Computer Aided Design Pt 3: Product Management Systems

The next section of this CAD series will cover the rise of product management services – specifically Product Data Management (PDM) solutions. CAD has drastically simplified the design phase of a product’s lifecycle. This accompanied with globalization has led to an explosion of CAD users around the world.

Understanding the Difference

First, it is important to note there are many types of product management systems used in industry. Two that are often mistakenly interchanged: Product Data Management and Product Life Cycle Management (PLM).

PDM Solutions

These platforms primarily manage CAD files – both 3D and 2D drawing files. This allows for the designers within an organization to share components throughout multiple projects. Along with this, it enforces product revision control.  Ensuring everyone is on the same page significantly reduces quality issues. PDM systems feed information to the parent PLM system. Common information stored within PDM database:

  • 3D CAD File
  • Product/Assembly Drawing
  • Part Number
  • Vendor

PLM Solutions

Life-cycle management platforms are a cross-department resource tool.  This allows all disciplines (procurement, engineering, manufacturing, quality, marketing, etc.) to approve and review product-related processes for the finalized design. Within the engineering department, the PDM platform will push the required information to the PLM system. Fig. 1 shows the relationship between PLM, PDM, and other integrated systems. Common information stored within PLM database:

  • Bill of Materials (BOM)
  • Engineering Changes (EC)
  • Order History
  • Primary/Substitute Suppliers

PLM

[Fig. 1]

Source: Institute for Information Management in Engineering (IMI)

Benefits of PDM Platforms

The art of manufacturing is a constantly changing field. As we discover solutions for one issue, another may arise. Globalization has been one of the largest factors that push companies toward investing in a PDM platform. The obvious benefit of enhanced collaboration is enticing when considering the location of skilled labor generally does not surround affordable manufacturing sites.

Being able to have designers and engineers develop and critique a product remotely can not only lower overhead but forces the use of a centralized data source. Having a central location for all related components will enforce permissions/revision control. The largest cause of any quality issue can be traced back to human error. Omitting the mundane task of file management & organization will significantly reduce chances of claims on the manufacturing floor.

Likely the most underrated advantage of PDM systems is the increased productivity they bring. One of the least exciting aspects of mechanical design is researching and procuring CAD files for purchased components. Many times this involves browsing several vendors’ sites, downloading, importing, and examining CAD files.

See how MISUMI omits these steps with our SOLIDWORKS add-on – Rapid Design: inCAD Components

A PDM platform will also serve as an internal library of all components used throughout past designs. Allowing designers access to browse and reuse existing components offers a significant timesaving’s compared to designing from scratch.

Moving Forward

As the CAD industry continues to evolve we will undoubtedly notice a shift in CAD requirements. Presently the latest trends in supplemental CAD platforms include cloud technology and the transition to mobile devices. However, before we touch on the future, we will explore the rise and benefits of Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in the next part of the CAD Blog Series.

Cover Photo by Infor

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