PDM: Boon or Plague?
Chad Jackson posted on April 24, 2013 | | 2777 views

Wow. So PDM is a hot topic now, eh?

Over the past few weeks, we've had our Tech4PD episode on PDM for small organizations and a slew of blog posts on the topic. While there's a lot of content out there to browse through on PDM, one post got my attention this week from… *drumroll*… Oleg Shilovitsky from Autodesk.

"Nobody Likes PDM"

Yesterday, Oleg penned a post titled PDM: Rightsize, Wrongsize or Overkill? The following point, in particular, made me think. 

The discussion made me think about two significant issues where PDM brings overkill to engineers. First and most important – nobody likes data management. If you are in a big company and your boss will tell you to use PDM, you do. However, if you have even a chance not to use PDM, you won’t miss that opportunity. Design is cool, but data management is boring stuff.

So is this true? Does anyone that can avoid PDM actually not use PDM? As you might guess, I disagree. But I think the real answer is more nuanced and not so black and white.

What Are You Trying to Manage?

That's the key question. A little over a year ago, I published a post titled The Many Faces of Product Data Management. You can read the post if you'd like, but in general, here is the takeaway: there are many different aspects of the digital product definition that can be managed, including:

  • Engineering Design Representations
    • MCAD data
    • ECAD data
    • Software artifacts
  • Simulation Artifacts
  • Engineering Documentation
  • Enterprise Documentation

You Want to Do What?

Now, I'll grant that Oleg has a point. Very few people want to manually check in and out a document as well as associate that document to a part or product representation. That's just… well... painful. There are some interesting approaches that PDM could adopt to address this unnecessarily mundane activity. However, I'll reserve that for a different post.

Where I disagree with Oleg is in managing MCAD data and software artifacts, as well as perhaps managing simulation artifacts. A single complex MCAD design contains hundreds if not thousands of files. All of which can be incrementing in versions at their own pace. And, unfortunately, you need to rewind back to specific baseline definitions from time to time. Doing this manually is simply painful.

Summary and Conclusion


  • Manually managing and associating documents is painful, I'll grant everyone that. Most avoid it like the plague.
  • Manually managing an interconnected network of files like MCAD data, software artifacts and simulation data is terribly complex and painful. Here, PDM is a boon.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off. Let is know what you think.

Take care. Talk soon. Thanks for reading.