PDM Will Be a Growth Market in 2010

PDM software sold better than expected in 2009, especially the products aimed at smaller manufacturers. We estimate less than 30% market penetration, with another good year ahead.

By Randall S. Newton

Despite the economic downturn, it appears product data management is still a growth business. All vendors in PDM and small business PLM report strong growth. Here are our observations on the current state of the market.

Overall, PDM products continue to sell well. SolidWorks, for example, reported in 2008 that PDM sales were up 70% over 2007 results. Richard Allen, PDM Product Manager for SolidWorks, recently told VEKTORRUM he expected 2009 PDM sales to be down, but the final tally showed that sales for their Workgroup and Enterprise PDM solution were up 15% year-over-year. Stock image representing global data management

It seems there is still considerable pent-up demand for data management. Our estimate is that only around 30% of small business CAD users have some sort of product data management solution in place.

The Sweet Spot
Across the industry, the sweet spot seems to be the market for 5-to-50 users. Allen of SolidWorks, for example, says 90% of their PDM customers have ten or fewer CAD seats. Below five users, teams are still willing to make do with ad hoc OS-based file management. Above this, companies are starting to look at enterprise PDM or PLM installations.

SharePoint remains important in product development environments, but is not shaping up to be a universal standard, especially in small business. Vendors tell us that IT guys ask for it during pre-sales, but the engineering team rarely mention it. PTC and Siemens PLM are doing well with their SharePoint products, which makes sense given the larger companies they call on. SolidWorks leaves SharePoint integration to its development partners; Autodesk sells a separate module in its Vault PDM line for companies that want to expose manufacturing data to an existing SharePoint environment.

Clouds, Mobility, Security
In the past PDM vendors had the luxury of writing only for the desktop and LAN. But today demand is rising quickly for access from the web and to mobile devices. The challenge for PDM vendors is to provide one seamless user experience for online, on-premise, and on-device product data management.

The new Apple iPad seems to be  quickening the pulse of developers who were previously cool to the tablet form factor. While web-based apps will work on the iPad, it will be interesting to see which vendor ships the first iPad-specific app. Autodesk and Dassault have released iPad/iPhone graphics tools, perhaps they will be first with iPad-specific PDM.

Cloud-Based Stumbling Block
Regarding cloud-based PDM, vendors tell us the stumbling block is not technology but attitudes. Many customers are leery of moving product data outside the firewall, but have for years freely moved financial and supply chain data. PDM will migrate to cloud-based services when vendors present customers with a trifecta of strong security, quick ROI, and eye-popping ease of use. §