Product Data Management (PDM system) represents the second step after CAD data management. While the latter is limited to the mere storage and retrieval of CAD data, Product Data Management connects drawings, documents and Bills of Materials and integrates them with a ERP, workflow or document management system (DMStec system), making the Product Data Management system a complete repository of all the data required to describe a product – from CAD, ERP, and PLM. Its purpose is to record and manage the results delivered by product engineering and product management and to make them available along the product lifecycle.
A PDM solution automates the exchange of Bills of Materials between the CAD system and the ERP system, maintaining transaction integrity and eliminating the need to manually enter them into the ERP system. Design and purchase items are also automatically synchronized. A customizable set of rules governs the synchronization of data, which can be managed and monitored from a single pane of glass in the PDM system, thereby bridging the gap between the ERP, CAD and PDM environments. This gives companies a reliable product data foundation by breaking down the product data silos created by product engineering, project management, maintenance, development, and production and making the information available across department lines. This enables designers to go through the PDM system to access supplier and material master data stored in the ERP system directly from their CAD workstation at any time. The risk of error is significantly reduced and companies save money and resources by eliminating the need for redundant development work.
The integration of CAD and PDM (and, in the next step, PLM) systems with the ERP system is essentially about exchanging and transferring item master data, Product Structures (assemblies), Bills of Materials, and documents generated during the mechanical, electrical and electronic development stages to the ERP system. Bills of Materials from mechanical and electrical engineering are aggregated into a single mechatronics BOM. This automatically prevents purchasers from ordering components such as drives, which can be viewed as both a mechanical and electrical component, twice or not ordering them at all.
Conversely, it enables development and design departments to view information such as prices or stock levels of purchased parts in the ERP system through the PDM/PLM system. This is important if, for example, purchasing has negotiated a discount with a supplier that designers need to be aware of. Integrating the CAD, ERP and PLM systems puts this type of information at the fingertips of everyone involved. With a CAD-PDM/PLM-ERP integration in place, purchasing departments can make sure that any preferred parts that they agreed upon with a specific supplier are actually used by designers.
Bi-directional Data Transfer
Product data silos and the manual transfer of information between various IT systems are a constant source of error, resulting in the need to do re-work and unnecessary costs. This can be avoided by maintaining data consistency and ensuring automatic synchronization between the different IT systems. For manufacturing and engineering companies, the question of how to synchronize item master data, bills of materials, and project data between the design and production department, in particular, presents a major challenge because in order to do so the very first step is to agree on which data needs to be exchanged between the CAD software, the ERP system, and the PDM/PLM solution and how to design the interfaces.
Outdated drawings and production documents are notorious stumbling blocks on the path to error-free manufacturing. They can be avoided by always having just one drawing available in a neutral PDF, PDF/A or TIF format that can be instantly accessed from across all departments. This is exactly what a PLM solution does. It ensures that drawings and other documents created during the design stage are available in the ERP system.
The same has to be true the other way around: Employees working in development can access information found in the ERP system such as prices or the stock level of purchased items. If, for example, technical purchasing has negotiated a discount with a supplier of motors, designers must be made aware that they are expected to use these components through the CAD/ERP integration. The PDM/PLM system PRO.FILE, for example, does this by means of a traffic light system for purchased parts – green stands for recommended parts, yellow means they may be used, and red denotes parts that must not be used.
- Secure storage and protected access to product information
- Product information can be stored regardless of the underlying authoring systems used in the fields of MCAD, ECAD, electronics, Office, and email
- Information is consolidated to create customer, machine and lifecycle files
- Automatic provision of valid drawings for manufacturing purposes
- Automatic synchronization of item master data and Bills of Materials between design / development and production planning / manufacturing / service