PDM System

The product data management (PDM system) stores and manages product-defining, representing and presenting data as a result of product creation and makes it available throughout the entire product life cycle.

The software genre of PDM systems developed out of the inadequacies of pure drawing management with a CAD data management system. The reason: To represent technical systems, it is not enough to present them in the form of technical drawings. All information that accompanies and documents a product throughout its entire development and manufacturing process must be included. The problem with pure CAD model or drawing management was, in particular, the drastic increase in the amount of product data.

The increasing product complexity also led to a higher degree of networking of product data, so that finding new concepts for product data management became urgently necessary.

Product data management (PDM system)

More than just drawing management

Product data management ( PDM system ) represents the second step in the evolution of PLM in companies in the technical environment after pure CAD data management . While the latter is purely about storing and retrieving CAD data, product data management involves drawings, documents and parts lists are connected to each other and coupled with ERP, workflow or a document management system (DMS tec system). Product data management therefore includes all the information needed to describe a product – from CAD, ERP and PLM . Its task is to store, manage and make available results from product development and product management in the form of data and documents throughout the product life cycle. PDM is more than just drawing management.

With PDM software, parts lists are exchanged between the CAD and ERP systems in an automated and transaction-secure manner, instead of being typed and manually entered into the ERP software. Construction and purchasing items are also automatically synced. A flexibly adaptable set of rules determines data synchronization , which can be centrally controlled and monitored via the PDM system . This becomes a bridge between the ERP, CAD and PDM landscape. The company has an integrity product database because all information relating to production is not maintained separately in product creation and project management, maintenance, development and production, but is made available across departments. If necessary, the design department can access supplier and material master data in the ERP system directly from its CAD workstation via the PDM system . The susceptibility to errors decreases significantly and the company avoids expensive and inefficient multiple developments.

ERP systems

View mechanical and electronic components uniformly

Development and design traditionally work in CAD software and store the product data in the CAD data management system (e.g. AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, Creo, Solid Edge or Solidworks). On the other hand, there are work preparation, purchasing, scheduling and production, whose information is maintained in the ERP system. PDM/PLM systems can be used at the interface of both IT systems. As a uniform product data backbone , they integrate ERP and CAD and synchronize the product data between both worlds.

The integration of CAD and PDM (or in a further step also PLM) systems with an ERP system is essentially about the exchange and transfer of article master data, product structures (assemblies), parts lists and mechanical and electrical documents – and electronics development to the ERP system. BOMs from mechanical and electrical engineering flow together in the ERP in a uniform mechatronic BOM. This automatically prevents a drive that can be viewed as both a mechanical and an electrical component from not being ordered by purchasing at all or being ordered twice.

Conversely, the development or design department can view information through the PDM/ PLM system in the ERP system, such as prices or information about the stock availability of purchased items. This is important if, for example, purchasing has negotiated special conditions with a supplier. The designers need to know about this. Thanks to CAD, ERP and PLM integration, such information is immediately available for everyone involved to see. Through the CAD-PDM/PLM-ERP integration, the purchasing department ensures that the preferred parts that the company has agreed with certain suppliers are actually used in the design.

Data Sovereignty – Which is the leading system?

If all product-related information is shared with each other, the question of data sovereignty arises. Who assigns the article numbers or material master numbers? In which system is the article and part master data located? Where are parts lists maintained? In the CAD and PDM system in which the components are developed, or in the ERP solution in which all production or purchasing-relevant data is stored and costs and work plans come together?

Practice shows: In most companies, development/design and work preparation share responsibility. Material numbers can therefore be freely selected. The systems simply synchronize the specified numbers. This is also logical because it is about the optimal design of processes.

The process determines where and when which data is needed. Where these are ultimately stored is secondary. The specialist departments provide the data material, IT supports the merging and synchronization. Through faster and safer processes and the avoidance of duplicates, users can save large amounts of money.

Data synchronization

Product data should not be a one-way street, but should be exchanged bidirectionally

Separate product data storage and the manual transfer of information between different IT systems often lead to errors, rework and unnecessary costs in companies. These typical consequences can be avoided through consistent data and automated comparison between IT systems. For technical companies, the big challenge lies precisely in this synchronization of article master data, parts lists and project data between design and production. To do this, it must first be clarified which data should be exchanged between the CAD software, the ERP system and an intermediate PDM/PLM solution and how the interfaces must be designed.

Where there is not proper synchronization, work processes in the manufacturing industry come to a standstill. Classic causes: parts lists are incorrect, drawings are out of date, required purchased parts are reported to purchasing too late. If incorrect or incomplete information is received in the scheduling, errors arise. Rework in production will be necessary and, if necessary, new production will have to be carried out – typical problems in the collaboration between design and production and the reason for tensions between the specialist departments.

The core element of data synchronization is the transfer of article master data, product structures (assemblies), parts lists and documents from mechanical, electrical and electronic development to the ERP system. Here the parts lists from mechanical and electrical engineering flow together into a common mechatronic parts list. This prevents purchasing from not ordering a drive motor at all or ordering it twice, which can be viewed as both a mechanical and electrical component.

Bidirectional data transmission

Outdated drawings and production documents are a typical stumbling block on the way to error-free production. They can be avoided by always having only one drawing, which is available for direct access to all departments as a neutral PDF, PDF/A or TIF document. The PLM solution makes this possible. It ensures that drawings and other documents from construction are available in the ERP system.

The opposite approach must also work: development employees have access to information in the ERP, such as prices or the stock availability of purchased items. If the technical purchasing department has agreed on certain conditions for engines with its supplier, this usage specification must be communicated to the design department via the CAD-ERP integration. This can be implemented – as with the PDM/ PLM system PRO.FILE – using a traffic light system for purchased parts: yellow if they are recommended, green if they are permitted and red if they are not allowed to be used.

Parts lists

Consistent parts lists – automatic comparison – error-free production

A parts list is a structured arrangement of objects (e.g. components) of a more comprehensive object, in particular of products (products) or assemblies or an assembly, whereby a continuous list represents the simplest form of arrangement.

Consistent parts lists are the prerequisite for error-free production. BOMs in the ERP system as well as in the CAD/PDM/PLM environment should therefore have the same structure. This means that duplicates cannot arise in the first place. This is ensured by automated synchronization of item master data, parts lists and project data between design, production and the commercial area. With consistent shared documents and automated comparison between the various IT systems, companies can avoid errors and rework and thereby avoid unnecessary costs.

PDM/PLM software like PRO.FILE, used at the interface between both IT systems, automatically transfers the parts lists from CAD and PDM to the ERP. They are automatically compared – analogous to the item master data – if they are available in different forms, as construction, modular and quantity parts lists. The PDM/PLM software thus becomes a data hub in master data management between development, procurement, manufacturing, sales and service.

Parts management

Automatic synchronization of article master data without programming

The synchronization of article master data is an essential feature in the ERP integration of product data management (PDM/PLM). Consistent article master data is essential for consistent, error-free workflows in the company and is a significant cost reducer. The PDM/ PLM system automatically transfers article master data from development to work preparation, production and purchasing. In return, these development departments provide preferred standard and purchased parts. The PDM/PLM software ensures an automatic comparison of names and characteristics in master data management. This prevents certain parts and assemblies from being named differently in production than in work preparation. The result is clean and consistent parts management.

Various studies in recent years have come to the conclusion that the automatic transfer of item master data from CAD to PDM/PLM and ERP and the reduction of duplicates in purchased parts can save around 10 percent of new parts per year. If you multiply this by the average costs for maintaining a data record in the ERP system (creating suppliers, assigning item numbers and identifiers, coordination processes) and adding the costs for purchasing, incoming goods inspection and invoicing, an average-sized company can Save significant costs annually in the manufacturing industry by synchronizing your item master data.

In order to standardize article master data, it is not enough to exchange data uncontrollably via Excel tables or ASCII files. For proper synchronization, transparent process control and documentation of the exchange process (monitoring) are required.

The PDM/ PLM system PRO.FILE, for example, relies on standards and uses the PRO.FILE ERP server to synchronize the article master data. The data from the CAD context is delivered via an adapter and transferred to the ERP via the Microsoft BizTalk adapter and vice versa.

Can be used in the PDM/ PLM system without programming


Company-wide product data management accelerates development to market readiness

CAD data management initially meant storing and retrieving CAD data – one of a company’s most critical assets. In addition to CAD models, drawings and parts lists , this includes all CAD-related information such as specifications, calculations, production notes (NC programs), work plans, assembly information, etc.

It’s about not just storing them in the file system, but rather organized and in a structured form. There is no other way to handle technically sophisticated products efficiently and bring them to market in a timely manner. CAD models and the associated data and documents contain all of a company’s product knowledge, design and engineering know-how. This must be made available company-wide.

The basic element of professional product data management in production is the parallel integration of CAD systems (such as AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, Creo, Solid Edge or Solidworks) and PDM. Without CAD integration into the PDM/ PLM system , technically sophisticated products in particular cannot be developed efficiently and brought to market at the required speed.

The know-how about a product is essentially contained in the CAD models and the data and documents closely associated with them. This knowledge from development and construction is also needed in other areas of the company. The integration of CAD, ERP and PLM makes this information accessible to all authorized employees. Regardless of the CAD and ERP system type, all data (CAD models, manufacturing and assembly drawings, NC programs, article master data, parts lists and documents with graphics, text or calculation tables) are stored securely in the PDM data vault. system saved. This enables product data to be up-to-date and consistent within and between departments.

Using PDM in CAD data management (e.g. AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, Creo, Solid Edge or Solidworks):


Common database for interdisciplinary work

Today there is hardly a mechanical component that does not require electronic/electrical technology components and does not receive electronic control commands. Mechatronic products such as the control panel of a robot arm contain mechanical assemblies, electrical components and often also electronic components with software. Hydraulic and pneumatic components are often added. The mechatronic systems are therefore complex and only function correctly if all individual aspects are precisely coordinated with one another. Technical companies therefore have to deal with mechatronics today. For the PDM/ PLM system, this means that in addition to the mechanical parts, it also has to manage those from the electrical engineering/electronics area in a common CAD data base ( Multi-CAD ).

Overcome deep divides

The gaps between mechanics and electronics are traditionally deep: both areas pursue different thought patterns and solution methods. There are different data and product structures as well as separate authoring systems and data storage tools. Because mechanics and electronics work at different times, coordination is not always easy. That’s why many processes at the interface between M-CAD and E-CAD still run by hand. Development engineers exchange installation data, cable lengths or connector assignments using Excel tables or by email.

A PDM/ PLM system builds a bridge here by controlling product data and information flows across department boundaries. As a product data backbone, it contains all elements of a product from mechanics, electrical engineering, electronics, hydraulics, pneumatics and software in a common parts list. It saves the documents together in the database and makes them available via a user interface. These systems therefore guarantee clean continuity from development through administrative processes to the handover from the PDM/ PLM system to the ERP system.

This allows mechanical designers to view the layout plans from electronics development when designing the housing. Electronics engineers know the dimensions and drilling locations of the housing into which a circuit board must be installed. This is particularly important when work groups work at a distance from one another. PDM/PLM software like PRO.FILE provides the necessary common database for interdisciplinary work in mechatronics!