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PLM vs PDM – What is the difference?

When dealing with technical systems or parts of an industry, designations and abbreviations can be many, and they can be difficult to tell apart and even to quite understand. In this article, we will help you understand the terms Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Product Data Management (PDM) and we will highlight the differences between the two.
Estimated reading time: 6 min

PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) and PDM (Product Data Management) might often be thought of as one and the same thing. However, this is not the case. Even though the two might intervene and both be connected and have certain similarities, there are some clear differences anyway.


Shortly stated, PLM is a system, whereas PDM is more of an engineering tool. This is of course somewhat a simplification of the terms, which is why we will firstly in the following elaborate on the definitions of each of the two terms.


Product Lifecycle Management

PLM stands for Product Lifecycle Management. It implies the management of products from design to manufacturing. The PLM system thereby handles every step from conception of the product to end delivery or maybe even disposal of the product. These steps intervene and take place across multiple departments of the organisation. It thus make the management complex and at the same time quite important for business performance. This is where PLM can help simplify these complexities as much as possible.


PLM coordinates all stages of the product lifecycle. A PLM system or software enables an interface where all stakeholders have access to all information relevant to the product. Information such as BOM, production documents, workflows, models etc. In this way, collaboration between different teams and staff involved in the process is enabled through the PLM system.


PLM is in many ways part of the foundation of an organisation and its extended supply chain, and with it comes great benefits.


Product Data Management

As described above, PLM is more of a strategic system. PDM might be best described as a tool for engineering processes and purposes. PDM stands for Product Data Management and is used to manage the data of a product throughout its lifecycle.


In other words, the PDM system organizes, stores, and controls the files containing the product data of a specific product. This organisation of files and information is a way of handling otherwise highly complex and perhaps quite intangible engineering data. For instance making sure that there are no duplicates of different documents. It can also make sure that you always receive the newest version of a document. In this way, the PDM makes sure that data and documents are structures, updated and stored in a usually iterative and innovative development process.



Perhaps it has now become clear to you that even though PLM and PDM are different systems. They overlap and connect to each other. The question of PLM vs PDM is not a question of which one to choose since they do not substitute one another. Rather, they complement each other leading to an improved product development process.


As mentioned, the PDM is highly useful within the engineering team to manage the complex engineering data related to a given product. But the use and need of data and information about the product stretches beyond the engineering team. This is where the PLM comes in handy. The PDM system is not greatly fit to function across departments and stakeholders, but simply functions well within the engineering team. On the contrary, the PLM is exactly fit for the entire product lifecycle and all parts involved.


Put more concretely, the PDM manages, stores, and structures the data that moves through the PLM processes, which manages workflows and changes. The PDM shows changes in products whereas the PLM shows why and how these changes were made. Therefore, it is worth considering investment in both systems, as they work alongside each other.



How can I get started?

The combination of PDM and PLM can enhance the product development making it more organized and streamlined. However, it can be a challenge to plan and set up these complex systems and software. At BoostPLM we are specialists within this area. As we say, we bridge engineering and operations, and as we see it, it is essential that the PDM and PLM aligns with each other. As consultants, we help you through this process. Feel free to reach out to us for a casual conversation about your organization and it’s needs.

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