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Where Is PDM Used in Engineering?

Key Takeaways

  • What a PDM system can do for your engineering team.

  • The four levels of PDM in engineering. 

  • The difference between PDM and PLM systems. 

PDM engineering

Engineers in any industry are data creation machines. The difference between today and the past is the amount of data and where it is stored; today’s design data is stored digitally on-premises and in the cloud using enterprise-level data management applications. Because data is no longer being stored in file cabinets on sheets of paper, engineering teams need to implement simplified organization schemes, naming schemes, part numbering systems, and much more to keep teams productive and on schedule. Engineers shouldn’t have to spend time cataloging product data, they should spend their time building new products and solving practical problems.

Engineering and design data for new products comes in various file types, forms, and complexity levels. All of it needs to be tracked with a product data management (PDM) system so that teams can stay organized and companies can implement a product lifecycle management (PLM) strategy. To see where PDM is used in engineering, we will discuss the different levels of PDM in engineering tasks and how companies eventually grow to the point where PDM becomes an important part of PLM.

The Four Levels of PDM in Engineering

Data management systems are important for keeping track of the product data created during product development as well as afterward as a product is guided through its lifecycle. Electronics teams, software engineering teams, and multi-functional engineering teams will generally implement four possible levels of data management complexity in their product development projects.

Level 1: Keeping track of files - Data is stored in one place with an ad hoc file structure, naming structure, or part number, if implemented at all. Files are normally organized by project, as this will be required in engineering design software.

Level 2: Organizational structure - Files are more clearly organized, typically being done by some kind of naming or part numbering scheme. Contract design firms might also organize by client project to keep track of large data batches.

Level 3: Data on the cloud - As an organization grows, it may start to depend on cloud resources to store and share data while still working within the Level 2 organizational structure. This is where design teams start to become multifunctional and begin tracking data over time to prevent obsolescence.

Level 4: Fully integrated - Design teams are no longer just groups of engineers; they involve manufacturers, external stakeholders, and other business units in their data management processes as they begin to implement a PLM strategy. Data types being tracked and stored are more diversified to accommodate different stakeholders.

Engineering teams can move through each of these levels as companies grow, client projects get more complex, or as new functional requirements arise for a product. PDM needs to do more than just track files, it should help teams implement a scalable data management and tracking system as they work towards full PLM implementation. PDM and PLM go together in larger organizations, as both sets of systems and processes help teams stay productive as they manage a product’s role in the marketplace.

PLM and PDM Together in Engineering

Engineering PDM systems are used for more than tracking data, they are an important part of the PLM process for advanced products. To help teams stay competitive and execute a go-to-market strategy, PDM systems must include certain features that enable critical task groups within an engineering team structure and PLM strategy.

Stay organized

A system for PDM in engineering acts as a customizable file storage system. Users can implement organization by file type, user, date, product or project, and lifecycle status. PDM systems for engineering teams need several features:

  • A file and folder system for organizing and finding data
  • Tracking file revision histories by date, user, or other criteria
  • Ability to implement a backup storage server
  • Accessibility from inside ECAD/MCAD software or in other design tools

Regulate access

Different users in an engineering team need access to different files and should have different permissions. The best cloud-based PDM systems for engineering teams make this process simple and give full control over data access within a team. Access can be granted to other business units, manufacturers, or customers as part of a full PLM strategy.

Track revisions and lifecycle

As product data is modified and committed to version control, changes should be tracked by date, user, and down to the individual file level. The best PDM systems will include or store data in a version control system that allows changes to be tracked over time so that older versions of product data can be accessed as needed. Lifecycle and obsolescence status also needs to be tracked at each revision as well.

Collaborate with team members

Engineering teams need to collaborate across functional domains, with each team member often needing access to another team member’s data for verification. Product data could originate in ECAD software, MCAD software, drafting applications, and many other types of software. Collaboration features in PDM software let team members access each other's data for review and collaborative design tasks.

Integrate with other platforms

PDM systems are great for tracking and organizing data, but they don’t provide every feature needed for engineering teams and product management. Other platforms like databases, web applications, 3rd party services, and much more might need to integrate with a PDM system or a company’s PLM system.

Engineers that design advanced electronics work on multi-functional, multi-disciplinary teams, and teams will need to work with a broad range of data as part of their day-to-day engineering tasks. The right PDM system can help teams stay productive and will help companies implement a comprehensive PLM system that unifies resources across an enterprise.

If your company needs a system for PDM in engineering projects, consider deploying Allegro Pulse for your electronics engineering and development team. Pulse features include a workflow engine, data management, security protocols, and search capabilities that fit within an enterprise PLM strategy. And, Pulse integrates seamlessly into many design tools, allowing it to manage the design data behind the scenes, freeing up engineers to focus on their work instead of juggling design files.

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