An 'EDM/PDM system' is a computer-based system that helps manage engineering data and engineering activities. Such systems are known generically as Engineering Data Management (EDM) systems. Within the generic class of EDM/PDM systems are many types of systems such as those known as Product Data Management (PDM) systems, and those known as Engineering Document Management Systems (EDMS).
EDM/PDM systems do several things. They manage engineering data and provide improved management of the engineering process through better control of engineering data, of engineering activities, of engineering changes and of product configurations. EDM/PDM systems also provide support for the activities of product teams and for techniques, such as Concurrent Engineering, that aim to improve engineering workflow.
EDM/PDM systems treat engineering information as an important resource that is used by many functions in a company. They allow companies to get control of engineering information, and to manage activities in several departments. In the long term, EDM/PDM systems will allow companies to get control of all their engineering information, and manage the overall engineering process. These characteristics set EDM/PDM systems apart from systems such as CAD that aim to improve the productivity of individual tasks in one functional area. Viewed as data processing systems, EDM/PDM systems go beyond individual application programs such as CAD and NC. Viewed as organizational tools, they go beyond individual approaches such as DFA (Design for Assembly) and project management systems.
EDM/PDM systems provide a backbone for the controlled flow of engineering information throughout the product life cycle. Other systems using engineering data, such as CAD, ERP and field service, will be integrated to this backbone. EDM/PDM systems address both information and workflow issues. As such they are true integration tools. In particular, within the engineering environment, they are central to the integration of previously separated systems such as CAD, CAM, CSM, Electronic Publishing, Configuration Management, Process Planning, Document Scanning and Project Management. Their use will result in improved quality, flow and use of information related to the engineering process. This will help companies meet the growing demands of an ever more competitive business environment.
EDM/PDM systems address issues such as control, quality, reuse, security and availability of engineering data. Much as CAD, CAM and CAE were important in the 1970's and 1980's, EDM/PDM will be key to successful engineering in the 2000's and beyond. EDM/PDM systems offer important new functions for the engineering environment. They will help solve many of the problems that beset today's engineering environment, and for those who master them, will offer new strategic opportunities.
Nine basic components of an EDM/PDM system
There are nine basic components of an EDM/PDM system. The first of these is the Information warehouse in which engineering information is stored.
The Information warehouse is managed by the Information management module. This is the second component of the EDM/PDM system. It controls and manages the information in the warehouse. It is responsible for functions such as data access, storage and recall, information security and integrity, concurrent use of data, and archival and recovery. It provides traceability of all actions taken on data.
The EDM/PDM system requires a basic Infrastructure of a networked computer environment.
Users and programs access the system through the Interface Module. This provides a standard, but tailorable, interface for users. The Interface Module supports user queries, menu-driven and forms-driven input, and report generation. It provides interfaces for programs such as CAD and ERP.
The structure of the information and processes to be managed by the EDM/PDM system is defined by the Information and Workflow Structure Definition Modules. The workflow is made up of a set of activities to which information such as resources, events and responsibilities can be associated. Procedures and standards can also be associated with activities.
The exact structure of all information in the system is maintained by the Information Structure Management Module.
Once initiated, workflow needs to be kept under control. This is the task of the Workflow Control Module. It controls and co-ordinates the engineering process. It manages the engineering change process and provides revision level control.
The ninth component of the system is the System Administration module. The complete system is under its control. It is used to set up and maintain the configuration of the system, and to assign and modify access rights.
The Information warehouse
The role of the Information warehouse module is to store engineering data. Other names for the warehouse are Electronic Library, Electronic Vault, Information Vault, and Data Repository.
The Information warehouse acts as a single source of all engineering information in the company. This does not mean that the information has to be physically centralized. In practice it will nearly always be physically distributed, with some of the information being in different departments of the company, and some with suppliers and customers.
The Information warehouse stores information on all media. Some of it will be on traditional media such as paper, mylar, and aperture cards. Some of it will be on electronic media such as magnetic tapes and disks, and optical disks. Some of the electronic data will be in files, some in databases.
The Information warehouse contains all sorts of engineering information describing the products and parts such as engineering drawings, CAD data, circuit layouts, flow charts, test results, Bills of Materials, field data and word-processed product specifications. There will be information such as NC programs and technical manuals describing the processes used to design, manufacture and support the product. There will be information describing international, national and company-specific standards. There will be information describing the computer programs used in the various processes, and there may even be copies of these programs in the warehouse. There will be project-specific and order-specific information starting perhaps with the contract, and including project time and cost estimates, and actual times and costs.
The Information warehouse will contain information about information. There will be lists of drawings, parts and configurations. There will be descriptions of more complicated relationships such as those between the activities of a particular project to fulfil the requirements of a particular customer order. There will be information such as Engineering Change orders, describing changes to information in the warehouse.