Product Data Management Buyer’s Guide (white paper)


How can manufacturers ensure they get the most value from a new PDM solution? The PDM Buyer’s Guide provides criteria for companies to select the right Production Data Management system to manage the complexity of today’s products and product development environments. Manufacturers have many choices for managing critical CAD files and product data, including shared drives and the modern equivalents – DropBox, Drive, Google Drive, and a host of other options. But our research shows that they’ll get more value from a structured, collaborative data management solution designed to support product development and further into the product lifecycle. This paper shares requirements for the basic capabilities companies need from PDM – Designing, Accessing, and Sharing product data.

Our Buyer’s Guides look beyond software requirements to the other elements that help companies get value from their solutions, including criteria to consider for implementation, adoption, service, and vendor selection. This guide also covers special needs including advice for smaller and larger manufacturers and shares considerations for addressing some specific industry needs and supporting the transition to the digital enterprise.

Please enjoy the summary below, or click the report to download a PDF overview (no charge, no registration required).

For the full Buyer’s Guide, please visit our sponsor PTC (no charge, registration required).

Table of Contents

  • Introducing the PDM Buyer’s Guide
  • The Product Data Management Imperative
  • Analyze PDM Capabilities
  • Assess Service Requirements
  • Consider Vendor Requirements
  • Identify Unique Company Needs
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations
  • About the Author

Introducing the PDM Buyer’s Guide

Product Data Management (PDM) is an important tool to help manufacturers overcome the complexities of designing, developing, producing, and supporting today’s products. Manual and ad-hoc approaches such as shared folders, FTP, Dropbox, box, and hard drives are simply not good solutions to manage critical, complex product information. These approaches may work for very small organizations, but quickly falter as organizations grow and must share information beyond a few core engineers. These techniques also fail to manage data relationships and complex file structures common to 3D CAD systems. PDM systems are purpose-built to address these issues. PDM is a structured, collaborative solution that helps manufacturers control, access, and share crucial product data. Selecting the right PDM system for your business has a large impact on productivity, product success, and profitability.

The PDM Buyer’s Guide is a reference tool to provide direction about what to look for when selecting a PDM system for your company. The guide is composed of four sections covering software functionality, service requirements, vendor attributes, and special company considerations. Each of these sections includes a checklist with key requirements to investigate when selecting PDM software. The guide focuses on common requirements that form the foundation of PDM for manufacturers:

  • Getting files under control so people can find the right revision with confidence
  • Making sure concurrent updates don’t overwrite each other to avoid “the last save wins” syndrome
  • Making information easily accessible and consumable to teams outside of Engineering for reviews and downstream processes
  • Safely sharing information with customers, partners, and the supply chain
  • Ensuring intellectual property (IP) is captured and securely accessible regardless of who stored it
  • Getting away from complicated shared drive structures that lead to errors
  • Making sure people don’t manufacture or purchase against the wrong drawing
  • Providing “one version of the truth” versus multiple copies of designs

Beyond these basics, there are special considerations for smaller companies and for the largest of enterprises. There are also special considerations for some industries. The guide addresses these and then goes beyond software functionality to focus on the entire experience of owning and operating the solution. The guide and associated checklists include product, infrastructure, implementation, service, and business requirements – all of which impact the benefits received and total cost of ownership (TCO) of PDM.

The PDM Buyer’s Guide is not intended to provide an all-encompassing requirements list. Instead it covers the high points that manufacturers should look for in a PDM system. Think of this as a “PDM litmus test” to see if a solution is a good high-level fit for your business before spending significant time and effort analyzing detailed features and functions.

Although the checklists focus only on PDM requirements, it’s important to consider more than your current needs when choosing a system. Many companies eventually want to grow beyond basic PDM. These companies start with PDM and evolve though a maturity process to a more complete Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) environment. PLM extends the core PDM foundation to support more product development and engineering processes, manage a richer view of products, include more people in product development, and support processes further upstream and downstream from Engineering in the product lifecycle.

In addition, PDM is becoming the core 3D foundation for the digital enterprise, supporting advanced initiatives like the Internet of Things (IoT), model-based design (MBD), and three dimensional augmented / virtual reality. Modern PDM / PLM systems should enable a product digital twin that can serve as the central foundation on which to consolidate (or view) a variety of product-related data captured in systems across the enterprise. It’s important to consider these needs when selecting your software and ensure that your solution has the capability to expand with your growing needs.


PDM helps manufacturers address market complexity and improve business performance. As Tech-Clarity’s Managing Engineering Data concludes, “Product data management is the fundamental building block of any engineering software strategy and helps companies get the most out of their precious engineering resources.” When evaluating PDM, manufacturers need to take into account:

  • Product requirements
  • Implementation, adoption, and support requirements
  • Vendor / business requirements
  • Special requirements based on company size (particularly for very small or very large organizations)
  • Special considerations to meet industry needs
  • Future requirements as business continues to digitalize

The final collection of requirements for any given company will be unique and must be prioritized based on contribution to supporting your implementation and achieving your business objectives. Some evaluation criteria may be critical, while others should carry a lower weight. The key is to select a solution that best fits the needs of the business and can be realistically supported.

Using a high-level list of requirements such as the ones in this guide can help you narrow down potential solutions by providing a quick “litmus test” to determine if a solution and partner are a good fit before conducting detailed functional or technical reviews. For example, smaller companies may want to emphasize ease of implementation and support in their initial evaluation. Larger manufacturers, on the other hand, might emphasize more mature engineering change processes and require a more scalable solution.

Remember, it’s critical to consider both current and future needs when evaluating potential solutions. You should consider the possibility that your company may want to expand into a more full-featured system and look for a PDM system that can serve as a foundation for a broader PLM implementation and support your company’s digitalization objectives. You should also consider how likely it is that your business will grow and ensure that the solution you implement can scale to enterprise capabilities and provide enterprise functionality. From a PDM perspective, it’s important to implement what is needed today, but know where the business is going and select a platform that can grow with the business.


Based on industry experience and research for this report, Tech-Clarity offers the following recommendations:

  • Identify and weigh PDM requirements based on company needs, company size, industry, and any unique company needs
  • Use high level requirements such as the ones in this guide to evaluate solutions based on business fit before engaging in detailed evaluations
  • Consider using more simple, commodity technical solutions like cloud or managed services solutions for smaller companies, companies that wish to move quickly, or those with limited IT resources
  • Take user adoption into account, including simplified access and increased visualization for non-engineering resources
  • Consider using more full-featured, scalable solutions for larger organizations that have more demanding process and scalability needs and can afford the IT resources required to support capabilities such as site synchronization
  • Take into account long-term business and process growth needs including digitalization and IoT initiatives

Consider the potential to expand to a more capable PLM system when choosing a PDM system, but start small and get value along the way during implementation

*This summary is an abbreviated version of the report and does not contain the full content. A link to download the full report is available above.