PDM vs. PLM: A Data Perspective

July 24, 2010

I want to talk about what I consider as one of the most controversial topics in the industry – PDM vs. PLM. How many times, you had a chance to hear the following question: What is the difference between PDM and PLM? I guess, the only one question can practically compete with this – question about what is PLM? So, I decided to step into this winding road to give you my perspective on that. I will try to get rid of multiple high-level pitches and TLA-oriented presentations.

The Status quo
My first shot to get the status quo is to see what Google can show me on this topic. So, the followingsearch, brings some interesting set of links. Here is what I found.

The oldest material I found is the article by Martin Day in CAD Digest – Is PLM the new PDM? . He is giving a deep perspective of PLM definition based on his conversation with Pascal Daloz, back that time VP R&D strategy in Dassault Systems. You can see their opinion about PDM to PLM race as well as the definition of how PLM is expanding PDM.

The later materials about PLM and PDM comparison are related to Solidworks white paper PLM vs. PDM: It All Starts From PDM. You can find this whitepaper on the following link. Their PDM is a subset of the overall solution called PLM. The explanations of SolidWorks PDM people are very simple and straightforward. However, they are giving you too much marketing flavor – buy PDM first and later think about your PLM.

A very interesting perspective on PDM vs. PLM topic provided by Mark J. Silvestri, CEO at Lifecycle Solutions in his video. I found it as a pretty balanced view presenting a very practical historical perspective about expansion of product data management into management a diversity set of moving pieces related to information about products.

Arena Solutions put their sponsored link with “PDM vs. PLM” label pointing on their white paper. You to register, so I did and then discover seven pages long white paper about advantages of PLM solution from Arena. There are few more links. However, they are giving you pointers to the websites of multiple PLM solution providers explaining advantages of PLM software.

PLM Confusion
In my view, the most notable confusion around PLM is related to a very different view on this from two opposite sides – vendors and customers. For the last few years, I can hear more and more customers are talking about PLM strategies, concepts and industry adoption. However, in many cases it becomes very controversial when the discussion is moving to the vendor/product side. Most of the vendors pushing “a complete PLM solution” actually missing the point that this solution probably cannot be delivered by a single vendor and customer considering it more as a strategy rather than a product. At the same time, you can see PDM movement into the “commodity space” where PDM is considered as a software to manage CAD data that, in most of the cases, need to be purchased from CAD vendor to prevent version compatibility hassles.

PLM Data Perspective
Here is my short take on the PDM vs. PLM from the data perspective. Both TLAs were born to provide a name to a solution that helps engineering and manufacturing companies to manage product data. In the early beginning, it was mostly about vaulting CAD data. However, within the time, companies in that space understood that broader strategy needs to be developed to compete with ERP behemouths that started to capture market in a very aggressive way by consolidating enterprise application around MRP and finance domains. That was the time the idea of managing broader scope of data was born. Solutions started to expand their offering to manage data about requirements, engineering and manufacturing BOMs, supply chain data. However, to sell pure data management is not an easy job. C-level people are not driven by data. They are driven by processes. So, broader data management solution for engineering and manufacturing came to the idea of “Lifecycle”. Finally, PLM was born. In my view, it stands for a broader data management solution that includes the orientation on processes that influence changes of this data as well decision management in a context of this data.

What is my conclusion? The ugly truth of enterprise software – it is all about data and the control over the data. It appears in every solution. It is all about what data you manage, how do you keep your customers accessing and processing this data?. PLM is the attempt to manage data in the much broader scope than PDM. It creates lots of benefits from the standpoint of data completeness and, at the same time, created many overlaps in data management solutions in enterprise organizations.

Just my thoughts. I’m open and looking forward to having a discussion on this topic.
Best, Oleg


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