Product data management (PDM) is a business enterprise's method of creating, storing and managing data about their products. The data could be any significant information relating to technical specifications of the product, how it is manufactured and developed, what materials are necessary to produce it, marketing data, review data, etc. All this is collected, documented and organized into a central product database accessible in varying degrees to any employee of the enterprise. PDM is part of product life-cycle management (PLM) which is the broader field that handles everything from a product's creation up until it is retired and taken off production.
PDM can help a company track costs involved in the creation, development and launch of a product. It can significantly help businesses plan out use of its resources. It centralizes product data and thus allows for a more integrated workflow within the organization as various members that have anything to do with the product can access and exchange information about it. These could be any business user from project managers, engineers, quality control teams, to marketing and sales personnel. Since product data is organized and well-documented, further development such as the creation of a variant of the product is more easily carried out.
The typical information included in a product database are part numbers, part descriptions, name of suppliers and vendors, technical measurements and design schematic, list of materials, and costs and price. Besides these, it can also contain referential data, such as the owner of a file, date of its creation, the number of times it was accessed and by whom, its several versions and the changes that have been applied to it. All this of course can only enabled and automated through PDM software implemented throughout the company. The database is stored in one or several servers within the business' computer network.
PDM software has several functions. One of them is access control which can set how specific categories of the product data can be used by other employees. Those who are not directly involved in the design and development such as sales and marketing could have limited or read-only access while design or manufacture teams can have more freedom in getting to the files. Another capability of PDM software is component or materials classification. In this PDM software works similar to a search engine. Since some products may share similar or related components, categories and subcategories can be set to make the information readily available to a business user. PDM software is also useful in building a product structure. The system can establish various relationships across groups of product data such as material costs or design elements for example. This allows various users within the company to see the product from particular perspectives which could be manufacturing, financial or marketing.