant suppliers, the need for greater market education, lengthy procurement de lays, and significant differences in priorities, suppliers, applications, and implementation approaches in the various countries.

Hindered by weakened Japanese and Korean currencies, the Asian market decreased to a 16 percent share of the total worldwide PDM market, down from 18 percent in 1996. However, overall growth in the Asia-Pacific market for 1997 was up by 10 percent. The Asia-Pacific region continues to have a strong market potential, particularly in Japan and Korea, where major manufacturers are beginning to invest more heavily in PDM and more vendors are setting up sales facilities and support centers

Market growth in all regions is driven primarily by sizable investments in PDM by large manufacturing firms, particularly automotive and electronics companies. The aerospace industry also is using the technology as a way to retrench and improve.

Nonmanufacturing industries such as construction are increasing their presence in the PDM market as companies begin to make major investments, using the technology to manage processes and data in a broad expanse of enterprises. Some of these include projects in the construction industry, such as buildings and highways; oil refineries and other types of process plants; complex facilities, including airports and warehouses; nuclear and hydroelectric power plants; and distribution networks for electrical, gas, and other utilities.