Accessing All of Your Product Data Regardless of Where and How it is Stored

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A quick peek into some research on … the importance of accessing all product-related information, whether it is stored in a formal system such as Product Data Management (PDM) or not. The report, Issue in Focus: Product Data Accessibility: Getting Value from All of your Product Data, explains the importance for manufacturers to readily retrieve product data and points out that there are emerging technologies that can help.

The Research Findings

I have reported on the importance of product data many times, including Tech-Clarity’s The Business Value of Product Data Management: Achieving Rapid and Extendible Benefits and Managing Engineering Data – The Role of Product Data Management in Improving Engineering Efficiency. In the PDM report, I talked about three fundamentals of PDM:

  • Control and secure product-related data
  • Improve the ability to quickly find and reuse information
  • Share product knowledge with other departments

But the report discusses the reality that, as the report says, “Many companies don’t have centralized product data, and even those that do typically have a lot of product-related data spread out across the business that isn’t centralized.” Manufactures have to live with the following realities:

  • Not all companies have been able to control their product data in this way (due to software or implementations costs or other factors like acquisitions that leave companies with multiple processes and solutions)
  • Many companies are handling the control of their data manually
  • Most companies have product data that will probably never be under control of a formal system, including documents and spreadsheets that reference parts and products
  • Most manufacturers have important information in their ERP, SCM, CRM, and other systems that can be valuable

The report also makes an important conclusion that “accessing product data and centralizing it are not absolutely linked, and there are emerging technologies that help engineers access data without having to consolidate it in a central location.” These new technologies can help engineers stop wasting time looking for data. In addition, they can intelligently aggregate (‘mash up”) if you will, data from different sources to see the big picture and make better decisions.

Implications for Manufacturers

I am not coming out against PDM. PDM offers valuable functions that allow companies to control their product data. Capabilities like revision control, check-in/out, and approval cycles are important. For companies that need to manage complex relationships between files, including 3D CAD assemblies, there are important features in PDM. But if you find yourself facing one or more of the realities above (I would bet that includes 90% or more manufacturers) then you have to live in your current reality. And realize that your reality may change in the blink of an acquisition.

Manufacturers should check out the new class of technologies that is evolving aimed at allowing companies to quickly assemble their information in much the same way that a search engine like Google. These technologies are absolutely worth a look. Should we call the “PDA” for Product Data Accessibility? Or product data search? But both seem to fall short when you consider what they can do to not only find but assemble and act on the data. Time will tell. Will they replace the need for PDM? Will they augment an existing PDM implementation (or multiple implementations, as some companies have)? It really depends on your business, but I envision it serving all of these needs. But the simple truth is that companies need to access all of their product data and put it into context in order to make good decisions. A product data accessibility approach allows them to access their information quickly, regardless of the reality they live in.

So that was a quick peek into some recent research on product data accessibility, I hope you found it interesting. Does the research reflect your experiences? Do you see it differently? Let us know what it looks like from your perspective. Please feel free to review more free research and white papers about product data and other enterprise software for manufacturers from Tech-Clarity.