PDM - Who the heck needs this stuff anyways?


-Is annoying to learn.

-Forces you to work in a way that you have not normally worked.

-Costs money to buy and maintain.

-Usually requires some sort of an expert to maintain.

-Requires extra steps to change documents.

There has been a wave of PDM related question, comments and threads lately. This is largely driven by the addition of PDM works to the SolidWorks professional suite.

So I ask the question:


The answer is:


I have been working with and administering our PDM system (Softech / WTC's product center 8) with a few users, mostly engineering, and have come to really appreciate what PDM can do for an engineering group, let alone a whole company.

The reaction here at the company was/is mixed. Some people hate PDM and are slow to embrace it, others take to it readily.

But after working with PDM, I have found it to be an indispensable part of my work.

Running a multiple user / multiple configuration engineering group without a PDM system is a lot like running a product company without any MRP system. Yes, you can do purchasing on ring binders and have lots of planners to make sure you are not short parts, but you pay with higher labor costs. With cad you can also jockey multiple file versions, or beg each other form write permissions when the other guy has the model locked. MRP helps you plan and manage your procurement. PDM helps you manager your product data.

I started my career in 1986 as a tool and die apprentice. The big push at that time was for companies to use CNC and also to get into CAD. I was lucky enough to have a chance to design a draw tool which I accomplished with t-square and drafting board. There was a cad station available with a not so legitimate copy of AutoCAD 9, which I took to fervently! I started to learn CAD and so did a few of the other guys in the shop. We soon abandoned the board and the diazo machine and within a few years we were doing everything on CAD and doing all of our wire cutting from CAD shapes. By the early 90's people expected to do everything in CAD and could not imagine anything else.

Things progressed and in 1994 I took another job as a tooling designer and we used anvil-1000 ME. The big push was to implement 2D parametrics for family of parts, for which they chose CADRA-3. This worked great and the results were impressive. What a time saver. By now the idea of parametrics had taken hold. People wanted to reuse and modulate their geometry. Another step forward.

I moved on quickly and in 1995 landed at another company, again as a designer. They were using my old favorite - AutoCAD. They were using their cad data to program their laser and turrets. But on all the tooling they used cad and paper prints. All the die plates were hand programmed on at the CNC controller from dimensioned layouts. We saw this as an area to improve and moved into CAM programming with smartcam (along with a new 30 x 50 vmc). What a time and quality improvement! Things were accelerating quickly and eventually we bought

3 seats of SolidWorks in about 1998, which really revolutionized the speed of flat part development and accuracy. Unfoldable sheet metal from a single model! Awesome.

I took another job in 2001 as a mech designer. The company had just purchased and was implementing a PDM system and had Solidworks as well. This was all new to me and I didn't feel comfortable with it at all, but I knew that this "was the next wave". The PDM implementation was bumpy at times and at times thoughts of abandoning it overwhelmed the mind, but we still persevered. I was lucky enough to be the right hand man to the to the implementer and when he moved on to a better job, I was allowed to administer the system.

Over the years I have seen many changes, and at every step of the way, there are people who pissed and moaned about the new technology, avoided it, cursed it and did everything in their power to guarantee that it "was not viable". But still the new way of doing things prevailed and eventually became the standard way of doing things.

On the other hand are the people who embrace new technology and take advantage of it - these are the people who usually prosper. Wherever people started, people eventually came to think "how could you possibly do that sort of work without that tool?"

The question is "Which do you want to be?"

I too often see people focus on the negative aspects of a new tool and utterly look past the great benefits that the tool gives.

For me I have seen PDM overcome many problems and offer many advantages that beset the CAD user, among these:

-Multiple engineers may collaborate in real time without having to ask the other guy to "load that model read only".

-There is only ever one "master model", not some mess distributed across many machines or boogered up on the filing system of the week or lost on some persons c: drive personal folder. No more "versionitus".

-Trackable history that can be recoverd exactly as released, complete with cad models.

- No concurrent change to models can happen (i.e. no parallel ECNs occur on the same part)

-CAD model where-used shows other models effected by a change.

-The ability to do queries and make reports about your cad date.

This stuff rocks. It is the next big leap. Adapt or play catch up five years from now. Your choice people.



(long rant but lets see the good)

Reply to
Sean-Michael Adams
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Yeah, yeah, I know! Dont' they get on your nerves!?! You can't talk to them, can't explain, can't argue, they're just beyond reason, governed by some knee jerk reaction to anything new ~ any change has to be worse, they see conspiracies in everything (can we detect them by just mentioning Roswell and seeing if they go off on govt conspiracies to cover up flying saucers? just a thought), the followers of King Ludd. I am completely convinced that they all got through trade (or whatever) school, completely convinced that it was the last class they'd ever have to take, that they'd never have to learn another thing their whole lives because they'd already learned everything worthwhile.

David Janes

Reply to
David Janes

snipped-for-privacy@frontiernet.net (Sean-Michael Adams) wrote in news: snipped-for-privacy@posting.google.com:


Great post, Sean. Applies to just about anything new.


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I fully agree that a pdm system is required to keep full project control, what I don't agree with, is when a pdm system forces you to work one way and one way only. Different countries use different document control systems and this should be reflected in the software, especially if this software is going to be sold around the world. If Microsoft only sold windoze... and office in an American language, they would not be as big as they are today. They saw the need to stop being "so bloody American" and adapted, they gave their customers what they wanted. "You will be assimilated" & "you will comply" are the phrases from the Borg, but it seems that PDMWorks have adopted these and that you must comply if you want to use this software! Even Solidworks resellers have written some pdm software, because PDMWorks is so lacking. My VAR had a good pdm, but has now stopped supporting it, why?, quote," Because of conflicting ethical and financial interests, now that PDMWorks is now part of Solidworks". Sounds like a thumb's screw to me.

"It's a free world, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion", well it still is and they still are, in the UK.

Reply to

I like your approach, BUT, I wonder if SW ever thought of PDM when they first created their CAD software? SW seems so PDM unfriendly.

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