SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 Top 5 Enhancements

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 is Here!

SOLIDWORKS PDM 2020 Service Pack 5 has been released. You know what that means. Now we can focus on all of the great improvements we see with SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021!

With so many changes happening with the latest release, there’s a lot to unpack. Today, let’s go through my top 5 enhancements for SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021.

1. Change Column Sets in Windows Explorer

In PDM 2021, quickly change column sets in Windows Explorer with a simple right-click

Let’s start off with a bang! It’s not new that we can customize our columns in Windows Explorer. What’s new is that we can customize the column sets under specific folders! With SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021, you can quickly switch between column sets with a right-click.

I’m a huge fan of this enhancement. Imagine you’re moving between folders and need different information based on the folder you’re in. Sounds reasonable to me. Well previously, you had to define a column set with everything and sift through the results. Now, you can define different sets for each scenario and quickly flip back and forth.

2. Treehouse in Where Used and Contains

A few of my colleagues might disagree with me on this, but a graphical Where Used and Contains is pretty nice. Let me walk you through my thinking. First, think about whenever you open an assembly. One of the early things you do is look at the structure and work out how things are set up in the model tree. Of course, you could use an indented view of the Contains tab, but you still have to work with the columns to read the information. Now, imagine a scenario where you can look at a thumbnail image and see the relationships for every part. You don’t have to comb through the contains tab to find that one component. Instead, it’s right in front of you, easier to find than a year ago.Treehouse view makes part relationships easier to visualize.

3. Cut-list Items in Computed BOMs

Cut-list items can be included in computed bills of materials with 2021.I made the point on our Data Management Roundtable episode of InPOD, but this feature is huge. Cut-list items have always been difficult to include in a PDM Bill of Materials. Well, with SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021, there’s a check box in the Bill of Materials tab to include both derived part references AND cut list references.

You’ve been able to see information about cut lists in the Contains tab for a while now. However, now you don’t have to use the Contains tab to get what you actually need in a bill of materials. It also means that if you do use the bill of materials tab that you don’t have to manually enter the necessary information. Fewer clicks for you and me both, I like it!

4. Equations in File Properties

Adding equations to custom properties gives you added flexibility for your models and drawings.This is a SOLIDWORKS enhancement but it definitely ties into PDM for 2021. One of the great things about data cards is that you can quickly see information and get it out of files. You can search based on that data as well, making it easier to find the files you need. However, there’s always been a limitation associated with data cards because they are tied to your SOLIDWORKS custom properties.

So, imagine a scenario where you are calculating the cost of a component based on the mass. Prior to the 2021 release, you didn’t really have a great way of calculating that with file properties. Now, you can use equations and place those into you SOLIDWORKS custom properties and have that carry over into PDM. Simply dive into the Custom Properties for your models/drawings/assemblies and use properties like the Bounding Box Width to calculate the total length of stock you need.

5. Performance Enhancements

I talked with Will Kefauver on the CATI team a few weeks ago about the What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2021. One of the things he pointed out was that SOLIDWORKS R&D spends a lot of time on performance updates. In the case of the 2021 release, that number was around 60%!

Now, let’s talk about how that really applies to you. For PDM, that means you’re going to see faster adding of files. How much faster? Try between 1.5 and 3 times faster! So when your engineer forgets to save the file in the vault initially, it’s okay. Now, he/she can add the file to the vault manually and it won’t take as long as it did before. This is also great news for new PDM users. If you have thousands of files that you want to add to the vault, the operation is significantly faster, meaning you can get to work sooner than before!

Finally, the check-in and change state operations are approximately 25% faster than before. That may not seem like a lot, but consider that thousand part assembly you just checked in. Instead of that taking 4 minutes to check in and change state, now that’s 3 minutes. Every minute counts and the performance enhancements for SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 help you save every possible minute you can.


SOLIDWORKS PDM 2021 is a huge release. There are fantastic quality of life enhancements like the cut-list items in a bill of materials. Additionally, significant performance enhancements lead to a better user experience and a more productive workflow. Of course, I didn’t cover everything that I love about 2021, but it’s a start. Be sure to check out the What’s New in SOLIDWORKS 2021 PDF to see all of latest enhancements!


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