Product Data Management and Software Data Management Integration : State of the Art

By | June 20, 2015

1 PDM Conferences, Leading Research Groups, and Organizations
When it comes to PDM the European key conference is the Product Data Technology (PDT) Europe conference where researcher, practitioner, and vendor meet. This conferences focus mostly on PDM and related areas. Another newly started-up group is the Product Life Cycle Interest Group (PLMIG [53]). The interest group is open to all individuals and organizations that are serious about improving the use and development of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). The Group officially started operating on January 1, 2004.
There are several PDM resources on the Internet such as CimData [44], Object Management Group (OMG) [45], John Stark Associates [46], CADCAMnet [47], and Product Data Management Information Center (PDMIC) [52]
CIMdata [44] is a company providing PLM consultation and program support, research, and education for both industrial organizations and supplier of technologies. The CIMdata Web page includes references to many articles, PDM and PLM vendors, standards, and similar. It also contains a list of interesting magazines and periodicals. CIMdata also organizes conferences or sponsor conferences in the United States and Europe on topics related to PDM.
The OMG [45] is an open membership, not-for-profit consortium that produces and maintains computer industry specifications for interoperable enterprise applications. The membership includes virtually every large company in the computer industry, and hundreds of smaller ones. Most of the companies that shape enterprise and Internet computing today are represented on the Board of Directors. The flagship specification is the multi-platform Model Driven Architecture (MDA), recently underway but already well known in the industry. It is based on the modeling specifications the MOF, the UML, XMI, and CWM. OMG’s own middleware platform is CORBA, which includes the Interface Definition Language OMG IDL, and protocol IIOP. The Object Management Architecture (OMA) defines standard services that will carry over into MDA work shortly.
The John Stark Associates Company [46] makes available a number of references to introductions to PDM, PDM frequency asked questions (FAQs), PDM implementations, PDM performance reviews, PDM systems, and PDM publications. The Web page also includes references to PLM, CAD management, collaborative product development, collaborative engineering, product development knowledge management, and similar. The company publishes an electronic publication, 2PLM e-zine, every 2 weeks with the latest news related to all these areas.
Although the main focus of the CADCAMnet [47] resource is on the CAD/CAM domain, they include a PDM page with many articles of current interest.
The PDMIC [52] is an organization assembling relevant information and assisting in the development and evolution of the PDM industry. The ambition of PDMIC is to concentrate all information relating PDM in one place. This includes information about the latest PDM products and technologies and about trends in PDM and related domains. It contains many articles, both introductory and advanced, within the PDM domain.
PDM as a research field is not yet fully consistent. There are no unifying theories and the definitions are sometimes vague. This may be because the scope of PDM is wider than that of many other research areas. Research in the field of PDM has a wide scope and has to cover more areas than information systems and data management methods only. New trends within PDM are to open up for managing the whole product irrespective if it consists of component developed of hardware or software. The new enhanced view is reflecting the management of the product life cycle (PLM). PLM is an approach to drive product and process innovation and improvement [72].
Lindberg [28] defined the area of technical information systems, where a definition for PDM systems was presented. This subject of interest earlier sorted under other areas. The research in the area of computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM) shares many of its visions for management of product information with the PDM area. The issue is also of interest in books for CAD/CAM [32]. The first academic paper, known to the author, that explicitly mentions PDM was presented by Cornelissen [33] at ICED-93, who describes a method for supporting application of information technology architecture for given business situations. Johansson, G. [34] studied the effects of PDM on product development. Some specific improvements such as better search capabilities and improved project management control are pointed out and some useful advice for a PDM introduction project is also given.
Recently research in PDM is utilized in fractions of the total domain. How data is represented and structured is an important issue. To be able to discuss these matters, theories for the structuring of products are needed. At Chalmers University of Technology, they focus mostly on the Product Modeling and Engineering Change Management part of PDM. In [19] they conclude modeling of information management systems is crucial for systems supporting product development, i.e. managing the information model describing the product itself. There are different demands for both decomposition of the product structure and the functionality of the information systems used resulting in the domains using several different information systems. Keeping the product structures updated and using workflow support for the engineering change management process is difficult when more than one information system is used.
2 Key conferences for SCM is the workshop Software/System Configuration Management. The goal for the SCM workshop is to provide discussion forum for practitioner, vendors, and researcher. Practitioner reports about the SCM systems they use, either commercial or in-house built, vendors discuss new ideas and features, and researchers have the opportunity to discuss their approaches and aspects on theory and practice. The Euromicro is an international scientific, engineering and educational organization dedicated to advancing the arts, sciences and applications of Information Technology. Euromicro has been devoted to promoting, discussing, disseminating knowledge, information and skills, in academia, industry, government and in education. A major focus is to organize conferences and workshops in Computer Science and Computer Engineering, covering topics such as real-time systems, parallel and distributed processing, multimedia, robotics, telecommunications, software engineering, computer architecture and hardware. It publishes the Journal of Systems Architecture (JSA).

There are several SCM resources on the Internet such as CM Yellow Page [61], CM II Users Groups [62], and FAQs relating to CM [63].
A good starting point when exploring SCM is the CM Yellow Page site. The page includes a number of white papers and technical papers relating to SCM, references to other SCM pages, an extensive list of commercial and noncommercial tools, future conferences and seminars, consultation and education, and job opportunities.
The CM II Users Groups has an excellent CM resource guide on-line page. This page includes a number of references to articles, reports, and proceedings, journals and newsletters, books,, conferences, providers of education/training, evaluation of PDM and software CM tools, copies of standards, lists of organizations, user groups and research groups, CM software vendors, standards, guidelines and position papers, and SCM Web sites.
CM FAQs presents many questions in a wide range, from the very general to concrete, and gives concise and precise answers. The page also lists a number of SCM references, such as SCM books, and a list of SCM tools and vendors.

Leading research groups in SCM are the Adele research group in Grenoble, France led by Jacky Estublier. The group is focusing on, among a number of different areas, federation of SCM systems, software processes, and component based software engineering. Another leading research group is led by R. Conradi at University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, with main focus on software quality and software process improvement, as well as process modeling/enactment, software architecture, configuration management, OO and reuse, and distributed systems.

As the software industry continues to grow rapidly, producing larger and more complex software, the need for software management also grows. Only to mention academic research would be far too narrow, because corporate research had contributed a great deal of results and ideas. In fact, the SCM community owes much of its liveliness to a healthy and competitive mix of researchers and developers from both academia and industry. Configuration Management was first developed in the aerospace industry in the 1950s, when production of spacecraft experienced difficulties caused by inadequately documented engineering changes. SCM is CM tailored to systems, or portions of systems, that consist predominantly of software [35]. Originally, SCM duty was to manage the many files involved in a software product, their versions and the building of the system out of these files. Originally, each file was individually managed as a tree of versions (revisions and branches) following the SCCS [36] from Bell Labs and from Purdue University RCS [37] systems. Surprisingly, these systems are still at the core of almost all commercial SCM systems. SCM system managed configuration, which is a “consistent” collection of file versions. Only recently, with the advent of task-based approaches, versioning evolved again integrating change set features, but on an RCS based internal representation. As software systems have grown to include many thousands of components, keeping track of the pieces and how they fit together has become a difficult but critically important task. SCM systems accomplish this task with system modeling facilities. System modeling was originally used to help rebuild a system from source files (Make [38]), and even now, in most SCM systems, the makefile is the only “system model”. With so many components and versions, a configuration selection mechanism is needed to select which versions to include in a new configuration. A new configuration is built starting from a reference consistent configuration called a baseline. The baseline is “checked-out” in the file system (it is a work-space) on which are performed a few changes. Once tested, the modified baseline is “checked-in” as the new configuration. This simple schema is the base of almost all SCM systems, with extensions for concurrent engineering support. Work spaces are “naturally” independent directory hierarchies, therefore they can be used to provide areas where users can perform their job isolated (or insulated) from colleagues activities.
3 PDM and SCM Conferences, Leading Research Groups, and Organizations
Conferences focuses on both domains, they are rare. The Asia-Pacific Software Engineering Conference is i.e. interested in product line management, and project management, a related domain. The Conference on Software Engineering, ICSE, is the premier software engineering conference, providing a forum for researchers, practitioners and educators to present and discuss the most recent innovations, trends, experiences, and concerns in the field of software engineering. The Institute of International Research (IIR) [64] sets up now and then up conferences related to CM and to PDM and SCM.
Leading research groups in integrating PDM and SCM are not many. The Adele group from France who is studying the federation of SCM systems, but could be federation of any kind of systems. The group at Machine Design Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden, led by Martin Törngren has recently started up to study processes, tools and technology, and organizations.
There are some conferences on software processes. The International Conference on Product Focused Software Process Improvement (PROFES) focus mainly on
The International Conference on Software Process (ICSP) is mainly focused on software process improvement (SPI) motivated by product and service quality needs. The International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering (ISESE) focuses on the processes, design and structure of empirical studies as well as the results of specific studies. These studies may vary from controlled experiments to field studies, from quantitative to qualitative studies. The conference track Software Process and Product Improvement (SPPI) concentrates on processes, methods, and tools improving software quality. Topics of interest include software process assessment and improvement, organizational and business views to process improvement, Process modeling, composition, and enactment, and cost/benefit optimization of product and process improvement.

At the forefront seem to be the issues of unifying SCM and PDM, managing component-based software development [22, 23], and understanding the relationship between SCM system models and software architecture [39, 40]. It is clear why these issues are currently being addressed: SCM no longer is a stand-alone discipline.
The very first paper addressing interoperability is [5] concluding:
(1) In product engineering, there is a clear distinction between the design, called product model or product data, and the corresponding real artifact (a bicycle for example). In software engineering, the source code is the model but a compiler transforms at almost no cost the design into the product, which is also a (set of) files. The software is both the model and the product.
(2) The structure of the product, the nature of each component, the way two components fit together are highly constrained by the reality in PDM (a bicycle has 2 wheels). In Software Engineering (SE), all this almost arbitrary, software is an intellectual construction. Worse, in SE, the technologies and methods are evolving very fast; no one of today standards will survive more than a few years.
Their overall conclusion is that an integration of today’s tools is not suitable due to too many differences in the concepts. It will require fundamental research and major experimentation.
Conradi and Westfechtel conclude that many concepts are similar, but there are some differences concerning the objects to be managed [21]. As a consequence, some sophisticated features for modern SCM systems are not applicable in Engineering Data Management (EDM) systems, another name for PDM systems. They continue their conclusion with the necessity of cooperation between the domains to support the development of hybrid products consisting of both hardware and software components in a uniform way.
In [41] J. Estublier et al. discuss how to provide a high level view where the application can be described, independently from the real tools specificities, and where the application behavior, services and properties can be described at that level of abstraction (process control, paradigm control, security and so on). They continue their discussion in providing a meta-model for interoperability between systems in [42], where they introduce a new approach to SCM in which the system is built from, potentially heterogeneous, existing pieces, with assembly mechanisms that enforce high-level properties. The approach does not provide a simple SCM tool, but a family of tools. Their experiment system shows that very advanced and state of the art features easily could be included into the federated system.
In [43] the M. Törngren et al. discuss that the important role of mechatronics is to bridge the gaps between related engineering sciences.

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