When designing new products, organizations need a way to organize all of the related data. From design sketches, ideas, and notes to detailed instructions for manufacturers, organizations need a central repository for this crucial information. They need either a PLM or PDM solution.

Many people think PLM and PDM solutions are the same thing, but that is not the case. Although they are very similar, there are some key differentiators that you should consider when deciding which solution is best for your organization.

PLM and PDM Definitions

PLM | Product Lifecycle Management

Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM, helps manage every aspect of a product’s entire lifecycle. Although most organizations focus on the design, manufacturing, and sales processes, many organizations are required to have plans for how to dispose of or recycle products once they are no longer in use. PLM provides an easy way for organizations to maintain and organize all of this information in a central location. It unites internal and external teams with a backbone of information that can be used to make critical decisions.

PLM centralizes all product information from initial design through disposal.

PDM | Product Data Management

In contrast, Product Data Management, or PDM, is a central repository exclusively for managing product data. It is typically used to help teams manage various product versions and centralize technical specifications for engineers, manufactures, and other stakeholders.

PDM centralizes product data and technical specifications.

What are these solutions used for?

PLM is considered an enterprise-wide solution for managing product information, similar to an ERP, CRM, or MES, while PDM is better for managing exclusively engineering data.

PLM: Integrated Enterprise Solution

A PLM solution helps manage data across other enterprise solutions. It works best when it is utilized as the master data source for shared documentation. It can help organizations create a strategic business approach that maximizes profitability by preemptively planning out all aspects of the product lifecycle.

PDM: Manage Engineering Data

PDM is primarily used for managing engineering data, especially revisions and changes to CAD data and files. Although PDM can be used to manage the entire design process, there are so many other tools and solutions involved that it is usually utilized as part of a larger comprehensive web of solutions.

PLM is an enterprise-wide management solution, while PDM is used as one part of a larger web of solutions.

Using PLM and PDM in Product Development

As mentioned, PLM is for all aspects of the product lifecycle, while PDM is mainly used for engineering aspects of product design. A deeper look into the entire design process related to these solutions makes it is easier to discern which solution might work best for your organization’s needs.

PLM Process

  1. Initial Design: When using a PLM solution, designers and engineers create and manage the product in the PLM package. A PLM solution includes all aspects of the design process, from sketches, to notes, to specific directions and measurements.
  2. Prototyping: The product then moves into the prototyping phase where initial builds of the product begin. During this time, the centralized instructions are utilized by the testing lab, which has clear visibility into the design and all of its specifications using the same PLM platform.
  3. Manufacturing: Once prototyping is complete and a final design is determined, the product goes to manufacturing. The manufacturer typically has direct access to the 2D or 3D product structure. If the PLM and other manufacturing systems are integrated, then the items and bill of materials (BOMs) are created automatically.
  4. ECN Process: The Engineering Change Notice (ECN) process occurs throughout the entire design, manufacturing, and disposal stages. Anyone who sees a problem with the product can create a report. In a PLM solution, all of these reports are integrated to create an ECN request with assigned tasks for everything that needs to be changed. This can include part information, CAD designs and documentation, user manuals, sales brochures, etc.

PDM Process

  1. Initial Design: A PDM solution for design is exclusively used by and accessible to the engineering department. No other departments have access to the information or specifications to make other important decisions. In many cases, the design review process and approvals are completed outside the PDM solution.
  2. Prototyping: When using PDM, the prototyping process is completed outside the solution using unformalized processes, either offline or on an ad hoc basis.
  3. Manufacturing: Eventually the designs are released for the manufacturing process by sharing the CAD files directly with the manufacturer. Once shared, manufacturers must manually enter items and BOM information into their ERP or another enterprise platform.
  4. ECN Process: Unlike the integrated process with PLM, the ECN process is more manual when using a PDM solution. It involves paper documentation with multiple departments providing signature approvals. Once the final design is approved, engineering changes the drawings as needed within the PDM and releases them to manufacturing. It is only after these final approvals that manufacturing can start applying changes.

Software Benefits

PLM Advantages

PLM is a more comprehensive solution that can assist teams throughout the design, prototyping, manufacturing, and ECN processes. It provides one centralized version of the truth and benefits organizations by:

  • Preventing costly manufacturing mistakes caused by inaccurate or out-of-date documentation
  • Increasing efficiency within your organization by supporting the reuse of designs and in turn reducing the required inventory investment
  • Providing access to designs for everyone within the organization for critical decision-making and a higher likelihood of parts being reused
  • Supporting and streamlining the entire product development process and reducing time to market

PLM is a comprehensive product development management solution.

PDM Advantages

Even though PDM is not an all-encompassing solution in the same way as PLM, its simplicity provides some different benefits. PDM solutions:

  • Require little to no training to begin using them
  • Are easy to maintain
  • Tend to be cheaper and faster to deploy since they don’t need to integrate into as many other solutions

PDM is an easy to use CAD data management tool.

So, which is better? PLM or PDM?

The answer is that it really just depends on what you want the solution to be able to do within your organization. If you are looking for an all-encompassing product development management tool, then a PLM is probably the way to go. However, if you are looking for something to simply help your engineering team manage their notes and designs, then a PDM solution will work better.

If you are having trouble deciding, we recommend talking to an expert about the advantages and disadvantages of each solution in conjunction with your organization’s specific needs. NxRev has a team of experts on staff who can answer any of your questions about PLM, PDM, as well as other CAD solutions. Contact us today for personalized assistance!

If you have determined you need a PLM solution, check out some of our PLM software comparisons to help you figure out which solution is right for you: