What exactly is Product Data Management (PDM)?

June 27, 2022

Product data management (PDM) is a common tool used by hardware teams to help manage and organize design files. Traditionally, PDM systems have helped solve version control, single-source-of-truth, and concurrent designing needs. In an industry where most software tools are 3 letter acronyms (PLM, PDM, ERP, MES, etc), it can get overwhelming and oftentimes difficult to understand the difference between these systems. In this post, we dive into the core differentiators of PDM and why every successful hardware company has one.

Version Control

Most hardware designers will need some form of version control as they make significant design changes. Often times the process around version control ends up being some form of file naming convention: file_name_v1.sldprt, file_name_v2.sldprt, file_name_v2_final.sldprt, file_name_v2_final_dfm.sldprt, etc. As you can imagine, this process is not scalable across multiple design assets and exponentially more difficult across multiple designers. PDM systems enable designers to revision files without overriding previous designs or the need to change the file name. This provides teams a more organized view on design files and also ensures that each design file they are viewing is the latest.


Beyond version control, product data management systems also provide a clearer context on the design status for each file through expanded metadata properties. Take for example an engineer hosting design files on Google Drive. Systems like Google Drive act as a cloud repository for many teams, but do not provide the visibility into what state each design is in. The most important states designers are looking for are whether designs are currently in progress, meaning it’s being worked on, or whether the design is approved and released. Within the in progress state, a designer may want to understand if another designer is currently working on a design. Going back to the Google Drive example, there is no ability to understand whether a design is currently being worked on. Without the transparency of what is in progress, if two designers are working on the same model, designers can face the override pain. PDM systems help designers that are concurrently working on designs build a process by introducing check in and check out capabilities.

Designers can check out designs when they are actively working on them. The PDM system will inform other collaborators that the design is currently checked out by a user and disable other users to check out the file. This means the next revision of that design can only come from the designer who checked it out. When the designer is done with their updates, they can push their changes by checking in a file. Good PDM systems will create a new versioned block in the system and ask the designer to add comments and give the latest version a new number. This ensures a process that’s easily traceable and well documented.

Similar to checking out a file, locking a specific version ensures that other collaborators cannot amend a design. This ensures design changes are intentional but also prevents lingering design changes.

Beyond PDM

Most product data management tools will stop there. However, at Bild, we believe that PDM systems have the capability to do much more. With a robust process and rich features, Bild enables the entire organization to adopt PDM features. PDM systems do not need to just stop at design files, they should expand into all assets. With Bild’s cloud PDM, teams can manage, view, and revision any file – from ECAD to MCAD to MS Docs, videos, images, slide decks, spreadsheets, and more. On Bild, teams can also review designs and provide feedback and annotations right on top of their designs in the vault. This enables a streamlined workflow built around a single-source-of-truth. Teams can also create bill of materials (BOMs) and releases directly from Bild. Sharing designs has never been easier, with simple 1-click sharing, teams can share designs with external collaborators without creating more email chains or uploading files on other platforms. Collaborators can view, review, and provide feedback right on top of models, making it easier for them to be engaged in the design process.

PDM is just a small part of Bild - learn how teams can run their entire design management process all on one platform, saving them time, money, and from risk.