What Is a Product Data Management System?
Numerous terms are used to identify PDM systems: Engineering
Data Management, Document Control, Product Information Management
and other descriptors. The definition problem is compounded by the
genealogy of the vendors and their experience; most PDM software
vendors are approaching the marketplace from the direction of
A Product Data Management system is "a
system to organize, access and control all data related to an
enterprise's products and to manage the life cycle of those
The enterprise may include any or all of the
functions of marketing, engineering, manufacturing, quality, and
accounting. The enterprise is linked by a need for common
information about its product over the entire life cycle of the
product—not just during the design phase. Therefore, users
include manufacturing, quality, and cost personnel, as well as
design engineers. The concept of the "enterprise" within
a teaming environment may include geographically dispersed
The CIMdata view of PDM systems falls into two
broad categories: user functions and utility functions. The user
functions are those most directly of interest to an APICS audience
and will be briefly described. Utility functions support and
facilitate the use of the system. A more complete definition of
all functions can be found in the referenced CIMdata publication.
1. Design Release Management (DRM)
This function is concerned with managing
information at all stages of the product life cycle, including all
manufacturing and non-engineering data related to the product. DRM
is the most basic and important function of a PDM system.
DRM must provide a secure data storage
environment and access mechanisms for data storage and retrieval.
The most common term for storage is "vault"—electronic
storage of data, instead of vellum files or paper in a filing
cabinet. The DRM function, therefore, must provide checkin and
checkout of information based on some logic that represents
company policy for processing the information.
The DRM function also needs to provide a
subsystem of access privileges for individual users and
departments. By definition, the DRM function must also:
• Support multiple release levels and a
list of users authorized to release products to different
• Insure that only individuals with
appropriate authorization can access information.
• Accommodate the company's specific
definition of release levels and stages.
• Manage information about the files and
objects that are managed. This capability allows users to
quickly find information based on attributes such as who
released it, what product it relates to, when it was released,
• Be able to link multiple data elements to
a common entity. For example, a single part may have a
specification, drawing, finite element file, and NC program—all
of which need to be related to the same part.
To realize the importance of this basic
function, consider the significance to manufacturing of having the
right documents, at the right release and version level, to match
the right parts at the right time!
2. Product Structure Management (PSM)
Product Structure Management provides the ability to define,
create, maintain, and modify the product
structure. PSM organizes all the information required to build
and assemble the product, including relating other data elements
to the bill of material represented by the product structure file.
PSM must also provide:
• Multiple versions of the product
structure for each discipline requiring them, the most common
being engineering and manufacturing.
• Methods and logic to recognize and
reconcile discrepancies between versions.
• Logic for effectivity, versions, and build options.
• Search methods to access and traverse the
files from any direction to provide retrievals and reports.
Notice the similarity of the PSM functional standard to the
description of the bill of material file in MRP II software
packages. Herein lies one of the major integration and
implementation issues: Which department(s) will create and
maintain the information?
To be Continued
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