Data management for manufacturers – more than a document library

By DavidChadwick

Data management systems speed product development, boost product quality, and cut time to market and lifecycle costs. But what size systems do manufacturers need? This blog post is published in conjunction with Design World and our software partner Kenesto.

Effective data management is critical for successful product development and manufacturing. With an effective data management system in place, designers can create innovative, high-quality products quickly and efficiently, and these products can be manufactured with minimal errors and rework. But companies floundering amid large volumes of historical data and even lost or irretrievable designs can get caught in a quagmire that slows them down or, at worst, pulls them under. That may sound extreme but companies that don’t have a way to effectively manage their design data face lengthy design cycles, loss of profit, and general paralysis.

Poor data management makes for wasted design time and other inefficiencies. Time is lost in recreating existing designs that can’t be retrieved or can’t be interpreted. Inefficiencies come about when users waste unnecessary time on data management itself, perhaps checking designs in and out of a home-grown company system and inadvertently overwriting designs in the process. Once a change is made on that type of system, it can be impossible to track down how errors were introduced.

non-prod dm tasks2.jpgAccording to a study by independent research firm Tech-Clarity, technical personnel at more than 26 percent of 2,000 companies surveyed spend at least 20 percent of their time on data management tasks that bring no value to the business. That’s more than one day each week, per employee! Overall the respondents declared 15 percent of their technical staff’s time was wasted on nonproductive tasks.


From the same Tech-Clarity survey, the chart below shows some of the main areas where manufacturers are experiencing problems in the area of data management. And top of this list is that searching for and retrieving data is too time consuming – forty percent of Tech-Clarity survey respondents said they have problems in this area. They often need to check multiple servers, locations, and sites and use multiple log-ins when looking for data. If the data is lost for good, designers may have to recreate it, wasting time they could be spending on new design projects.

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But searching isn’t the only negative impact on design time. Those surveyed also said everyday tasks can be too time consuming without a good data management system in place. Issues related to tracking engineering changes and release processes also contribute to wasted time and delayed time to market. And this is true even for the smallest companies, who report similar problems to their larger counterparts, especially when working with complex products.


Design is becoming more complex and faster paced and data management systems provide the capabilities to manage this fast-moving, complex environment. The same study found that leading manufacturers are one-third more likely than their counterparts to extend their data management systems beyond simply managing data. These leaders also use their systems to manage design release and engineering changes.

The systems increase efficiency and give designers time refine projects and increase innovation and throughput, as they’re not spending time managing data.


Manufacturers with effective data management systems in place:

  • Are more able to find the data they need, share it with others, manage their design projects, and provide the correct data to manufacturing

  •  Quickly share product knowledge with other departments

  •  Control and secure product-related data

  •  Easily find and reuse information

  •  Spend 25 percent less time on nonproductive data management tasks


One question those looking for improved data management ask is: why not use a comprehensive product lifecycle management (PLM) system? One simple answer: You may not need that much fire power today. Companies with those tools in place often get—and pay for—more system than they need. PLM can be likened to a sumo wrestler: they’re big, they’re heavy and you need to study them before making the correct move.

Definitely check out simpler document management tools for your business, no matter its size. For example Solid Edge offers a scalable set of data management solutions. And Kenesto offers simple cloud based document management. Smaller systems are more manageable and more accessible while still addressing the key data management needs of manufacturers.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at