PDM vs PIM: The Key Differences

Technology provides essential systems to organize and handle product-related data throughout a product’s lifecycle. It automates time-consuming steps from conception through to the end user, maintaining consistency, enabling for collaboration, and creating audit trails for users. However, it can be difficult to understand what systems should be used and when. Two of the most commonly confused systems are product data management (PDM) and product information management (PIM) software. So, we aim to position PDM vs PIM to nail down the differences.

While both are designed to improve data management and streamline operations, they serve different purposes, catering to distinct aspects of the product lifecycle. Here, we delve into the key differences between PDM and PIM to help you understand which system is best suited for your business needs.

1) Understanding PDM vs PIM

First, let’s look at the definitions of PDM and PIM:


Product data management systems are commonly used in industries such as manufacturing, engineering, and construction. The software manages complex technical product-related information. In effect, they are used at the early stages of a product’s lifecycle by development/engineering teams.  From concept to design and engineering to manufacturing, the software creates audit trails critical for design decisions. Basically, they act as a secure repository for all proprietary product-related information, including CAD files, technical specifications, version control, and change management, ensuring seamless collaboration among engineering teams.


Product information management systems manage and distribute downstream marketing and sales-related product information while serving the upstream needs of product information management. Essentially, they focus on organizing and enriching product data to present accurate and consistent information across various sales channels. The layout of the data is designed for the customer. Whether it is via eCommerce websites, marketplaces, or print catalogs, a PIM helps businesses maintain data consistency. In addition, it improves product visibility and enhances customer experience.

Now, we proceed more in-depth on PDM vs PIM.

2) Differences in data focus

Data management and information management sound awfully close. However, while the terms data and information are often used interchangeably when applied to these systems, the terms become quite distinct. In the case of PDM, “data” focuses on technical engineering and design data used during the product development phase. When we look at “information” for PIM, the information relates to product descriptions that transform technical data into consumer-friendly form. The focus for the two are quite different:


PDM primarily focuses on technical data, such as 3D models, product configurations, and design revisions. Its purpose is to ensure engineering and design teams work with the latest and most accurate data, facilitating efficient collaboration, reducing errors in product design, and ensuring production doesn’t begin until the prototype is perfected.


On the other hand, PIM focuses on marketing and sales-related data, including product descriptions, images, videos, pricing, marketing attributes, and translations. Its primary function is to ensure that product information is up-to-date, relevant, and consistent across all marketing channels to enhance the customer’s understanding of the product and facilitate informed purchasing decisions.

3) Varying end users

You’re probably already getting the gist of who the different end users are for the two systems. The primary users of PDM are engineers, designers, and other technical teams involved in product development. Therefore, it is a crucial tool for maintaining version control. This includes tracking changes and ensuring that all stakeholders are working with the correct and latest product data.

Also, it enables collaboration across teams involved in different stages of production. For example, it creates audit trails essential for informed visibility, decision making, and accountability.

With a PIM, users tend to be marketing, sales, and eCommerce teams involved in the creation and distribution of product information. In turn, the PIM maintains a single source of truth for product descriptions ensuring customers have accurate and consistent product information. Consequently, you can effectively promote products, manage online catalogs, and respond to customer inquiries.

4) Different stages of the product lifecycle

Finally, in the PDM vs PIM analysis, each system caters to different product lifecycle stages. The PDM is most relevant during the early stages of the product lifecycle, including concept development, engineering and prototyping. It improves efficiency throughout the development stage, ensuring that the product’s technical foundation is robust before moving into production.

As a result, it saves money wasted through trial and error during the manufacturing process. PIM comes into play during the later stages of the product lifecycle when the focus shifts to marketing, sales, and distribution, helping to maximize the product’s visibility and reach in the market.

A PIM easily manages data feeds from both internal and external sources and can merge data to help teams formulate high-quality product descriptions. For example, PIMs can source the attributes of product data that are of importance to consumers from a supplier’s PDM and use it to enrich product descriptions.

PIMs serve as a centralized hub for product information ready for use in the creation of product marketing materials or for uploading to sales or distribution channels, providing an invaluable tool for marketing, sales, and eCommerce teams.

PDMs are a repository for proprietary product-related information critical in the conception, development, and manufacture of products perfect for engineers, designers, and other technical teams.