CAD lifecycle management is not Product Lifecycle Management

Posted on November 6, 2012

I continue to write about the place of engineering in the scope of PLM. Once again I have never said it had to be out of the PLM scope. I just explained that as a project strategy, If the interfaces between departments were well defined, it could be good to start out of engineering for quick improvements in other departements getting more easily other employees involved in this management enhancement process which is PLM. In this article I’m more talking about a split that needs to be done. We need to consider CAD lifecycle management as a specific inner topic of PLM. I just went through some videos from the competition about PLM. What do we usually see? CAD models. It is really sexy but I do PLM everyday and the core issues that I see are much more about simple-data management than about CAD. It doesn’t mean CAD management is out of the PLM scope. It means that the CAD lifecycle management is a unique competency, like 3D modeler and it doesn’t have to impact the whole PLM software.

Split PLM software and jobs’ specific applications

This is a normal statement but still a lot consultants or vendor are not accepting it for CAD. Or maybe I just feel like it because I’m not a mechanical engineer. I’m an electronic engineer so when I come to PLM conferences sometimes I can just listen about CAD related issues and I’m not getting inside the discussion because I’m far from being an expert on this topic. And to me these discussions are specific to the process of managing the CAD data over time. And it’s not general PLM. There should be clear role descriptions like “CAD lifecycle management consultant” which would clearly define that this person knows about how a cad model will be able to handle changes, variants, … Why should you know how to manage a change in a CAD model. you can’t be the orchestra director and play all the instruments. You need to have enough knowledge to make these instruments fit together. Today there are too many issues about permissions, data-sharing, supply chain PLM distribution, contextual information access,etc. Someone needs to be focus on that while others are on CAD. One technology might not fit all.

PLM completing PDM

Historically, PLM comes from PDM and PDM comes from CAD. Most of our projects at Minerva are completing existing PDM systems. They are called PLM but most of the time we are requested to complete these installations because the effort to extend these PLM to the whole company is too important. As I just said, a reason for that is that you don’t always need the same technology to manage CAD file lifecycle and general product lifecycle related information.


I just did a search about CAD lifecycle management and I didn’t get much corresponding results. There is then a good opportunity for some companies who want to specialize in that field, providing APIs to non-CAD PLM providers. But as a conclusion I would like to see clear statement in PLM conferences about the topic covered whether it’s about  CAD lifecycle management or PLM.

Do you think we’re still mixing CAD data lifecycle management and Enterprise PLM?

Yoann Maingon

Yoann Maingon is an Entrepreneur and a PLM enthousiast. He is our main blogger at Minerva as he has been publishing articles about General PLM concepts and Aras Innovator for more than three years.

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  • Yes, they are still being mixed up.  CAD management is the Achilles Heal of the PLM industry.  I am shocked how little has changed in the last decade in this area.  It is atrocious that none of the CAD vendors offer a reasonably priced CAD data management solution that is truly integrated into their own CAD solution (PDMWorks is as good as it gets).  Instead, they use CAD data management as a Trojan Horse to shove an extremely expensive PLM solution into an organization.  I’ve said it before, but the old SDRC I-deas had it right, a completely integrated data management solution built into the CAD tool.  If you wanted to integrate I-deas CAD management into an enterprise PLM solution, a PLM system would communicate with its data management software (TDM), and not try to understand all of the intricate relationships and data models of the CAD files themselves.  Anyways, good article.

    • Thanks for your comment David. I had a hard time writing it down it wasn’t even easy to find the terms to really emphasize the split that we’re looking for. I think what the cloud could bring in that way, is the wide use of APIs. APIs are not new but as the cloud is getting more and more attention, you can see new companies creating very limited scope application but which wide capacities and publish APIs to access those. And I’m just talking about this type of software communication, I don’t even think the cloud comes in the equation. It’s just that the cloud era made us come in a world of APIs.
      Have a nice election day in Ohio (my guess from your profile!) Go Buckeyes!

  • Michael Reitman

    I think you somewhat exaggerate the difference of CAD lifecycle management as opposed to PLM. Yes, managing CAD designs is specialized domain requiring specialized expertise and applications. But the idea of PLM is to manage lifecycle of product that may include components with CAD content, or just graphic content or just attributes. And also workflows, different kinds of business logic for analyzing, configuring product and communicating maintaining it. And idea of PLM is to have enough ability to manage CAD content as part of product.
    Taking as analogy development of the large software systems, it may have components supporting GUI and other components dealing with DB communication, and other components implementing business logic. And the general infrastructure enabling integration and communication of data and workflow between these software components. GUI development is drastically different from DB communication implementation. But can we say that GUI development is not part of general software development? Sounds wierd.
    IMO, this is similar relationship between “CAD lifecycle management” and PLM. There is no such thing as “CAD lifecycle management” only Product Lifecycle management (that can include CAD authoring along with other activities in other pieces of “chain”).
    (The only time when “CAD lifecycle” sounds right is when talking about CAD vendor about management of their CAD authoring tools)

    • I’ve got to admit that I may exaggerate a little bit and I guess that’s why I had some difficulties even with words to describe the split between PLM and what I called CAD lifecycle management. But still I believe there is some truth. To me PLM should apply to any industry, any product. Why do you think today you have solutions well suited for manufacturing, other solutions more made for fashion, and you’ve got ALM!!  They all are PLM but CAD vendors impacted the meaning of PLM by making it a master piece of the whole scope. 
      To me there are specific knowledge to manage CAD through time that is different from managing software source code. In most of the conferences I’m going in, I have many pictures of CAD models and I don’t hear anyone talking about GIT repositories. But maybe PLM wraps all this and is a too big topic for most conferences it should be more divided maybe into integration discussions on one side and business specific application on the other. I’ll try too think how to express this in a better way. I’m still trying to get where a frontier could be drawn somewhere. I’ll get back with another more graphical article, but I’ll take your answer as an input. Thanks

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