Product Data Management

What is a PDM – Product Data Management and why does your business need one?

Developing and designing a new product involves a wide array of roles and hands in your business. Each element of input from every stakeholder translates to a piece of data. Keeping that data accessible and current is a necessity in the development process and requires its own tools.

Product data management, or PDM, refers to the storage, organization, and access of product data as it moves throughout the product lifecycle. PDM can also refer to the system itself, which is a Product Data Manager. PDM systems work directly with the CAD files used in product development and design processes to organize and secure product data, leading to streamlined workflows.

What is the role of a PDM system?

The primary role of a PDM system is serving as a centralized location of design and engineering data by directly accessing CAD data. This data encompasses everything from designs in CAD files to manufacturing instruction, supply chain and procurement information, bills of materials, part numbers, models, and other documents. PDM systems utilize CAD tools and files to manage the data contained in the documents.

With a PDM, design data is kept consistent and up-to-date because it serves as a single source for that data, regardless of how many other applications are used in parallel processes. Administrators of the PDM keep data secure by controlling which stakeholders have access to which data. Additionally, PDM tools include check-in and check-out functionality for files so designers and engineers can be certain that they are working on the latest version of the product.

4 Reasons You Need a PDM

Error Reduction

PDMs help reduces errors in processes because of functionalities that keep different versions of products clearly labeled and accessible. With reduced errors, product development, design and engineering teams will work more efficiently and save the costs that errors usually incur.

Version Control

Because of the check-in and check-out requirements for most PDM software, only a controlled number of users can access a file, be it a design or model, at any given time. This makes it easier to know which versions are most recent and are ready to be worked on.


PDMs allow for easy and effective collaboration. The last reason mentioned, version control, lends itself to designers and developers being able to work together closely on as many projects as necessary without overlap or confusion.

Transparency and Security

PDM enables careful control of who can view which data. Stakeholders with different permissions can access and edit data accordingly. Accessibility options protect intellectual property (IP) like products in the early stages of product development. Additionally, transparency, which builds trust among stakeholders, is established as users are able to view and understand design and engineering data they may not be working on themselves and would be restricted from without a PDM system.


PDM may be confused with PIM, or product information management. PDM and PIM are complementary but serve different roles. Whereas PDM is used for product development and design functions, PIM is used for sales and marketing.

PIM, or Commercialization, uses up-to-date technical data that can be integrated with PDM. Marketers and sales teams then use that information for product descriptions, press releases or copy for advertisements. PIM keeps product information consistent for all marketing and distribution channels.

Ideally, for larger-scale operations, PDM is used to automate the transfer of necessary product design data between the PDM and PIM systems, further ensuring consistency and recency.


PDM and product lifecycle management, or PLM, are also easily conflated but serve different roles in achieving business goals. Simply put, PDM tracks what changes during the development process while PLM uses that information to communicate how and why the changes were made.

In a more technical sense, PDM manages product design data and files as they move through the PLM process, otherwise known as the product lifecycle. PDM and PLM work together to streamline the day-to-day flow of the product lifecycle.

Why You Need Both a PDM and PLM

PDM and PLM are two sides of the same coin: they are functionally separate systems that are complementary and work best when one is integrated with the other. Making and tracking changes in product designs is just as important as understanding how and why those changes were made.

This cycle, created by implementing an effective PDM solution like those offered by Siemens, allows for consistency and continuous improvement in business process and day-to-day workflows.


Disclaimer: I am the author at PLM ECOSYSTEM, focusing on developing digital-thread platforms with capabilities across CAD, CAM, CAE, PLM, ERP, and IT systems to manage the product data lifecycle and connect various industry networks. My opinions may be biased. Articles and thoughts on PLMES represent solely the author's views and not necessarily those of the company. Reviews and mentions do not imply endorsement or recommendations for purchase.

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