PDM - Product Data Management

PDM Definition

PDM is the abbreviation for product data management and refers to the central technical data and process management. Through the use of software, all information within the scope of CAD data, models, part information, requirements, manufacturing instructions and documents are managed centrally. PDM is used in the manufacturing industry (for example, in the automotive - and mechanical engineering) and in discrete manufacturing (for example, in the energy supply and chemical).


The first PDM solutions appeared on the market as early as the mid-1980s. Although product data management emerged from the direction of data management as well as CAD and ERP systems, its direct origin lies in CAD systems. PDM solutions were developed to manage the increasing CAD documents in parallel with the scanned paper documents. Initially, product data management as a term was not yet precisely defined and was not given the abbreviation PDM until the mid-1990s.

PDM system

Product data management systems are a technology that ensures security and order in product development by informing, systematically storing data company-wide and defining processes. A PDM system is part of the company's information and coordination system.

How a PDM system works

A PDM system is responsible for managing the product creation process in the areas of design and construction. It stores and manages specific information such as bills of materials and includes interfaces to other systems. A PDM system manages related data as so-called objects, which enables the standardization and reuse of certain components. Such objects include articles, documents and projects.

  • Article. An article can be a single component, a subassembly or a complete product. It has a designation or number. The master data refers to documents, files and information.
  • Documents. Documents consist of information that is similar in content. They can stand alone or describe other objects.
  • Projects. In project-oriented management, a PDM system combines articles, assemblies and parts as well as documents for a single development project. This has the advantage that all the information in a project is interlinked. Projects enable a holistic view of the data and simplify changes.

PDM system basic terms

In order to fully understand the functionality of a PDM system, it is helpful to deal with the basic terms. These are defined below.


A version includes the internal sequential numbering and creation date of a PDM object.


A revision is a version that has been evaluated and released after an extensive review and approval process.

Parts lists

Parts lists are product data in list form output by the PDM system for further processing, such as production or assembly.


In the PDM, products and their individual parts are systematically classified according to their material characteristics - this speeds up the search for parts and assemblies and saves time and costs by reusing existing designs.

Parts where-used list

The parts where-used list is used to indicate in which products or assemblies specific parts or subassemblies are used.

Collection of legacy data

The task of the PDM includes the transfer of used data from an old system - for example, if a CAD system has been replaced, all relevant data and scanned documents are imported into the PDM system.

User administration

The document management ensures that only authorized persons have access to certain documents and can be defined individually.


As an attribute of a PDM object, it indicates whether that object is currently in progress or has already been released.

Advantages and disadvantages of a PDM system

A PDM system is an effective tool for managing, organizing and disseminating product development data throughout an organization. It ensures that all stakeholders have the same data throughout an entire product lifecycle. Some of the key benefits of using a PDM system include:

  • Efficient collaboration: the features of PDM software allow for quick data releases, version control and revision tracking. In addition, the software prevents files from being overwritten. As a result, teams can collaborate more efficiently and transparently.
  • Faster design workflows: PDM systems enable automated change orders, bills of materials and more.
  • Error reduction: All files containing product data are centrally managed and backed up in the PDM system - reducing the risk of data loss and conflicting or duplicate file versions.
  • Ease of creation: a PDM system is like a knowledge base that can be accessed for future product development.
  • Accelerated processes: All the information needed about a product can be quickly retrieved from the database and used. This has a positive effect on teamwork, as all authorized persons have access to the relevant data.

Disadvantages in the use of a PDM system arise predominantly when the system does not meet the criteria for the respective company. Depending on the company, the focus is particularly on designs and drawings or calculations. If a company decides to use a PDM system, thorough research or consultation is important before the purchase. This is the only way to ensure that the system optimally meets the respective requirements.


Although the terms PDM and PLM are often confused or used synonymously, they are two independent processes. Nevertheless, they are closely interwoven and linked with each other.

Definition of PLM

PLM stands for Product Lifecycle Management and refers to product-related and cross-company information management by planning, controlling and organizing the necessary processes of an entire product lifecycle. Although PLM is often confused with PDM, PLM is a purely strategic approach whose goal is to support the entire cycle of a product from idea to disposal.

Differences and correlations

Product Lifecycle Management builds on product data management. It is a logical extension of PDM. In contrast to IT-heavy product data management, the focus of PLM is on end-to-end support for management processes throughout the product lifecycle. Both are central solutions for product development and the product creation process. PDM is an indispensable part of a PLM strategy.

PDM software

PDM software is an instrument of order and control in product development and the interface between design and further processing of a product. As the central point for product-related communication, it contributes to error prevention and shortens project runtimes. The use of PDM software increases productivity and creativity. Just a few years ago, software was so expensive to purchase that small offices and mid-sized entrepreneurs shied away from it. Today, basic PDM functions are already included in many CAD systems. But even non-implemented systems are now affordable.

Tasks of PDM software

PDM systems are a proven component in the product management of a wide variety of companies - companies of all sizes and in all industries make use of them. By means of product data management, not only production data can be managed, but also the workflow of certain work processes can be recorded and improved. Important decisions concerning the product can be made more easily because all information is available immediately and in concentrated form. The software makes it possible to detect errors in the production development cycle at an early stage, so that both the costs and the effort required for changes are minimized.

Common PDM software

There are many manufacturers that offer PDM systems. Two of the most popular software solutions are SolidWorks PDM from Dassault Systèmes and Simatic from Siemens. Siemens PDM Simatic is a universal and vendor-neutral tool, while SolidWork PDM is an extension of the SolidWorks 3D CAD program.


Product Data Management (PDM) is a technology for managing data and processes. PDM originated in the context of data management as well as CAD and ERP systems and represents a central solution for data management. PDM systems systematically store data throughout the company and define processes. They store and manage information, minimize errors and accelerate design processes. PDM acts as a knowledge database that authorized persons can access at any time. Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is based on product data management and supports all company processes related to a product lifecycle. PDM and PLM systems are used in almost all industries and are sold by various manufacturers such as Siemens or Dassault Systèmes.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ) about product data management

What is PDM?

PDM (product data management) is a software-based technology for managing production data. Product development can be made more efficient with a PDM solution, from design to production.

What is a PDM system?

A PDM system manages all the data generated in the product lifecycle, provides company-wide information about how it was created and defines processes.

What is PLM?

PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is a strategic approach to management that encompasses the holistic administration of all data and information in product development. The goal of PLM is to design and support business processes from the planning to the discontinuation of a product.

What is the difference between PDM and PLM?

PDM systems manage production data and are therefore a central component of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) - it is a prerequisite for comprehensive PLM. Accordingly, PLM builds on product data management systems and is a strategic tool for management.

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