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The Original Home for Product Data: A Guide to PDM Systems

What is a PDM and why does your business need one?

From enterprise resource planning (ERP) to quality management (QMS) to product lifecycle management (PLM), developing and designing a new product involves a wide array of data, requiring a high level of organization. Each element of input from every stakeholder translates to a piece of data. Keeping that data accessible and current is a necessity in the product development process and requires its own tools.

Product data management, or PDM, refers to the storage, organization, and access of product data as it moves throughout the product lifecycle. When PDM came on the scene, it was a huge sigh of relief for engineers who could finally replace their huge jumble of files in Microsoft Office with a complete, organized data management solution designed for purpose.

PDM can also refer to the system itself, which is a Product Data Manager. PDM systems work directly with computer-aided design (CAD) or AutoCAD programs, managing all the CAD files used in product development and design processes to organize and secure product data, which streamlines workflows.

What is the role of a PDM system?

The primary role of a PDM system is to serve as a project management tool for product development. It’s a centralized location of design and engineering data by directly accessing CAD data. This data encompasses everything from designs in CAD files to manufacturing instruction, supply chain and procurement information, bills of materials, part numbers, models, and other documents. PDM systems utilize CAD tools and files to manage the data contained in the documents.

With a PDM, design data is kept consistent and up-to-date with the proper formats because it serves as a single source for that data, regardless of how many other applications are used in parallel processes. Administrators of the PDM keep data secure by controlling which stakeholders have access to which data. Additionally, PDM tools include a check-in and check-out functionality for files so designers and engineers can be certain that they are working on the latest version of the product, rather than reusing the same file.

4 Reasons You Need a PDM

Error Reduction

PDMs help reduce errors in processes because of functionalities that can automate workflow—like notifications for real-time approval requests—that keep different versions of products clearly labeled and accessible. With revision control and reduced errors, product development, design, and engineering teams will work more efficiently and save the costs that errors usually incur.

Version Control

Because of the check-in and check-out requirements for most PDM software, only a controlled number of users can access a file, be it a design or model, at any given time. This makes it an effective change management tool. Secured file management makes it easier to read metadata, which helps the PDM professional know which versions are most recent and are ready to be worked on.


PDMs allow for easy and effective collaboration. The last reason mentioned, version control, lends itself to designers and developers being able to work together closely on as many projects as necessary without overlap or confusion.

Transparency and Security

PDM enables careful control of who can view which data. Stakeholders with different permissions can access and edit data accordingly. Accessibility options protect intellectual property (IP) like products in the early stages of product development. Additionally, transparency, which builds trust among stakeholders, is established as users are able to view and understand design and engineering data they may not be working on themselves and would be restricted without a PDM system.


PDM may be confused with PIM or product information management. PDM and PIM are complementary but serve different roles. Whereas PDM is used for product development and design functions, PIM is used for sales and marketing.

PIM, or Commercialization, uses up-to-date technical data that can have connectivity with PDM. Marketers and sales teams then use that information for product descriptions, press releases or copy for advertisements. PIM keeps product information consistent for all marketing and distribution channels.

Ideally, for larger-scale operations, PDM is used to automate the transfer of necessary product design data between the PDM and PIM systems, further ensuring consistency and recency.


PDM and product lifecycle management, or PLM, are also easily conflated but serve different roles in achieving business goals. Simply put, PDM tracks what engineering change orders come through during the development process while PLM uses that information to communicate how and why the changes were made.

In a more technical sense, PDM manages product design data and files as they move through the PLM process, otherwise known as the product lifecycle. PDM and PLM work together to streamline the day-to-day flow of the product lifecycle.

Why You Need Both a PDM and PLM

PDM and PLM are two sides of the same coin: they are functionally separate systems that are complementary and work best when one is integrated with the other. Making and tracking changes in product designs is just as important as understanding how and why those changes were made.

This cycle, created by implementing an effective PDM solution can be accomplished in a couple of ways: 1) setting up a standalone PDM like those offered by Solidworks PDM or 2) implementing a product value management (PVM) platform which includes all the capabilities of PDM embedded in its PLM solution, while also connecting your QMS and PIM activities to establish a closed, continuous digital thread throughout your entire value chain.

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Post by
Anna Troiano
Editor in Chief, Converged

Anna has spent her content marketing career honing in on the critical keys for successful consumer & industry-driven marketing. Before joining Propel, she developed and executed content strategy for TodayTix, Stella & Dot, Atlantic Theater Company, and Theatre Communications Group.

Fun Fact: Anna's birthday is Valentine's Day.

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Anna Troiano