Building a Playbook for Agile Product Data Management in Manufacturing

Oleg Shilovitsky
Oleg Shilovitsky
14 February, 2023 | 7 min for reading
Building a Playbook for Agile Product Data Management in Manufacturing

In today’s manufacturing landscape, data is a critical asset that can make or break a company’s success. Manufacturing companies are facing the highest level of complexity coming from the competition, cost pressure, supply chain, regulation, and many others. Innovative companies realized that digital transformation is not an option anymore, but a way to survive and win a future competitive game. And data is the lifeblood of efficient digital transformation.

However, despite its importance, many manufacturing companies and design engineers still rely on outdated methods of data management, such as leaving data in local drives and Excel spreadsheets, sharing data using emails, and not focusing on how to organize information to make it seamlessly available to everyone. Seeing these companies tell us that “they are too busy” to figure out how to manage information is a digital transformation crime that can hinder progress and bring companies to the point they won’t be able to operate in an efficient way, missing delivery dates, paying the extra cost to suppliers and missing their compliance and regulatory objectives.

Not Controlling Your Product Data Is A Crime

You need to control the data. Not doing it brings too many problems. Relying on local drives and Excel spreadsheets to manage data results in a host of issues. First and foremost, it can be difficult to keep track of changes and updates to the data, leading to errors and inaccuracies. Additionally, local drives and Excel spreadsheets can only be accessed by one person at a time, making collaboration between teams difficult and inefficient. Even though modern spreadsheet applications allow you to share documents, these Excels are still files that don’t understand and control fundamental dependencies of product information. Using a screw in multiple BOMs managed as spreadsheets lead to data duplications and mistakes. This can lead to delays and mistakes that can negatively impact your product development process.

Furthermore, relying on local drives and Excel spreadsheets is prone to data loss due to hardware failures, accidental deletions, and other issues. This can result in a loss of recent changes in CAD files, overwritten Excels mistakenly entered part cost and many other pieces of information. The best backup won’t organize your product information in a consistent way and you will lose your time and resources.

So, what can manufacturing companies and design engineers do to avoid these situations? My recommendation to all engineers, hardware teams, and manufacturing companies is to think about your product data management playbook. This playbook is a set of guidelines and procedures for how data should be stored, accessed, and managed within an organization. This playbook should include policies around how data needs to manage, backup and recovered, access control by multiple team members, collaboration, and data quality criteria.

How To Implement Product Data Management Playbook?

Implementing a data management playbook is not an easy task, but it is critical for the success of a manufacturing company or design engineering team. It requires a commitment to change, a willingness to invest in the right tools and technology, and a focus on continuous improvement. However, the benefits of a comprehensive data management playbook are many and it starts from simply a good feeling by all team members that data is under control and won’t be lost, overwritten, or forgotten. The ROI behind that blazingly fast comes from data accuracy, on-time component ordering, controlling data history, revisions, cost, and many other attributes of product information, engineering efficiency, and many other improvements.

5 Elements of Data Management Playbook

From the experience of working with many engineering and hardware teams, and helping manufacturing companies of different sizes, here are my five essential elements for the product data management playbook that can be applied to any organization.

1. Product Data Storage and Backup:

This element should outline how to manage product data, where to store it, how to back it up, and how to manage changes. This should include guidelines on where backups are stored, how often they are tested, and how long backups are kept. Depending on technologies, data management, and backups can be simplified by using modern technologies (I will talk about it later).

2. Data Access and Security:

Security of the information is a big deal. You don’t want to mess up sharing RFQs information between competing vendors, and you also don’t want to mistakenly share your cost information with the customers or share confidential information with a very important IP with someone outside the organization. Security and access control should outline the policies around who can access the data and how that access is managed. It should also cover how data is encrypted or otherwise secured and any logging or auditing that is done to ensure data security.

3. Technology and Tools:

The choice of tools to manage product information plays a critical role in the entire process of product development and manufacturing. This should include guidelines on which software or hardware tools are used, how they are maintained, and how upgrades or replacements are managed. It should also include guidelines on any training or education that is required for team members to use the tools effectively. Selecting the right PDM/PLM tools can be a huge differentiator in the efficiency of your teams and ability to deliver products on time and with a predictable cost. This is where you define the core elements of your product lifecycle management strategy, choose your CAD software data management tools, and define how to manage product-related data.

4. Collaboration and Workflow:

Product development and manufacturing is teamwork. You should define how teams collaborate on product data and how the process is managed. This should include guidelines on how CAD files, other documents, and BOM data is shared between teams, how ECO/ECR are tracked and approved, and how the data can flow between teams and organization to support the entire product development and overall product lifecycle management process.

5. Data Quality and Regulations:

Don’t forget about data quality and many regulation processes these days. How to ensure data includes all updated elements of information, appropriate revisions, and validation is a big task. Hope is not a strategy when your customers need to conform to some regulations.

How Does Your Company Benefit From the Agile Product Data Management Playbook?

Just having a single source of truth can solve many problems in product development and manufacturing. A typical manufacturing company often struggles to manage product data, CAD designs, and bill of materials (BOM). However, having a robust PLM tool can solve the problem and be a critical element of success.

By implementing the right PLM tool you can effectively manage product data, CAD designs, and BOM. Here are a few reasons why this is so important:

  1. Save time on data and file management
  2. Make data shareable and Improve collaboration
  3. Reduced Errors of data re-entering and duplications
  4. Easier Data Retrieval – data is available to everyone.
  5. Enhanced Decision Making, which is becoming the main outcome of proper data management and collaboration.

By implementing a product data management playbook, product development teams can ensure that their data is properly managed, protected, and used to its fullest potential.

What are elements of agile product data management and how to make it different? The key element of OpenBOM platform is a combination of three important elements:

  • Cloud multi-tenant data management system
  • Flexible data model 
  • Seamless data sharing
  • Powerful data integration 
  • Concurrent licensing 

A combination of these capabilities gives you a powerful tool that you can start implementing step by step growing and improving your way of working with data and digitally transforming your business. 


Leaving data in local drives and Excel spreadsheets is a digital transformation crime that can negatively impact a manufacturing company or design engineering team. Data inefficiency leads to mistakes, increased costs, delays, team struggle, and product development challenges. The solution is to implement an efficient product data management playbook that includes a selection of the right technologies, and defining policies and procedures for data management access control, collaboration, and data quality. By doing so, manufacturing companies can unlock the full potential of their data and gain a competitive advantage in product development and manufacturing.

At OpenBOM we help manufacturing companies create and implement their product data management playbook by providing technologies and training to get up to speed fast and focus on design innovation instead of Excel and CAD file data management.

REGISTER FOR FREE and start a free trial to check how OpenBOM can help.

Best, Oleg 

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