In the field of product engineering, a lack of product data management can cause major issues. When you’re working with a large number of people, pieces of information, moving parts, and revisions, organization is the key to success. Engineers use product data management tools to help them stay organized and to communicate important details about their collaborative projects. Without a product data management tool, it’s possible (and likely) for things to get lost in the mix. In this article, you can learn all about how product data management helps product engineers work quickly, efficiently, and effectively.
What Is Product Data Management?
Product data management is a system that engineers use to organize product and process-related data in a central location. Typically, product data management, or PDM, is done through software that is used as a central hub for storing information, tracking revisions, managing orders, and producing bills of materials. The main purpose of product data management is to aid engineering teams in collaboration to ultimately increase efficiency and avoid errors.
What Does Product Data Management Do?
A good product data management tool functions primarily as an interactive database for product development-related information and processes. Engineers can refer to their team’s PDM tool to find workflows, monitor progress, export documents, fulfill work orders, and other functions related to product creation and maintenance. These are the key functions every product data management tool should do, and explanations of what each one means for engineering teams.
- Revision tracking
- Internal and external communication
- Change order management
- Bill of material (BOM) generation
- Permission management
- CAD file organization
- Software integrations
Revision tracking is one of the most useful functions of a product data management system. Through an automated process, the software keeps track of revisions, so engineers don’t have to do it themselves. It eliminates the possibility for any missing or incorrect documentation due to human error and allows users to look back at work that was previously completed to avoid do-overs. Revision tracking is also crucial for engineers who are introduced to a project mid-way through and need to catch up on the work their colleagues did to better understand their process.
Internal and External Communication
Your product data management tool could function as a hub for internal communications, making it simple for team members to find each other and send messages. Additionally, PDM software can function as an external communication tool for updating clients and external collaborators with important updates and information. All internal and external communications can be logged within the software for easy reference.
Change Order Management
Product data management systems facilitate organized engineering change orders, notices, and requests, so you can streamline the process of sending work orders to your team and notifying them of changes, updates, and new projects. Engineers can complete the change orders more efficiently when they can access all of their orders in one place, with uniform information on what needs to be done.
CAD File Organization
Without a PDM tool, CAD (computer-aided design) file organization is a tedious and oftentimes confusing process. Engineers need to adhere to naming conventions, make sure revisions are properly saved, and know where to store files on your server or in cloud storage. Product data management software allows them to instead organize CAD files and revisions easily without having to worry about saving them in the right place, helping streamline productivity and collaboration.
Bill of Material (BOM) Generation
Along with CAD file organization, Bill of material (BOM) generation is another convenient feature that PDM users can take advantage of. Bills of material list the parts and processes product engineers need to complete a project, based on a CAD file. Because product data management software also houses CAD files and processes, the data can be used to generate accurate BOMs, reducing the change or error or production delay.
Managers with large teams of internal and external collaborators need the ability to control who can see product data. Product data management software enables them to hide certain information from certain users, so they can control who has permission to see confidential data like new projects or conversations between management.
A product data management tool can be used to create workflows and track your team’s progress as they complete tasks. You can even automate notifications to send to team members and managers when action is needed at certain points in a workflow. You create multiple workflows for different types of projects, and even set workflows that are triggered based on conditions you set.
PDM software is a multi-purpose tool that might replace some software you’re already using, however, there’s also an option to integrate other technology with the system. You can integrate your CAD software, material requirements planning (MRP) software, enterprise resource management (ERM) software, and other tools your team uses.
Benefits of Product Data Management
There are plenty of benefits to using product data management software. Before you purchase it and begin to transfer your data into the new system, you probably want to know how its features and functionalities can benefit your team. Take a look at the list below to see just a few of the benefits of product data management.
- Easy access to data
- Increased productivity
- Improved collaboration
- Streamlined processes
- Fewer errors
- Optimized for growth
Easy Access to Data
The number one benefit of product data management is, as you may have already guessed, easy access to data. This means that users can consult their PDM software to find any piece of information or documentation they need, whether it’s data pertaining to current projects or something that was completed years ago.
The ability to create workflows and manage engineering change orders using a PDM system means that you can benefit from streamlined processes. Rather than having to reinvent the wheel every time your team starts a new project, you can use the processes you’ve already put in place, making product design easier to plan and execute.
Cutting out wasted time spent saving CAD files, logging conversations, searching for revisions, and creating new workflows means that product data management users increase productivity among team members. With all the necessary files and processes organized in a central location, your team can quickly find them and can work smarter, not harder, spending more time actually getting the job done.
Product data management helps teams not only collaborate with each other, but with external offices, teams, vendors, contractors that could be located anywhere across the globe. PDM software cuts out the need for back-and-forth communication about where to find data and makes it easy to limit permissions and share information with external collaborators.
In product engineering, any errors can be costly, so fewer errors is a huge benefit of product data management. When your team can find all the information and workflows they need to do their jobs in one place, they will be less likely to make a mistake along the way. Plus, if errors do happen, with revision tracking it’s not hard to retrace your steps and start again right where you left off.
Optimized for growth
If you use product data management, you can optimize your business for growth. The bigger your team and the more projects you take on, the bigger the need for organized data. You can remove barriers to growth when you ensure that everyone has the access they need, no matter how many projects or collaborators are on the table.
PDM vs. PLM
Although they are easy to confuse, PDM software and PLM, or product lifecycle management software, serve different purposes. While product data management is an effective tool for engineering teams, it might not be the best data management software option for your company as a whole. Product lifecycle management has many of the same capabilities as PDM, but with additional functions geared toward the manufacturing and distribution of the product.
If you only need your tool to manage the engineering process, you can get by with just using a PDM tool. It’s the best way to organize CAD files and send orders to product engineers, and allow them to communicate data and follow the workflows necessary to create your product.
If you want to bridge the product development process with the other departments at your company, you should use a PLM tool, either instead of or in addition to your PDM tool, depending on its capabilities. This will allow you to manage the entire lifecycle of a product, from inception and development to manufacturing and release. PLM makes it easier to plan future products and manage changes that need to be made later on in a product’s lifecycle, and helps ensure that all stakeholders are involved and informed each step of the way, not just the engineers developing the product.
PDM vs. PIM
Product data management (PDM) and product information management (PIM) are also relatively similar and can be used in conjunction with each other. While PDM is used primarily by engineering teams, PIM can be used by everyone involved in the process of developing, marketing, and selling the product.
Where PDM is a great tool for keeping track of files and revisions pertaining to a product’s development, PIM acts as a database of information that facilitates communication between teams, not just among engineers. Marketers and salespeople can gain insight into the product development process, and engineers can access information about how the products they worked on are performing on the market. All teams can work more effectively with access to information about all aspects of your products.
6 Best Product Data Management Softwares
You’ve decided that product data management software is right for your business. Now it’s time to find the best fit according to your team’s needs. Most of these tools are categorized as PIM or PLM software, but have PDM functions as well. However, based on their features, they may still suit your PDM needs. Check out the list below to see which one would work best for you.
Pyltix is a PIM software that allows for custom app integrations and unlimited users. You can use it to organize any file type you’d like, manage permissions, and easily export data reports, making Plytix a versatile software that can help you stay informed and organized.
Salsify’s PDM platform allows you to set workflows, receive updates on content readiness, quickly access data, and analyze the product development process. It’s a great platform to help improve your sales and scale your business.
3. inRiver PIM
While it’s not a PDM software, inRiver PIM can help bridge the gap between engineering teams and marketing and sales teams. The software creates a collaborative workspace that allows for access to product data, improving collaboration and product presentation.
4. Sales Layer
Sales Layer is a cloud-based PIM software that can help you monitor your team’s activity, as well as what you can do to improve your products. You can use Sales Layer to set permissions and workflows, and securely backup your product information.
TDSmaker is an accessible software that can help you manage data, permissions, and workflows. It also works for exporting data reports and housing process documents and templates.
If you’re looking for a PIM and PDM solution for an enterprise business, Venzee is a good option. It allows you to view product analytics, access different versions of your product, and stay organized with all of your product information in one place.
When you use product data management software, you can both make your engineering team’s job easier and monitor their progress along the way. From file organization to workflow management, PDM software can go a long way for your business. It might cost you a fee to purchase the PDM of your choice, but chances are it will pay for itself in cross-team communication, streamlined workflows, increased productivity, lack of errors, and an overall more efficient product development process.