Product Data Management (PDM) Basics II

Thanks for reading and commenting on this blog. In this installment, we will explore three important areas of Product Data Management (PDM) – Where Used, Contains and Bill of Materials (BOM).

Where Used?

Whenever a change is being made to a part, it is important to know all the assemblies that currently use this part. A change made to a part may make sense in one assembly, but cause a form, fit or function problem in another assembly. Prior to PDM, the task of finding the relationships between a part and the 1 to 100 assemblies that may rely on this part was difficult and time-consuming. With PDM, this task is reduced to clicking on the Where Used tab for any part and instantly viewing the list of affected assemblies. This can be accomplished by the non-CAD user, as it does not require opening the parts or assemblies in SolidWorks.


Another important task is to get a complete list of parts that are contained in an assembly. This is the reverse of the Where Used in that you find the assembly first and then click on the Contains tab to quickly get a list of all the parts that make up that particular assembly. You can then Browse to any given part in that assembly to see and use the Where Used functionality above to see what other assemblies are using that part.

Bill of Materials

Closely related to the Contains tab, which provides a quick snap shot of the parts in an assembly, is the more complete and flexible Bill of Material or BOM view. In this view you also get a list of the parts in a given assembly, but with more flexibility and control over the information displayed. SolidWorks Enterprise PDM will read in BOM information from SolidWorks (and other supported CAD packages) either based on the file structure of the assembly or by directly reading the customized Drawing or Assembly BOM.

The BOM information can be viewed in different ways by various users and departments. For example, the BOM may be viewed Indented (Nested), Parts Only and Top Level. Users may have different column information displayed from all the information contained in the PDM Vault. Columns may be sorted to re-order the information and two different BOM’s can be compared. This comparison features allows users to understand what has changed between two different versions of an assembly by seeing the additions, deletions and changed quantities in BOM format.

The BOM information can also be edited within PDM and then saved out to an external file such as ASCII text format, Excel or XML, where the BOM can be used by downstream applications including PLM and ERP. This can greatly reduce manual data entry and improve accuracy of As Purchased and As Manufacturing bills of material.

In order to share BOM information throughout the organization, the BOM can be sent through a pre-defined process, called a workflow, which will automatically route the BOM to other users within the company for comments, suggestions and final approval. This can be a great way to communicate Engineering information to the rest of the company including Purchasing, Quality Assurance, Sales, Marketing and Manufacturing.


Understanding and finding the relationships between parts and assemblies can be accomplished very easily, simply by having files in the PDM Vault using the Where Used and Contains tabs. Viewing, editing and sharing detailed Bill of Material information can be accomplished using PDM and does not rely on each user having access to the native CAD package which opens up the information to more people and more departments, improving overall productivity and communication.

Stay tuned for the next issue when we talk about the built-in time machine included with SolidWorks Enterprise PDM!

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