I want to get back to the topic of Out-of-the-Box PDM systems. The topic isn’t new. The following post by Jim Brown was a trigger for me to get back and discuss it. Jim posted: Can PDM Value Being Achieved Quickly? Painlessly? You can go to Jim’s blog and read about the research he did. In addition, you can navigate to the following link to upload the executive summary of the research for free. You can get the full report, but you need to be registered with Siemens PLM that provided their sponsorship to make this research done. Choose your download option and make your opinion, first.
I’ve been blogging about Out-of-the-box PDM and PLM before. If you haven’t had a chance to read my previous blogs on this topic, I can recommend you the following few links.
In my original thinking, "out-of-the-box" option was created to simplify the initial introduction and implementation of PDM/PLM software. So, it was like a anesthesia you need to provide to a customer to help him to digest your application. Another concern that I was raising all the time with out-the-box option was about the ability of manufacturing companies to align with the environment. From my standpoint, engineering and R&D (majority of PDM implementations is going there) is the environment that hardly can be standardized. Joking about it, I’m saying "when you have two engineers, you have a potential to have three different opinions :)".
How To Out-of-the-Box PDM function?
There are four major components of PDM system, in my view: Data Model / Vaulting, Revision, Identification, CAD / Integration. The question I’d like to ask if these functions can be predefined and used by any customer without modification? Let me put some analyzes about each of them.
Data Model / Vault. This function helps you to organize data. Usually, this is one of the most fundamental functions, and it defines the level of flexibility that implemented by the system. I’d be thinking about two aspects of data models in the context of PDM. One is related to CAD data. Another one is related to the management of Bill of Materials. The discussion about these two models and how they are related very often makes PDM implementation complicated. Vaulting function is straightforward and standard for many PDM systems these days.
Managing revisions comes next after vaulting. Companies have a temptation to customize the revision schema. However, the number of customization here is limited, in my view. On the other side, identification can be more complicated story. I posted before about document numbering, part numbering and identification before. These topics can be complicated and requires implementation skills and methodology.
The last one is simple and complex at the same time. You want PDM system to be embedded into CAD user interface. It started as a trend (10-15 years ago), and now it is considered as "must" requirement. However, this is still a challenge. The function normally worked well for PDM systems coming from the same CAD providers. At the same time, supporting "other CAD" systems can be problematic and require additional implementation skills.
PDM + CAD = ?
I can see a trend towards embedding PDM functions into a CAD system. First of this kind innovation came out of Dassault with the release of CATIA V6. PDM functions such as vaulting, revisions and some others are embedded. CATIA uses Enovia V6 to manage it. In parallel, I think other CAD vendors create successful bundles such as SolidWorks/EPDM, SolidEdge/TC Express, Pro-E/Windchill, etc. I wrote about this trend some time ago. Navigate your browser on the following link to read about it.
What is my conclusion? Engineers normally dislike PDM functions. They are trying to avoid it as much as possible. Therefore, PDM systems are not as popular when it comes to implementations. It requires time, cost and affect CAD functionality. However, the industry perception is that you need to have PDM to control your data. CAD vendors are trying to embed PDM functions into CAD packages and improve vertical integration between CAD and PDM packages. Can it be completely pre-configured and painless? I’m not sure. I think, the best PDM engineers can think about is the "invisible PDM". Just my thoughts…