Product Data Management (PDM) Basics

This is my first blog post so bear with me as I adjust to this new communication form. I thought of starting with the basics, so why not Product Data Management (PDM) basics?

Product Data Management (PDM)

Everyone creates and consumes more data today that at any point in our history. We each experience the frustration of not findining that letter, presentation, email or part file we need on a daily basis. The basics of Product Data Management (PDM) provide the tools to help organize your data and find your co-workers data as well.


In order to provide a centralized and secure location for all important data related to your product, PDM provides a Vault, similar to a shared network drive, where all data can be stored and shared. In order to prevent data overwrites, where one person accidentally destroys another persons data, the concept of Check Out and Check In are introduced. You can't edit a file without Checking it Out and this lets others know that this file is out for use. In a way, it is like the library, where only one user can have a particular book at a given time.

Data Cards

Each file in the vault is associated with a data card that contains information about that file. This data can include Custom Properties, which can automatically populate the data cards or can be additional data. In the case of a manufactured part, perhaps you want to associate data such as description, part number, cost, vendor and material. This data can be customized and changed at any time.

Version Control

Each time a user checks a document back into the Vault, it's versioned. This means a new copy is stored and a data field called version is automatically incremented. This provides a new level of safety and backup, in that you can go back in time multiple steps without having to do a Save As and manage multiple file names.


Even a one person CAD department can benefit from the search tools available with a PDM system. Not only can you search on the file name, but any of the data fields that were entered as Custom Properties or additional data fields can be searched on in a variety of ways. The ability to find documents more quickly and easily is one of the compelling advantages of PDM for small and large organizations alike, as studies show that we spend up to 30% of each week, just searching for information!


While PDM systems can solve a variety of communication, collaboration and control challenges for manufacturing organizations today, the basics of PDM can help virtually every CAD user by centralizing, backing up, protecting and finding your valuable data.

Come and learn more about PDM at SolidWorks World in February!

Rich Allen

Rich Allen

Senior Director, Product Management at Dassault Systemes SolidWorks Corp.
Senior Director, Product Portfolio Management that manages the team that focuses on the SolidWorks integrated desktop product portfolio, including SolidWorks CAD, SolidWorks Simulation, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, eDrawings, SolidWorks Electrical, SolidWorks Plastics, SolidWorks Inspection, SolidWorks MBD and SolidWorks Composer. Rich has been with SolidWorks for the past ten (10) years, working in strategic accounts and then leading the data management products for the SolidWorks brand, including SolidWorks Enterprise PDM and ENOVIA Collaborative Design for SolidWorks. Prior to that Rich spent over 25 years in the PLM industry leading teams at United Technologies, IBM, CoCreate and was the founder and owner of several technology companies.
Rich Allen
Rich Allen
  • Hello Richard-

    Welcome to the world of blogging. I look forward to your posts.

    Devon T. Sowell

  • Anthony Boyd

    Wow, at last – some useful information about PDM. I’ve been looking for ages but all the 3D software suppliers gloss over PDM with a “yes, we do that” attitude. I know it can be difficult to cover all the bases but a couple of simple scenarios would be most helpful – e.g. a small business, single server, 3 user setup and a larger business, dedicated server, maybe 10 users, 1 remote user would cover all the main bases for those without a dedicated IT department.
    I look forward to more info.

  • Pete

    We have some problems running our PDM vault on our business servers. Can anyone tell me if they run their Solidworks PDM vault on a dedicated server, provide a suggestion for the requirements of the server, and what the price might be.

    We have five seats at this point and are currently running them off our HP Proliant ML350 servers.

    I am not one of the solidworks users and not an IT person but our IT provider is coming in soon and I wanted a little background information. Anything would be appreciated.


  • Mandar

    Simplicity means clarity. Thanks for the blog.

  • Venki

    Vivid. Rich