Newsflash. You've read it in your favorite blog, heard it from a trusted colleague or consultant, and before too long such advice might very well be floating in the sky or laser etched on the moon. When it comes down to improving engineering efficiency and quality in today's increasingly competitive market, the message is clear: You need Product Data Management (PDM).
Managing all your CAD data automatically avoids costly mistakes, unintentional overwrites, and allows everyone to stay up-to-date on complex and ever changing engineering data.
OK, you get it. But isn't PDM complex, intended for large conglomerates with both the manpower and the cash reserves? Historically yes, but times are quickly changing as technologies like cloud fundamentally transform software delivery. Before you pull the trigger on the first PDM that you trip over, there's an additional point to consider: You don't just need any PDM. You need PDM for the rest for us.
But what constitutes PDM for the rest of us? It's all about providing accessibility to companies (or even individuals) with limited resources and tearing down barriers of entry. Namely:
- Eliminating adoption barriers.
- Providing low friction solutions.
- Offering usability not just for engineers, but everyone.
Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down That Adoption Barrier.
Historically, PDM systems have been complicated and highly dependent on a variety of IT infrastructure, and the expertise needed to maintain that infrastructure. Many continue to be. There's a bit of a bad word in PDM/PLM circles, it's the fourteen letter i-word: implementation. Implementation involves all the planning, time, money, and aggravation poured into PDM before you can even get started, or derive benefit. Especially for smaller companies with extremely limited resources, this has never particularly viable. That's where newer cloud PDM solutions show distinct advantage, by abstracting infrastructure and turning implementation into a signup, a download, and some light configuration. PDM solutions with no adoption barrier also permit evaluation with real users and minimum effort. Literally try before you buy. Certainly that's a good thing.
Ever wonder why some companies still struggle through a hopeless labyrinth of file folders and cloud shares? Piling up folders or dumping files in an ad-hoc file share is popular not because it’s better, but because it’s easy. The natural human reaction is to take the path of least resistance (which, incidentally, is also true for electricity and penguins). Engineers are a resourceful lot, but they don't like being hassled unnecessarily, and there's a tendency to throw downstream data "over the fence." Legacy PDM systems (read: old) created too much friction, burdening users and aggressively limiting their interaction.
That made it pretty difficult to compete with the cheap, easy, and frictionless path. Again, with the advent of cloud, PDM solutions can now be more portable and transparent, operating dutifully in the background as you work and intervening only when absolutely necessary. The end result: file folders and dumb shares finally can be displaced.
Usability for Everyone
But wait, shouldn't universal PDM usability be a given? Not quite. PDM as a technology is rooted from engineering CAD, and as a result has always been rather engineering centric when it comes to usability. But the true value in PDM is allowing everyone to interact with CAD data, not just the authoring engineers. If interacting with CAD data sounds too much like bouncing a graviton particle beam off the main deflector dish, that's a problem from downstream non-engineering users of that data. Once again PDM cloud solutions are leading the way by providing simple interactive interfaces free of the CAD software dependencies needed in the past.
PDM for the rest of us stands to make PDM truly egalitarian. If you're not using PDM yet, you're just about out of excuses. Thanks to the cloud, companies large and small, their partners, and even freelancers can now benefit greatly from technology previously viable for only the most technical (and expensive!) endeavors. That's what I like to call progress.
Every class of technology undergoes an era of innovation and disruption. For PDM systems, we’re in such an era today. Lifecycle Insights' Principal Analyst Chad Jackson put together the perfect buyer's guide to help you weigh your options.