Within PDM the focus is on managing and tracking the creation, change and archive of all information related to a product. The information being stored and managed (on one or more file servers) will include engineering data such as Computer-aided design (CAD) models, drawings and their associated documents.
"Associated documents" is a collector term for: requirements, specifications, manufacturing plans, assembly plans, test plans and test procedures. The package may also include product visualization data.
The central database will also manage metadata such as owner of a file and release status of the components. The package will: control check-in and check-out of the product data to multi-user; carry out engineering change management and release control on all versions/issues of components in a product; build and manipulate the product structure bill of materials (BOM) for assemblies; and assist in configurations management of product variants.
This enables automatic reports on product costs, etc. Furthermore, PDM enables companies producing complex products to spread product data into the entire PLM launch-process. This significantly enhances the effectiveness of the launch process.
Product data management is focused on capturing and maintaining information on products and/or services through its development and useful life. Typical information managed in the PDM module include
PDM is mainly used by engineers to manage their work and to access data of others in the design team. It is used in most industries but is used to an advanced level in the design of automotive, aerospace, and medical device systems.
PDM stems from traditional engineering design activities that created product drawings and schematics on paper and using CAD tools to create parts lists (Bills of Material structures - BOM). The PDM and BOM data is used in enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to plan and coordinate all transactional operations of a company (sales order management, purchasing, cost accounting, logistics, etc.)
PDM is a subset of a larger concept of product lifecycle management (PLM). PLM encompasses the processes needed to launch new products (NPI), manage changes to existing products (ECN/ECO) and retire products at the end of their life (End of Life) .
Beyond the large players there are providers of hosted software such as Arena Solutions.