Outlining the differences between PLM and PDM

When it comes to managing product data, there are a lot of methods and software that could fit the bill. When faced with deciding which to use, many companies simply try to do it with homegrown spreadsheets instead of exploring other options. To shed some light on the question, we’ve put together this article to help understand the differences between the two best choices for managing product information within an organization: Product Data Management (PDM) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). 

Similarities and differences

It’s important to start out by stating that PDM software and PLM software are both used to manage product-related information and data throughout the product development process, but they serve different purposes and have some key differences. Put generally, PDM software is focused on managing and organizing data related to a product’s design and development. Whereas PLM software is focused on managing the entire lifecycle of a product from concept to disposal. 

Another broad difference is in the application’s architecture and focus. PDM software tends to be an extension of CAD software suites. In this situation, the main goal is to manage the product’s design files and their specifications. Product lifecycle management software is seen predominantly as a stand-alone application. It’s built to be integrated well beyond the product engineering area. PLM extends into manufacturing, purchasing & inventory management, and even quality control departments of a company.

Breaking down the differences

Below we have focused on some of the main differences between product data management software and product lifecycle management software:

1. Scope

PDM software is typically designed to manage product data within a specific department, such as engineering. Conversely, PLM software is designed to manage product data across the entire organization. This involves departments such as sales, marketing, and customer service.

2. Functionality

PDM software is focused on managing product data such as CAD models, technical specifications, and bills of materials. PLM software, on the other hand, includes a broader range of functions such as project management, collaboration, and supply chain management.

3. Lifecycle management

PDM software manages data related to a specific phase of the product development process, whereas PLM software manages data across the entire lifecycle of a product. This includes data related to product design, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and end-of-life management.

4. Integration

PDM software is typically integrated with other engineering and design tools, such as Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software. PLM software, on the other hand, is designed to integrate with a broader range of enterprise systems. This integration includes ERP systems and other business applications.

5. Business impact

PLM software is designed to have a greater impact on business operations and strategy, helping organizations to optimize their product development processes and improve their overall competitiveness.

Bringing the two together

There are a number of inherent differences between the two applications. It’s not uncommon for larger firms to use both systems. Many times, companies start off using PDM products. Then bring on PLM to extend the benefits beyond engineering into the rest of the organization. 

In these organizations, the PDM and PLM systems tend to work in a complementary manner. Each system is used for their strengths and rely on the other to offset their shortcomings. Eventually, a firm will connect Material Resource Planning (MRP) capabilities to its existing PDM and PLM systems to get even greater process visibility and efficiency.

If you’re looking to get better control over your product’s parts and specifications, it’s time to sign up online for Aligni PLM today!

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