There are now computer systems on the market that help improve the flow, quality and use of engineering information throughout a company. These systems provide improved management of the engineering process through better control of engineering data, of engineering activities, of engineering changes and of product configurations. They provide support for the activities of product teams and for techniques such as Concurrent Engineering.

From the experience of pioneers in the use of these systems, it appears they can help :
Systems like these that help:
have a strong effect on competitivity, market share and revenues.

These systems are known generically as Engineering Data Management (EDM) or EDM/PDM systems. Within the generic class of EDM/PDM systems are many types of systems such as Product Data Management (PDM) systems and Engineering Document Management Systems (EDMS).

EDM/PDM systems do several things. They manage Engineering Data - all the data related to a product and to the processes used to design, manufacture and support the product. Much of this data will be created with computer-based systems such as CAD, CAM and CAE. EDM/PDM systems also manage the flow of work through those activities that create or use engineering data. They support techniques, such as Concurrent Engineering, that aim to improve engineering workflow.

At a time when manufacturing success increasingly depends on the speed with which a company develops new products, EDM/PDM systems have an important role to play.

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 them 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, NC, process planning, MRP and field service, will be integrated to this backbone.

EDM/PDM addresses issues such as control, quality, reuse, security and availability of engineering data. EDM/PDM offers important new functions for the engineering environment. It will help solve many of the problems that beset today's engineering environment, and for those who master it, will offer new strategic opportunities.

The introduction of an EDM/PDM system will reveal many problems associated with the use of engineering information. However, the primary aim of an EDM/PDM system is to manage engineering data and the associated workflow, not to resolve all the problems that occur in the Engineering Department, as well as any others that may contribute to unnecessarily long product development cycles. Other actions will have to be taken to reduce these problems, such as the introduction of Concurrent Engineering. The system can support these actions, but can not automatically solve the problems.

Implementation of EDM/PDM will be a challenge. In the manufacturing world, rewards come to companies who have a little vision, pick the right strategy, organize accordingly, and then put in a lot of work. Initially companies implementing EDM/PDM will be medium to large (e.g. Fortune 1000) companies. They will include engineering and construction companies; discrete manufacturers in automotive, aerospace, electronic and mechanical engineering industries; batch processing companies in the food and pharmaceutical sectors. These companies know that it is not easy even to successfully implement individual applications such as CAD. They are unlikely to underestimate the difficulty of implementing a cross-functional system such as EDM/PDM which will take many years to implement, and will have considerable technological and organizational impact.

Small to medium companies can also benefit from Engineering Data Management. Compared to the larger companies, they should find it easier to implement, since they will generally have less people involved, and less data to manage.




Copyright (c) 1998 John Stark