CAD Trends and Challenges: Product Data Management

Anybody who’s ever put hours into modifying the wrong version of a CAD model or lost the data all together can appreciate the value of a product data management (PDM) system. And while 10 or 20 years ago this technology was accessible to only to massive enterprises, the web and the cloud have put them within reach of just about everybody.

So who is using PDM?

We know from previous Aberdeen Research over the years that the most successful companies (the “best in class”) use PDM tools. But what about the other 80%?  Are they adopting the technology or still holding out?

Very recently on this blog, we asked readers about their PDM use. The survey closed a few days ago (September 30, 2015), with respondents from 182 manufacturing organizations in 17 countries weighing in. Here are the early results:

What we asked

We asked readers whether they currently have a PDM system, and whether they plan to invest in the software in the future.

Daktronics uses PDM technology to keep track of and reuse the modularized panels that make up its giant displays.

What we learned

  • Overall, 62% of respondents use PDM today.
  • A total of 65% of large companies (that is, companies made up of more than 1000 people) use PDM.
  • A total of 40% of small to medium-sized companies (those made up of fewer than 100 people) use PDM.
  • Of those companies not using PDM, 22% plan to invest in the technology in the next five years.

What we conclude

In previous research, Aberdeen found that “best–in-class” companies are 40% more likely to use PDM than others. The analyst firm defines “best in class” as those who make up  the top 20% on measures such as new product introduction rate, number of post-release engineering change orders, and operating margin (see table below).

The best-in-class use PDM to effectively manage BOMs and for reliable design reuse, according to Aberdeen. Compared to lower tier companies, the best in class  are 45% more likely to copy features created in other models to new models says the research firm.

Our results show that SMBs still trail larger companies significantly when it comes to adoption of data management tools. And if Aberdeen is correct, that means those smaller businesses will struggle to compete effectively.


With product data management systems, companies create, manage, and reuse product structures containing detailed content, such as CAD files, documentation, requirements, and manufacturing information. This  accurate and reliable data then helps teams  improve productivity and product innovation.

What’s the takeaway? If you’re not among those using PDM (or planning to adopt it in the near future), you’re at a competitive disadvantage—especially if you’re up against larger companies with larger IT budgets.

We strongly recommend that you explore PTC Windchill PDM Essentials or PTC PLM Cloud, both right-sized for the needs of smaller teams and companies. Find out how you can securely centralize, share, and reuse your design data. Large companies have been using, and benefitting from, PDM for years. Now you can too.