How to select PDM system in 5 simple steps?

Are you in the market for enterprise system? Traditionally, the process of enterprise software selection is long, complicated and expensive. The variety of requirements, combined with the complexity of systems, specific characteristics of company, vendors, implementation, support, licenses, etc. Whoever tried to do it at least once from any side (buyer or seller) will confirm you that it is not a simple thing to do.

Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity is well-known analyst in engineering and manufacturing software space published his research PDM Buyer’s Guide – Ensuring Maximum Value from Product Data Management. You can get an access to the summary paper by navigating your browser to the following link. If you want to get a full copy, you can do it here free of charge, but you will have pass you contact information to PTC. The guide provides a comprehensive overview of all aspects of PDM selection process started from the functional analyzes, vendor specific requirements, integration, scaling, sizing and many other aspects. Here is a picture, which outlines the framework proposed by Jim. If you are looking for PDM system, this paper is clearly "must read" materials.

One part of PDM buyer’s guide is related to integrations between CAD and PDM. Here is the passage you should pay attention.

PDM should be tightly integrated with underlying authoring tools such as 3D CAD in order to automatically manage the file relationships for assemblies. This is typically a key difference between solutions and should be evaluated closely, considering any multi-CAD control required. Tight integration with authoring tools should enable automatic revisioning, tracking, and traceability of design changes. Integration should include electronic design (ECAD) and software development in addition to mechanical CAD if those are applicable to your products.

PDM business was evolving for the last decade mainly around CAD business. CAD vendors leveraged the tight link between CAD and PDM solutions to deliver well integrated bundles. It was done to satisfy customers’ demands to control CAD portion of product data management. On the other side, it made a selection process sometimes silly and simple.

Jim’s paper made me think about how complicated and painful PDM selection process could be. At the same time, maybe we can pickup few important characteristics that will simplify the process for many companies? Here is my take on PDM Selection Tool for Dummies in 5 steps.

Step 1: If your company is using single CAD system, CAD/PDM bundle from the same vendor is your best choice.

Step 2: If your company is using multiple CAD systems, try to identify a strategic CAD system for your and follow CAD/PDM bundle from that CAD vendor. Check if other CAD integrations are supported as well before making a final choice.

Step 3: If your company has no dominant CAD systems (e.g. your company is a supplier and using multiple CAD systems required by you upper tier provider) and your company is looking how to manage CAD neutral product data structures (eg. BOMs), you need to look on PLM system.

Step 4: If your company is large and has multiple CAD systems, you probably want to have a dedicated PDM system managing every single CAD combined together with PLM or ERP system.

Step 5: If you company is looking how to manage product development processes beyond controlling and sharing CAD (product) data, you need to evaluate PLM system. Don’t make a PDM choice without making your PLM decision first.

What is my conclusion? Simplicity is a key. We can clearly see "simplification" as an important trend these days. Companies are looking for solutions to solve their problems, but they want to make it simple. CAD/PDM integration requirement is a reality of today’s PDM business. We cannot go away without integration between CAD and PDM/PLM. Even the number of characteristics is huge, by focusing on few specific ones, you can save lot of time during the selection process. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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