Product Data Management (PDM)

Involvement in the EDM/PDM project

People often ask questions of the type - 'who should be involved in EDM/PDM?'. Typical questions are 'who should be in the EDM/PDM project team?', 'who should develop an EDM/PDM prototype?', 'who should implement EDM/PDM?', 'who should lead the EDM/PDM activity?', 'who should be responsible for EDM/PDM?', and 'who will operate the EDM/PDM system?'.

In most cases, the ideal solution would be for the Engineering VP and the Manufacturing VP to jointly lead EDM/PDM activities, and to be held responsible for their success or failure. In the planning phases of EDM/PDM they would set up a multi-functional project team to select a solution. The project team would have representatives from the data creation, use, and communication functions such as marketing, sales, engineering, manufacturing, finance, IS, and the field. Once the project team had found a solution, responsibility for system installation would pass to the Information Systems organization, while users of information would be responsible for the information. The best results are achieved through a team approach to EDM/PDM, with individuals from the different parts of the company working together, each addressing the areas where they have the most to offer.

In practice it's rarely that easy, and the answers to the above questions depend on a mixture of factors such as the company's culture, the company's organization, the resources available, the current status of EDM/PDM in the company, and the way that EDM/PDM has been approached in the past.

The company's culture is one of the most important factors in deciding who should be involved with EDM/PDM. Without a lot of proactive management involvement it's unlikely that the company is going to behave any differently from the way it has behaved in the past. As a result, it's likely that the people who have been involved with systems like EDM/PDM in the past will be involved with EDM/PDM.

For example, there are companies where the engineering computer systems organization reports to IS, IS is closely linked to the Finance VP, and IS equates to 'mainframe-based system'. In this environment CAD/CAM is generally on a mainframe, and any systems that don't run on a mainframe are regarded as unimportant and left to individual departments. If the IS manager wants to run EDM/PDM in this company he / she has the power to do so. There are other companies where the engineering computer systems organization reports to the Engineering VP, and if the Engineering VP wants to be responsible for EDM/PDM, will be. In some of these cases, CAD/CAM will be mainframe-based. In others it will be workstation-based. The computer systems that are already in place affect EDM/PDM roles and responsibilities. If there is a major investment in workstation-based CAD/CAM and engineering analysis systems, then people in the Engineering Department will probably be heavily involved in EDM/PDM. If CAD/CAM is mainframe-based, and a lot of effort goes into MRP, then the IS Department will probably play a major role in EDM/PDM.

There are also a lot of companies where the situation is not so clear. In some cases, the CAD/CAM support team will see EDM/PDM as an extension of their responsibilities, in some cases the field service systems support team will see it as their job, and in others the Manufacturing systems support team will claim responsibility.

Another issue that affects EDM/PDM responsibilities is the extent to which top management maintains long-term commitment. There are companies in which top management will initiate EDM/PDM activities and keep them moving for many years. In this environment, EDM/PDM should succeed wherever it is located. In other companies though, top management interest and support will disappear if there is not immediate success. In this case, the EDM/PDM team leader needs to have a solid power base to help overcome any slippage in implementation. If EDM/PDM is only being implemented in the Engineering Department this is less of a problem, but if the intention is for it to be cross-functional, the project leader needs to be very powerful and have a lot of support.

In some companies, top management will not actively support EDM/PDM, assuming that if it is really important, then middle managers will make sure that it is implemented. In these companies, the danger is that departmental warlords will fight over the right to introduce EDM/PDM, and in doing so, prevent its successful implementation. True EDM/PDM is a very cross-functional activity, and it won't succeed without the coordinated support of all the major departments involved.

The vision of EDM/PDM, and its relationship to the company's vision is another key factor. If the company has a very functional view of its future, then a vision of EDM/PDM as a cross-functional system may be difficult to implement. If the Engineering VP is only measured on the success of the Engineering Department (e.g. measured on the number of engineering drawings produced per year), while the Manufacturing VP is only measured on the success of the Manufacturing Department (e.g. measured on shipments per month), neither may see any reason to get involved with cross-functional EDM/PDM.

Apart from the relative strengths and objectives of the IS and the Engineering Departments, there are other organizational factors that will affect the extent to which different people are involved in EDM/PDM. In some highly centralized companies, there is an Organization Department that is responsible for the structure and organization of operations. This Department could be very involved in defining how EDM/PDM should be used, but would play no role in EDM/PDM use or operation. Some companies have distributed Divisions organized along product lines, but a centralized core engineering function. Here the central engineering group could play a leading role in introducing EDM/PDM, while the Divisions take responsibility for implementation and use.

Part of the answer to the involvement in EDM/PDM is directly related to the industry sector and the type of product. In aerospace and automotive companies there will often be a group with special responsibility for EDM/PDM-like functionality, and in many cases this group will already have implemented a partial EDM/PDM solution. In the mechanical engineering sector, involvement in EDM/PDM is more likely to come from the IS Department than in the electronics sector where the

Engineering function tends to be more powerful. Of course, these are only generalities. Individual companies, even making similar products, have very different organizations, and their particular structures may even result from the relative influence of individual VPs.

The availability of individuals who can lead the EDM/PDM effort, take responsibility for its implementation, be responsible for its use, manage its day-to-day operations, and ensure its further development will depend on the cultural and organizational issues addressed above. EDM/PDM implementation and use requires a good blend of skills, and if one part of the company is dominant, certain skills may be missing. If IS very strong, it will be easy to find people who know about data modeling and data bases, but difficult to find those who combine a good knowledge of computing with knowledge of the details of engineering.

A key factor in deciding future EDM/PDM involvement is past performance with EDM/PDM. If the people who have been involved have been successful, they will probably be allowed to continue. If they haven't been successful, a change of responsibility may be needed. Implementing EDM/PDM is very difficult, and often lack of success is due to lack of power, influence and general EDM/PDM awareness.

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Page last modified on March 3, 2000
Copyright 2000 by John Stark