Is Your PDM System’s Lack of Scalability Holding You Back?

Written By: Geoff Hedges
  • 2/6/2019
  • Read Time : 2:30 min
Lack of scalability
At some point, every manufacturing organization finds itself needing to replace its basic Product Data Management (PDM) system. While the tool served its purpose for a time, certain signals indicate its best to move on with a more sophisticated solution. Some of the biggest signs are that the PDM system is stymieing your growing business. This post outlines four ways your PDM system may be holding you back according to Jim Brown, based on new research by his independent research firm, Tech-Clarity.

Assembly Scalability

PDM systems can make short work of understanding the parts used in an assembly, and the relationships between parts of multiple assemblies. However, basic solutions can quickly bog down and fail to enable this critical understanding and view.

Whether to deal with rising market demands or product variants, many manufacturers are contending with growing manufacturing assemblies. In most cases, manufacturers are dealing with one or both of the following scenarios: an assembly with many parts or a multi-level assemblies. Simple products often translate into a simple assembly and associated Bill of Materials (BOMs) or product tree structure. More complex products featuring thousands or even hundreds of thousands of parts result in long or deep assemblies and BOMs or product structures. Moreover, organizations need various views of a BOM when designing, manufacturing, and servicing today’s smart, connected products, including. In other words, they need an integrated yet flexible view of the engineering, manufacturing, and service BOMs.

As Brown says, “The more parts comprising an assembly, the longer it can take to load, save, or even view with your PDM system. An overwhelmed PDM system may simply fail to load assemblies beyond a certain size or level of complexity.”

User Scalability

More manufacturing organizations are designing and building a growing number of smart, connected products. As they do, they must support more PDM users. Often their design engineering and manufacturing teams have swelled in ranks. In almost every case, they must extend their PDM system to support more people from across the enterprise who are involved in bringing their products to market and servicing them.

Unfortunately, some PDM systems fall short once the number of concurrent users hits a certain threshold. Simply put, adding too many users can slow the PDM system. “Adding licensed seats is often the only option, yet this quickly gets expensive for manufacturing organizations dealing with fluctuating demand,” Brown adds.

Poor Multi-Site Capability

Even when engineering and manufacturing teams are distributed across geographies and offices, it’s essential that everyone works from the same product and assembly data. However, some PDM systems aren’t designed to support this setup.

When the PDM server is located in a central location, moving large CAD files through small network pipes can take far too long. Should the central PDM system be unavailable for any reason, remote work comes to a standstill.

“Sometimes organizations are forced to partition their server to ensure only relevant product information is available to certain users and locations. Yet even then, it’s critical to intelligently synchronize files – something many basic PDM systems can’t handle,” Brown underscores.

Manual Processes Are Failing

Manufacturers using basic PDM systems usually make do by circumventing the system’s shortcomings, such as by using shared folders, and unique naming conventions and part numbering schemes. This suffices for small businesses or when a core engineer can manage all these workarounds. But growing companies are eventually hamstrung by these shortcomings. When more formal processes and automation are a necessity, it’s time to replace your basic PDM system.

For more about the common signs that your PDM system is not meeting your business needs and guidance on selecting the best solution, download this Buyer’s Guide written by industry experts Tech-Clarity.
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About the Author

Geoff Hedges

Geoff Hedges is the founder and major contributor to, a CAD focused blog that’s reached over 1 million visitors since launch.

In his current role as Program Marketing Director for the PLM and ALM businesses, he is responsible for demand marketing, including developing and executing demand generation campaigns, web site experience and product launch.

Geoff has more than 30 years of experience working in the areas of CAD, PLM, and PDM software; he holds an Honors Degree in Mechanical Engineering and currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany.