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Product Data Management (PDM) is a software-based system that manages the information and data related to a product design, from concepting, development, manufacturing, and beyond. The goal of PDM is to provide a centralized and structured approach to managing product data, enabling cross-functional teams to collaborate more effectively and efficiently.

Product data management software is typically an extension of CAD software platforms built to manage assemblies, components, and specifications during development.  Designers and product engineers who are fluent in design software are the principal users of PDM. They use the PDM software to manage and organize all the information related to a product’s design, development, and manufacturing processes. 

In the context of designing and manufacturing products, PDM systems typically manage data related to product configurations, bills of materials (BOMs), engineering changes, product specifications, and other technical documents. This information can be stored, organized, and tracked within the PDM system. The system is designed to provide a single source of truth for all stakeholders involved in the product development process.

PDM also provides greater visibility into the product development process, allowing teams to make better-informed decisions and respond quickly to changes and challenges. By using a PDM system, teams can streamline their workflows, reduce errors, and improve overall product quality. Ultimately, the system helps companies bring better products to market faster and more efficiently.

PDM capabilities and uses

While the functionalities of PDM systems vary from vendor to vendor, below are some of the more common ways that the software is typically used by product engineers:

1. Managing product data: PDM software allows product engineers to store and manage all the data related to a product, including 3D CAD models, drawings, specifications, and other technical documentation. This helps to ensure all stakeholders in the product development process have access to the latest product information and that all changes are tracked and managed effectively.

2. Collaborating on design and development: PDM software facilitates collaboration between product engineers and other stakeholders, such as designers, manufacturing engineers, and even suppliers. This ability allows teams to work together more effectively, share information and feedback, and make decisions based on the latest data.

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3. Managing product configurations: PDM software allows product engineers to manage multiple product configurations, including different options and variations. This helps to ensure that the right products are produced for specific markets, customers, or applications, and that all configurations are managed effectively.

4. Managing bills of materials (BOMs): PDM software allows product engineers to manage the BOMs for their products, including all the components and materials required for production. This helps to ensure that the right parts are ordered, and that production runs smoothly.

5. Managing product change processes: PDM software allows product engineers to manage change processes, including requests for change, approvals, and implementation. This helps to ensure that all changes are managed effectively and that the impact on the product is understood and documented.

Overall, PDM software is an essential tool for product engineers and designers, helping them to manage the complex process of designing, developing, and manufacturing products more efficiently and effectively. 

Going further

Eventually, the functionality provided by most PDM systems fuels the desire to expand its capabilities to handle more complex builds or increased sharing with more of the company. When this happens, companies tend to turn to Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) or Material Resource Planning (MRP) software systems to bring greater visibility and capability. 

When companies reach the end of their PDM’s abilities, cloud-based software systems like Aligni PLM or Aligni MRP can help bring increased collaboration or manage greater complexities. Sign up today!

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