How to Create and Manage Effective Technical Data Packages

a person reviewing web based technical data packages on their mobile device

Anyone who’s ever had to share technical design, manufacturing, or other production information will understand the value of technical data packages (TDPs). Designed to gather all the necessary information required to construct, operate, and manage a product or component, TDPs give manufacturers a streamlined method of sharing and accessing data, while ensuring that data remains up to date and consistent. A recipe-based approach for creating TDPs offers a repeatable advantage over more traditional ad-hoc approaches, which typically involve searching through one or more systems for the right content and sharing documents over email or other untraced file sharing applications — a process that can be both slow and cumbersome and lead to both miscommunications and mistakes.

In fact, this traditional approach to technical data package creation is why 72 percent of manufacturers currently feel ineffective. Despite this, TDPs – which were originally a part of U.S. DOD acquisition programs – have become a standard component for programs across the DOD and beyond. Because of this, it’s worth reviewing in full how to create and manage TDPs — both web-based and 3D PDF formats. After all, manufacturers that can effectively leverage TDPs will be able to find and share critical information faster, easing their path toward more productive and effective collaboration.

Understanding the Components of a Technical Data Package

Knowing what makes up a TDP is the first step toward taking full advantage of them. In general, TDPs will consist of any documents essential to the design configuration, performance requirements, and procedures needed to ensure a product or component operates according to its intended purpose. This may include the bill of materials, drawings, models, manufacturing instructions, specifications, quality information, and other technical documentation.

Let’s break down some of the items that typically constitute a technical data package:

  • Drawings and models: These can be either 2D engineering drawings or 3D geometric models that contain all the necessary information for fully visualizing and manufacturing a part or product. This typically includes product manufacturing information (PMI) such as geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), surface finish, and material specifications. Depending on design practices, these may also include any of the information below. 
  • Specifications: This may include detailed technical requirements for materials and other criteria, or performance specifications that define the functional requirements for the item, the environment it operates in, and any other related characteristics. 
  • Tooling and associated lists: This will note any unique tools that are required to manufacture and/or maintain part or product, such as jigs, molds, or patterns. It may also specify any other equipment or material that are deemed essential to maintain performance or compliance.
  • Manufacturing instructions: This is a description of the critical processes involved with producing an item and/or the individual parts that make up the product.
  • Quality assurance criteria: This refers to any documented requirements, procedures, and criteria deemed necessary for demonstrating that a part or product conforms to design requirements.
  • Packaging details: These are the instructions that should be followed when packaging an item for delivery. They may be included in order to protect the item from environmental, physical, or mechanical damage.
  • Bill of materials (BOM): This refers to a list of all the materials and components that are required for the project. The BOM typically consists of part numbers, descriptions, quantities needed, and the suppliers responsible for them. It might also include the unit cost of each item, among other details.

Best Practices for Creating Effective Technical Data Packages

When it comes to creating TDPs that enable anyone to produce parts or products accurately and efficiently, the secret may just be consistency. With so much vital information contained within them, as well as the complex nature of technical data, it can be easy for essential elements to go missing. And if that happens, it may mean the difference between a product that ships on time and on budget, and one that doesn’t.

With that in mind, here are some best practices you should rely on when creating your TDPs:

  • Use reusable recipes: Make certain nothing is overlooked by specifying the exact processes that should be used when importing and processing technical information. This will ensure all data is transformed and presented in the same format, while preventing the need to repackage or reformat any of it – a process that might otherwise take hours.
  • Use configurable layout and behavior templates: Once your data is processed, don’t make your users search around for what they want. Instead, ensure a more consistent experience by employing templates that showcase your data in the same way. This will also eliminate the need for any DIY formatting, which can quickly become burdensome.
  • Compliment 2D with 3D: It’s common for many downstream users to prefer just the 2D drawing or blueprint. After all, they are the more traditional format and are a long-standing standard on the shop floor. However, adding a 3D model alongside them as reference can provide added context and clarifications for everyone, ensuring that the end product is produced or quoted right the first time.
  • Take advantage of MBD annotations: Short for “model-based definition,” MBD allows you to create and manage annotations directly inside 3D models. Whether you use minimally annotated models or advanced MBD annotations, this makes 3D models easier to interpret and more likely to be used downstream, and can even eliminate the need for 2D drawings altogether, further streamlining your TDP creation process.
  • Automate it all: TDPs are no exception to the fact that the vast majority of their errors are introduced by users. That’s why automating as much of their creation as possible – from information extraction to their publication – will help both ensure accuracy and increase efficiency. 

Technological Tools for TDP Management

Once your TDPs have been created, they must be properly stored and managed so that users can easily view, share, and edit them as needed. Although it may be tempting to simply plug these TDPs back into your PLM software, this can actually limit their usefulness. For one, the PLM system is often the very place where people are trying to extract data to begin with, which means putting the TDP back in there can make that data difficult to find or use. Many PLM systems also lack adequate features necessary for proper TDP management. 

Instead, when considering TDP management, you should look for platforms that include the following: 

  • Communication and collaboration features: TDPs aren’t frozen in time. Instead, they consist of living documents that often require ongoing contributions from various departments and teams. Without the ability to collaborate and work directly within the TDP, people will have to utilize external workflows and means of communication. This can quickly prove cumbersome and may even introduce errors. Instead, the best TDP management platforms will allow users to review and make updates, discuss problems, and answer questions – all within the context of the data.
  • Security and privacy tools: TDPs often contain sensitive and proprietary data related to designs, processes, and technologies. This makes the ability to properly secure that information essential. A good TDP management platform should make it easy to ensure only authorized users can access and edit documents. Ideally, they should also come with additional measures for facilitating data integrity, such as role-based access controls, view/print dynamic watermarking, and traceable audit trails.
  • Integration capabilities: As new data and documents need to be integrated into existing TDPs, it can be useful when they can automatically connect with and understand the other systems you work with. This may include CAD systems, other PLM and ERP systems, and anything else along the digital thread. In particular, version and workflow synchronization can allow you to maintain PDM/PLM systems as your authoritative source, while giving you the added collaboration features of the TDP platform. This ability can help pay the way toward seamless collaboration and make TDP creation and management much more efficient. Integrations should also extend to your identity management systems or IdP (identity provider) to ensure consistent end-to-end security.
  • Comprehensive automations: There’s no reason automation has to stop at the creation of TDPs. When you can automate multiple aspects of TDP management, such as sharing data with the people who need it and restricting access to those who don’t, you can free up valuable resources for focusing on your priorities. This will help create efficiencies throughout the organization.

Integrating Technical Data Packages into Project Management and Workflow

Ensuring technical data packages continue to add value to your organization can require more than a streamlined creation process or the right management tools. Instead, you’ll need to have a solid understanding of how to fully integrate them into your regular workflow.

A great place to start is by considering how you can get multiple departments to play a role in the management and updating of your TDPs. This is crucial for several reasons. For instance, different departments will each bring their own specialized knowledge to the table. By getting them to weigh in on the documentation and data contained in the TDPs, they can each use their unique expertise to add value. Cross-departmental communication can also make it easier for different departments to align on the objectives for each project associated with a TDP, or to identify risks and work toward solutions. At the very least, consistent communication and collaboration can be a great way to review the accuracy and quality of the information contained within each TDP.

Before any of this can take place, however, you’ll need to ensure that every stakeholder has access to the most current version of the TDP and knows how to effectively track their changes as they revise and update. While the right technical data package management solution can help with this, the following revision control tips will ensure this goes off without a hitch:

  • Nail down your version control procedures: Make sure you put down in writing exactly how new versions should be created, whether this means assigning unique version numbers to each new iteration or creating some kind of central repository for archived versions.
  • Document all your TDP changes: Before stakeholders can even make any changes, it can be a good idea to also establish some kind of system for submitting change requests and proposals. This will ensure all changes are properly reviewed and approved by everyone involved.
  • Maintain open lines of communication: For good measure, assign someone to be responsible for keeping stakeholders from different departments informed about any TDP updates, revisions, and changes. They could even establish regular meetings to review progress and address concerns so that there is consistent alignment.

  • Implement training and awareness programs: At the very least, give stakeholders access to training and education so that they understand the importance of version control and revision management. A little can go a long way in this regard.

Challenges in TDP Management and Solutions

TDPs can be an elegant solution for manufacturers looking for a way to efficiently distribute, manage, and collaborate on complex technical data. Yet they can also come with their share of challenges. Whether this is due to data inconsistencies that stem from a lack of version control, accessibility issues, or difficulty ensuring compliance with industry standards like MIL-STD-31000B, the result can be hidden costs, harmful collaboration gaps, and manufacturing mistakes.

No one wants that, which is why Anark offers practical solutions for creating, publishing, sharing, and managing all your TDPs. Use Anark Workstation to create reusable TDP recipes, Anark Collaborate for TDP management and collaboration, and Anark Publish to automate it all. You get everything you need to take full advantage of TDPs, without the need to understand everything about how they work.

Find out more about all of its features or, better yet, try it out for yourself to see the difference.


What are some of the main components of a technical data package?

While each TDP can vary in terms of the unique data and documents it contains, typical components include 2D and 3D drawings and models, detailed technical requirements for materials and other criteria, unique tools that are required to manufacture and/or maintain part or product, manufacturing instruction and quality assurance criteria, and a bill of materials consisting of all the components required for the project.

What are some best practices for creating technical data packages?

When it comes to creating TDPs anyone can use to produce parts or products both accurately and efficiently, the secret may just be consistency. To help ensure this, you can use reusable recipes that allow you to specify the exact processes that should be used when importing and processing technical information, as well as templates that help you showcase your data in the same way every time. It can also be a good idea to take advantage of MBD annotations and automations.

What are the essential features of a good technical data package management tool?

When considering TDP management, you should look for platforms that include centralized version control capabilities, the ability to properly secure information and control access, and extensive communication and collaboration tools, among other features.

About the Author

Patrick Dunfey
Vice President of Marketing and Sales Enablement
Patrick is an accomplished marketing and sales enablement professional who knows that customers are at the heart of every great innovation. He focuses on driving customer satisfaction and business growth through aligned Product-Marketing-Sales programs. He uses digital systems and data-driven approaches to understand, measure and deliver success, resulting in unparalleled customer experiences and value.  Patrick has 20 years of enterprise software expertise, with specialties in CAD, PLM, ERP, AR/VR and IoT. Prior to joining Anark, Patrick developed and taught a business course on XR value strategy, helping companies identify and realize value using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. During 14 years at PTC, a leading provider of product development software, Patrick led teams responsible for the design, build and launch of an award-winning, state-of-the-art technology experience center resulting in 5X customer meeting growth, and 66% close rates on those meetings; he led the development of a new IoT sales enablement strategy to map business value to enabling technology contributing to 52% YoY IoT revenue growth; and met with over 1000 companies, ranging from SMB to the Fortune 100, to help bridge the gap between technology and customer value. Patrick began his career as a mechanical engineer, working on product design and development projects with Brooks Automation, Arthur D. Little, U.S. Army, Keurig, and others. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University.
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