We've had a love-hate relationship with the SOLIDWORKS Workgroup PDM product since it's inception. This was a free product meant to address the issue of Data Management for users who did not have the need nor the budget for Enterprise PDM. Luckily, in SW2016, we were given an alternative to Workgroup PDM, called SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard. This wasn't just a cursory name change. SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard was a ground-up new software that was more of a defeatured version of PDM Pro (formerly Enterprise PDM since SW2016 as well) that operated on a Microsoft SQL database, which Workgroup PDM could not boast.
This tool was a great intro to PDM for a lot of folks, but it wasn't without its issues. When companies started to grow and add designers, the Workgroup PDM vault became problematic. It wasn't a scalable option beyond a certain point, and Workgroup PDM has often become a liability for these companies.
Whenever SOLIDWORKS "sunsets" a product such as Workgroup, the users are given a long runway to deal with the transition. In this case, Workgroup PDM was given a two year transition period. That was over two years ago, and SW2018 is the first release of SOLIDWORKS to not support Workgroup PDM. This has already forced some companies to make the switch to either PDM Standard or PDM Professional, but we predict that the real crunch-time is going to be in Q4 of 2018.
It's not uncommon for design houses and engineering firms to delay the adoption of a newer version of SOLIDWORKS until SP 4 or 5 is released. There are several reasons for this trend, but it boils down to the fact that a lot of companies aren't willing to gamble on new functionality at the expense of potential bugs or unforeseen issues. Therefor, there are thousands of companies scheduled to upgrade to SW2018 in the next few months, and quite a few of those companies are currently using Workgroup PDM and will essentially be forced to adopt a new PDM system.
The silver lining to this situation is that PDM Standard is an amazing product, and the first step in the right direction toward adopting PDM Professional. Still, PDM Professional may be out of reach for some, just as before, but PDM Standard bridges the gap between no data management, and fully-featured data management. The high points of PDM are in the Standard edition - a central, secure repository for CAD data, full revision control, check-in/check-out functionality, data cards that reference custom SW properties, and much more. The best part is that you may already be entitled to a PDM Standard vault. If your tier of SOLIDWORKS is either Professional or Premium, then you already own a seat of SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard.
We really love how SOLIDWORKS has made the upgrade path from PDM Standard to PDM Professional as easy as can be. Since the underlying database infrastructure is SQL based, no migration is necessary, just upgrade the server and clients though the SOLIDWORKS Installation Manager, and you're all set. We often get asked, "when should I consider upgrading to PDM Professional if I implement PDM Standard now?"
The markers you should be aware of that signify PDM Professional is needed are ERP inter-connectivity with the vault, the necessity for multiple workflows with different file types, a large user base of 10 or more (SQL Express has its limits here), or serial number generation. If these are must-haves for you and your company, PDM Professional is your best option.
Major ground-shifts in CAD software don't happen that often, with good reason. There are several considerations to be made when switching up platforms and processes, and it's our job to make sure that you're aware of all of these considerations. Preparation is the best policy, and we're running out of time to prepare for this shift from Workgroup PDM. We'd love to hear all about your specific PDM situation, and provide some potential solutions that will aid in productivity, and ultimately save your design team some of the most precious resource of all: time.