Monday, March 5, 2012
PDM & PLM: What's the Difference?
Product Data Management (PDM) has been around for a long time. When 2D CAD systems were first developed, we quickly learned that they are very good at one thing: creating lots and lots of files. As 3D CAD became popular, and more and more product information became a large collection of CAD files, it was hard for people to keep track of all this data. So, PDM systems were developed to allow check-in and check-out of these files from a secure vault. This is the reason that most early PDM systems were nothing more than CAD data vault mangers. These PDM solutions not only kept track of relationships between parts and assemblies, but also prevented multiple people from working on the same files at the same time. Thus, PDM became the way that design files were vaulted, tracked, and managed.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a relatively new term that was coined to include the full gamut of tools and methodologies that are used to manage the virtual product during the entire lifecyle (go here to see our simplest definition of PLM). A more detailed definition of PLM from CIMdata is: "The collaborative creation, use, management and dissemination of product related intellectual assets." Remember, PLM is not just about technology, it is a strategic business approach that includes innovation around products AND processes. PLM supports the extended enterprise and spans the full product lifecycle from concept to end of life. Without properly managed intellectual assets, it is impossible to consistently infuse new products and processes with innovation.
Now that we have defined PDM and PLM, I think we can clearly see the differences. PDM is a subset of PLM; It includes the management of intellectual asset information and their relationships. PDM is an important basic requirement that supports PLM, and you cannot do PLM without PDM. PLM includes asset creation through CAD, Analysis, Digital Manufacturing, Documentation, Images, Software, etc...there is generally no creation of intellectual assets in PDM. There are usually few collaboration capabilities within PDM. However, a strong foundation for PLM starts with a comprehensive and strong PDM solution.
The confusion between these terms, I think, often comes in the way people choose to use them. Many companies, and even vendors, will call the selection and implementation of a PDM system PLM. While it is true, in a sense, that the first step on the long PLM road is putting a strong PDM solution in place, that is only one small piece of the PLM puzzle. There will still need to be much work done on configuration management, visualization and DMU, collaboration, digital manufacturing, integrations (ERP, MES, CRM, SCM...), and on, and on, and on...along with all the business process innovation work that will be required.
I could go into more detail, but it gets complex and I need to go get some Chinese food now; I'm starving!
So, where are you on the path to PLM?