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What Is PDM?

Key Takeaways

  • Product data management (PDM) refers to both an engineering process and a type of software.

  • Many ECAD applications include some tools to help with PDM tasks.

  • PDM is a part of product lifecycle management (PLM), and PLM software will help users perform PDM functions.

 PDM software

So, what is PDM, really? The term “product data management” (PDM) normally refers to a business process, particularly for manufactured products, software, or anything else where there is significant product documentation and design data. There are also software packages that help users perform PDM functions, sometimes billed as PDM software. These software features and business tasks are part of the broader set of tasks involved in product lifecycle management (PLM), where a product’s design, production, distribution, and eventual retirement are tracked and managed in their entirety.

When do enterprises need to use PDM software or implement a PDM process for their products and what is the best software to use for PDM tasks? As an organization grows in size and number of products, its data management needs to also scale in size and complexity. If you are part of a growing company and you are wondering what PDM is within industries like electronics and hardware, we have outlined what you need to know and how PDM processes are built into PLM software.

What Is PDM and How Does it Work?

Every physical product has data associated with it, ranging from front-end engineering documentation to volume production data. PDM focuses on multiple tasks intended to ensure the accessibility and integrity of product data. Different industries have different processes and requirements, but the end goals are generally the same. Some of the tasks involved in PDM include:


Store and catalog project files in a consistent, templatized manner.


Enforce a part, assembly, document, and revision numbering system.


Implement a version control system that tracks revisions to files.


Share data as requested by internal and external stakeholders.


Ensure data remains secure and protected against unauthorized access or losses.

Whether a company is a contract manufacturer, OEM, or design firm, companies will execute these tasks within a PDM software platform. We usually talk about all of this in terms of PDM processes implemented by OEMs. However, contract manufacturers or EMS companies that have large numbers of customers will have their own PDM processes. They will implement a software platform to store customer files in a centralized location and implement all the important functions of a PDM process.

When PDM Gets More Complex

More complex products require a more complex PDM process, and eventually a single PDM system is needed to manage all product data. These systems track data across multiple teams, multiple design programs, and much more.

Electronics engineers and OEMs have some PDM systems built into their design and development software that will help with data creation and tracking, but these features tend to be confined to specific domains. When companies build more complex products or when teams start to become multifunctional, PDM systems that are agnostic to file types and formats are implemented to aid data tracking for all parts of an electronic assembly. This allows diverse data from different design domains (ECAD, MCAD, etc.) to be stored and tracked in tandem within a PDM process.

Graduate to a PLM System

The next level of PDM involves more than simply cataloging data, it’s about tracking information for all components in a design throughout a product’s lifecycle. The term “all components” doesn’t just mean physical components, it can refer to any of the design data and documentation that is associated with a product. Each piece of information associated with a product or project has a lifecycle status associated with it, and various tasks need to be performed to help guide a product through each of its lifecycle phases and eventually into retirement.

As an organization grows and it starts managing products throughout their respective life cycles, a PLM system is used to track and update product data. PLM software helps companies implement a PDM process while also enabling product management tasks needed to take a product to market. The data organization and tracking features in PDM software give everyone on a product management team the ability to see the important data they need as part of a comprehensive PLM process.

Electronic products are unique in that they consist of a hardware component, application or software component, and plenty of documentation to support both. Then there are aspects like manufacturing data, evaluation and testing results, quality control data, and much more to be tracked for electronic products. All these types of product data can be tracked in a PLM system as part of a PDM process. Some of the functions involved in a PDM process within a PLM system include:

  • Tracking data on all parts of an assembly, ranging from an entire assembly to individual components.
  • Linking component data to enterprise resource planning systems, inventory management systems, or other management systems.
  • Storing physical product data, application data, documentation, manufacturing data, and any other documents related to a product in a common location.
  • Enforcing a consistent file system for product data and documentation.
  • Assigning tasks and tracking change orders, starting from an initial design to prototyping and volume production.
  • Assigning obsolescence status to each piece of data.

Once you’ve learned what PDM is and you’ve determined your PDM needs, you can use the complete set of PLM features for electronics in Allegro Pulse, the industry’s most comprehensive PLM platform from Cadence. The PLM features in this platform help teams move through the entire development process, push products to production, and access the data needed to distribute and maintain products while monitoring obsolescence and the supply chain. 

If you’re looking to learn more about how Cadence has the solution for you, talk to our team of experts or subscribe to our YouTube channel.