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How PDM systems can manage specific CAD design data

As most design engineers know, the data that makes up a CAD file can be very complex and contain a lot of specific design information – like configurations, manufacturing instructions, bill of materials, and much more. This complexity combined with the way CAD systems are managing the files is a continuous challenge for PDM systems.

For many years, data management was considered a burden. A non-favorable activity for designers and engineers. Their workday was very much focused on CAD system work, and many people will say that this is still true.

But with the growing amount of information, many users have started to ask questions like:

  • Where did I save my files?
  • Which is the latest revision of my work?
  • Who is working on these product files now?

With the introduction of search technologies in our life, the demand for visibility and traceability in company data has increased dramatically. If you can’t find the data you need “you can Google it!”… That seems to be the most reliable way to find information.

The growing amount of information also drives a growing need for the adoption of a PDM system, or simply a data management system, becoming part of the standard function set of the Designer’s and Engineer’s environments.

When you evaluate design data management capabilities, pay attention to how PDM/PLM systems can manage specific CAD design data and support specific versions of CAD software.


What, why and When PDM?

PDM (Product Data Management) isn’t a new discipline. The traditional value of a PDM system has historically been separated into three sets of data management capabilities.

  • CAD data management
  • Engineering data management
  • Enterprise data management

For the last 20 years, the challenges with PDM have been to integrate it with complex engineering workflows. Add to that the fact that engineers do not like data management. The software experience has often been slow workflows that delay work and make their work-life complicated.

However, with technologies like Cloud, social and mobile technologies that have emerged, things are changing the way systems have been working in the past with faster workflows.


PDM is too costly

Another aspect of PDM implementation is cost. For many smaller and medium organizations, the cost of most existing PDM implementation is just too high and it has been too difficult to justify the cost of implementation. Therefore, lots of organizations are managing CAD files using shared network folders and excel spreadsheets.

The problem with this approach is, while it is cheap, organizations will relatively quickly outgrow their network/file-sharing capabilities and soon start to feel the pressure to reorganize their data management strategy.


Future CAD File Management is not done manually

The most common way to manage CAD files is on a shared drive with a directory structure and file naming conventions. That can work in some situations, but it carries significant risks and limitations.

These manual approaches are better than nothing, but in all but the simplest scenarios lead to errors. As the complexity and number of engineers increase, unmanaged approaches fall apart. Relying on individuals to consistently follow manual rules eventually leads to problems. This approach frequently results in errors like overwriting each other’s work, using the wrong version of a file, multiple people working on the same file, and lost productivity.


PDM and CAD File Management combined

The options to manage CAD data varies from keeping CAD files on shared drives and up to a full PDM system. One possible solution for these companies is to buy PDM systems bundled with CAD system they use. It will be probably the most cost-effective.  Mostly large companies are coming into this category. For them, PDM is a part of the overall solution puzzle. These companies are looking at overall business processes, connectivity, multiple systems, and global IT cost.


Keep the Conversation Going

Maybe it is about time to consider optimizing these manual CAD file management processes?

What are your takeaways? What initiatives are you focusing on in 2021? Are you considering upgrading your CAD Management workflow? What other strategies than manual CAD management have you used?

Share them with the community and keep the conversation going.

Want to share your story? Drop me a line or send me an email at I’d love to hear from you.


About the author

Jennifer Moore

Jennifer Moore has more than 15 years of experience in Business Transformation across different industries. Her extensive experience includes helping companies navigate complex regulatory requirements through software solutions. She has been developing and deploying large, multi-faceted enterprise software project, driving revenues as well as market adoption.

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