PDM or PLM ? What does Your Company Need?

This presentation from EGS India is about PDM or PLM. What does a company need?.

Learning from the Past

Companies looking at ways and means of improving their operational efficiency have been confronted with the dilemma of choosing between Product Lifecycle Management systems or PLM as they are popularly called, and Product Data Management Systems or PDM. Management teams also are of the opinion that by implementing  a PLM or PDM their problems and issues relating to their products, customers, and development time would be answered and. There have been numerous situations wherein companies that have invested in these systems took many months- sometimes years- to reach a level of usability. Also there have been instances of companies that invested in a PLM but were using it only as a PDM on account of its complexity, higher mounting costs, and integration issues with other systems already being used.

Priorities & Requirements

The Top Three Priorities for any Organization are Quality, Cost, and Time. While the order of priorities may change dynamically, they are essentially used in metrics to measure profitability and market share. Quality of a product and or a process, achieved reliably and consistently helps save on time and money. Cost associated with products and processes are the foundations of profitability. Time, with emphasis on First Time Right, helps in market share improvement, reduce costs, and eliminate inefficiencies in processes. Quality, Cost and Time form the bedrock on which the future of a company is built. Organization that have adopted the three-pronged approach have seen success consistently over a period of time, as can be seen from recent history. Lack of emphasis on these have depleted companies of valuable wealth. Management Teams in companies should have a mechanism or framework for defining, measuring, analysing, constantly improving, and controlling processes. This is due to the fact that information driven decision making is key to growth and profitability. PLM or PDM are intended to help achieve that.


Historically, Manufacturing Industries have invested in an Enterprise Resource Planning Systems to achieve Operational efficiency and Statistical Process Control for achieving Manufacturing excellence. ERP is a Transactional system with an operational efficiency of at least 3 Sigma. Typically Human Resources, Logistics, and Inventory among others are managed using ERP. Similarly Manufacturing excellence is driven by SPC, Process Capability, and documented processes that monitor and correct deviations. Only Engineering functions lack visibility, and are reactive to situations and can process & compliance difficult to monitor. While bi-directional interactions between Operations and Manufacturing are streamlined and well behaved, Engineering interactions with Manufacturing and Operations is weak and reactive. An example would be Process Capability: it is rarely reflected in tolerances incorporated on drawings released by Engineering. This compels Engineers to look at ways and means of adopting a process-centric approach.

Myths & Reality Check

Common myths about PLM PDM are clarified keeping in mind that assumptions are more fatal than execution. Let us look at some of the Myths to help set the expectations right.

PDM is only for the Design Department. PLM is for the entire Company

PDM historically started as a Design Document Management System. Over the last decade and a half, PDM has evolved into a cross-functional, multi-department truly collaborative framework. PLM was the exclusive domain for Workflow, Notification, Life Cycle Management. Not any more. PDM has evolved rapidly and seen active deployment since, its genesis has been the Engineering Department, in contrast to PLM that evolved from ERP experience. PDM or PLM, it all depends on priorities and pain points that Management wants to address. Today, PDM is used to meet the requirements of APQP, TS 16949, 21CFR Part 11, ISO 9000 among others. These Standards are not isolated to Design Department, but encompass the entire Organization. Be it Quality, Manufacturing, Engineering or any other department, the teams deal with Documents that have versions, revisions, life-cycle states, deliverables in a workflow among others.  If the PDM can address these, then it is able to address the Organizational requirements.

P?M will solve our issues and make it Profitable

This is a dangerous premise that needs to be avoided. PLM or PDM is a technology enabler. They are not a problem resolution or issue management tool. Profitability or product success depends on many factors. PLM or PDM establishes a defined process (of course this depends on how well we define the process during implementation), actively monitors compliance, provides a mirror on our face in terms of where the current processes lie and where improvements are required. It is a mistaken notion that PLM is a panacea for all ills plaguing a Company. PLM or PDM enables an organization to streamline its processes, establish accountability, ensure transparency and analyse a treasure trove of information the help achieve continuous process improvement. Knowledge Re-use helps avoid recreating data and empowers team to obtain information on a need-to-know basis.

This presentation explores the options available so that Management teams can make an informed decision that would save their companies in time, cost and resources.

Natarajan Ramamoorthy
Design Professional with almost 3 decades of experience working with numerous companies, providing designs for new products, VAVE on existing products, conducting Design Audits and Dimensional Management programs. Teaching Finite Element Analysis, Geometric Dimensioning & Tolerancing (GD&T), Tolerance Stack Up Analysis for well over 2 decades. Certified ASME GDTP Technologist. Education: MSME from The University of Toledo, Toledo, OH, USA Past: Consultant, Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, MI, USA
Natarajan Ramamoorthy
Natarajan Ramamoorthy
Natarajan Ramamoorthy