SolidWorks:HEARD! - Episode 440 - Enterprise PDM Tips and Tricks

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Enterprise PDM Tips and Tricks:

This podcast covers the various approaches, common implementation settings and other tidbits I have used over the past 10+ years of consulting on SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.  Topics covered:

- Best practices for implementations

- Common Data Routing Approaches

- Linking ECOs with CAD data (different workflows)

- Getting the most out of Tasks

- Optional interfaces

- Various add-ins and custom apps

Amazing to look back to 2001 when I first got my hands on Conisio, the former name of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.  Back in those days the product was a 3rd party, had the same Windows Explorer interface but the SW interface was nothing like the fully integrated experience of today. SolidWorks' acquisition of of Conisio in 2006 has brought the product to the next level however successful use of the product is still very tied to proper setup in the early stages.

The name "Enterprise" can come with some negative connotations in terms of implementation time and leaves many with the question, "How many months is this going to take to get working?".  This is typically far from the case but like any tool that is highly configurable, the phased approach allows it to address the Engineering-centric issues and then be grown to bring more neighboring departments into the automation fold.

Another challenging part of implementing EPDM can be determining the scope of control since it overlaps in functionality with many other management systems (ERP/MRP/PLM) within a company.  Today we will touch on some topics and details for common setup and configuration options in EPDM. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 398 - Windows Azure

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Windows Azure:

This podcast covers a process that I started this week to offload any SolidWorks services to a new hosted service provided by Microsoft called Windows Azure.  Topics covered:

- What the heck is Azure?

- What services does this provide?

- What does this have to do with SolidWorks?

- What circumstances does this service make sense for companies.

- My trials with Enterprise PDM and Azure

- Other SolidWorks services might make sense?

After a busy week of EPDM migrations, working remotely and having to use various services for access to internal servers, I decided to use this as an opportunity to dig into the new service by Microsoft.  I have been reading/listen about Microsoft's next platform move to compete with the hosted services provided by Amazon for years.  

With Microsoft's service coming with a 90 day trial and access to all the offerings for a whopping $0, I thought I should test out what can be done.  With so many industries moving to the cloud for many of the server side products, I wanted to test the idea of moving Enterprise PDM to test things like performance and simplicity of deployment.

I can imagine Azure and services like it could provide options to other SolidWorks products like SolidNetwork License manger, WPDM server, Flow Simulation install for batch solving, etc.  I  also recently updated my laptop and installed Office 2013 and share my results of that. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 397 - Workgroup to Enterprise

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Workgroup to Enterprise:

This podcast discuses the challenges and preparation when considering the move from SolidWorks Workgroup PDM to Enterprise PDM.  Although this transition is common, not every transition is the same.  Topics covered:

- When to consider migrating

- How the major differences in the two PDM products factor in

- What is involved in migrating data

- How to prep the move to EPDM

- Types of migration to consider

- Post migration activities

The dynamics of design are changing.  Remote teams, larger data sets, complex change processes, ERP/MRP systems, etc and with that the task of tracking data during design grows in importance.  PDM (Project Data Management) tools have often been looked at as a final resting place (therefore the nickname VAULT).  But as teams work together and data is constantly changing, tracking of file versions and revision schemes during design has become more "In-Process" management.

In the SolidWorks family of products, Workgroup and Enterprise PDM are two products that are used and the question of when to move from WPDM to EPDM is considered when the design process outgrows or strains the workgroup mentality.  Although migration from WPDM to EPDM is a common activity, the process and result are vastly different depending on a number of factors.

Since I am performing a major migration this weekend, I thought it was worth discussing this process and what I see when I work with companies that take this journey.  Migration is not a perfect process but there are a number of things that one can do to ease the stress and allow for a smooth rollout.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 343 - Toolbox, EPDM Friend or Foe?

Toolbox, EPDM Friend or Foe?:

This podcast covers the various ways of integrating SolidWorks Toolbox and Enterprise PDM in order to properly manage those non-revisioned parts created by this hardware generation tool. Topics covered:

- Toolbox options for single and multiple users

- Toolbox part generation options

- Supported methods for integrating Toolbox (full & partial)

- A partial method using EPDM's Dispatch and Toolbox copy parts mode

- Pros and Cons of all methods

SolidWorks Toolbox is one of those add-ins to SolidWorks that users want to use for the idea of it but end up running into issues properly implementing when working with teams of users.  This post is not focused so much of Toolbox's functionality or lack there of but more on how it can be integrated with SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.

Since 2010, EPDM has had integrated support for Toolbox to be fully managed inside the vault, allowing users to share a single Toolbox dataset with the option of replicating it to all sites using EPDM.  Now in a "day forward" approach this sounds great but let's face it, most companies that are moving to EPDM do not have a "day forward" business and want to put their data into EPDM and continue the move forward.  Depending on how Toolbox is currently deployed can have a major impact on the easy on integration.

The one important thing to remember is if you have a group using Toolbox, the first step is to get everyone using the same Toolbox folder and not everyone using their own Toolbox dataset.  This is typically the hardest part since everyone is using their own and selecting which one is going to be the new seed Toolbox is hard.  There is no way to just merge them so someone will win and the rest lose.

Enterprise PDM supports a couple of ways to use Toolbox effectively and one is not supported officially but works OK for the most part so I will share that with you as well. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 341 - EPDM Wish List

EPDM Wish List:

This podcast coves my SolidWorks Enterprise PDM wish list of features I would like to see in future EPDM version to come based on the common request from customers.  Topics covered:

- Tech News followup - SW Support FAQ - July 2011

- Setting revision counters for legacy data

- Jumping or manually skipping revisions

- Notifications based on timers

- Universal web access (non-IE and mobile friendly)

Right after recording last Sunday, Monday SolidWorks pushed out the Support Monthly FAQ and I wanted to go over that before getting into my wish list.  Details on beta and some new new support articles around the release of SolidWorks 2011 SP4. SWSMFAQ is one of the highlight blog posts on the SolidWorks Forum for me and a key part of the tech news I wanted to get out.

This "Wish List" is a short list of common requests from customers of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM that seem to be requested regularly.  Since many customers are typically coming from another PDM system or no PDM system at all, getting their data into EPDM at the right revision counter is very common.  Today many of us who implement this tool use the API and build custom add-ins to achive these requests.

I am a fan of the API and the add-in framework EPDM has, however I first try to use the "out of the box" functionality first to ensure better upgrade compatibility and also to avoid having to maintain an additional code base for the add-in itself.  A few other requests seem to come up a lot from companies coming from WPDM, which have some of these feature already.  ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 330 - Workgroup to Enterprise Migration

Workgroup to Enterprise Migration:

This podcast covers the options and migration questions that typically come up for those looking to move from SolidWorks Workgroup PDM to Enterprise PDM.  There are tools available to assist with migration from Workgroup which can ease the pain of a platform update.  Topics covered:

- Quick overview of the major reasons many decide to migrate

- SolidWorks Workgroup migration tool

- Other migration options available when moving to EPDM

- Migration aftermath - steps to take

- How EPDM's add-in framework can come to the rescue

- History versus "day-forward" approach

Although I use all the SolidWorks products, since 2001 I have been using Conisio, which is today known as SolidWorks Enterprise PDM.  In 2006 when SW purchased Conisio and made it a major branch of their product line, I have spent a lot of time talking with companies about processes and document management options.

Workgroup PDM, included in 2 of the 3 SolidWorks bundles, is not extensively used among SolidWorks customers but there are enough out there that are looking to increase the involvement of their PDM tool in product design.  Although many will move from Windows file management techniques to EPDM, those that adopted WPDM as a local tool are faced with a few questions when considering the move to Enterprise.

SolidWorks offers a few tools to assist in the migration of data that resides in another PDM product, however many times these tools will get you there if you decide to use EPDM in the same exact manor.  I encourage companies to first setup EPDM in the most ideal configuration and then plan the migration path to meet those goals.  Garbage in, garbage out so why not draw a line in the sand and take the opprotunity to do it right and build migration paths to get to the "ideal" PDM environment. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 325 - Enterprise PDM Dispatch

Enterprise PDM Dispatch:

This podcast covers an automation scripting tool inside of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM called Dispatch.  Dispatch is one of those tools that tend to slide under the radar. Topics covered:

- What is Dispatch?

- Where to find it and how to turn it on!

- What is possible with Dispatch

- What skills are required to use it

- Limitations of Dipatch

- Examples of how Dispatch can be used

Jeff Sweeney of 3D Vision and I talk about this hidden gem in EPDM to automate certain operations within the EPDM environment. Jeff and I have both used Dispatch for years as a first stage to adding automatic functionality before resorting to coding an add-in via the API.

Not only is this tool part of EPDM but it brings this power by way of a WYSIWYG interface which requires not programming knowledge at all.  In fact, as Jeff states "It is more of a macro tool than a language" and becasue of that, the barrior to entry is much lower.  Personally I like it since it is easy to build, test and deploy without any complex re-registration of dll's or other client side requirements. Once the Dispatch add-in in added and deployed to the client base, any routine added to it is immediately deployed!

I hope to follow this up with a blog post soon on using a few of the options discussed by Jeff to provide a visual of some of the capabilities of this cool little utility. ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 289 - SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Landscape

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Landscape:

This podcast covers the general landscape of how SolidWorks Enterprise PDM addresses problems within the engineering process.  I am joined by Jeff Sweeney, Data Specialist at 3D Vision Technologies and we discuss the common problems we see while performing Enterprise PDM implementations.  Topics covered:

- Common reasons for EPDM

- How PDM is typically viewed by new users

- How to use PDM as an "in-process" tool

- Integration in SolidWorks

- Workflow and common automation actions

- Common integration with other enterprise systems (ERP/PLM/MRP, etc..)

- How replication works and is used

- Other EPDM ramblings from both of us! ;-)

Jeff and I have been talking about doing this roundtable for quite some time now and we finally got time where we were both available and not on-site doing installs.  Jeff is a Data Specialist and is a wizard in implementations and API so I thought there was no better person to "talk shop" about EPDM and the process of solving issues that are common in the change process around engineering.

This show outlines the landscape of what Enterprise PDM offers and how companies are using this tool to solve real problems and automating processes that govern their departments.  I wanted to avoid doing a feature/function focused show since that is not important to the overall product.  Jeff and I share scenarios that we come across while talking to customers and performing these installs.

I hope to have a followup show gettting into the best practices of setup so those of you out there either considering a PDM solution or have EPDM installed have an idea of what pitfalls Jeff and I have witnessed.  Let's face it, no company has perfect processes and there is no one product that will solve all problems (well within normal budgets!).  I look forward to the next time Jeff comes on the show.  You rock man, thanks! ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 288 - SolidWorks PDM Integrations

SolidWorks PDM Integrations:

This podcast covers the "out of the box" integration with some of the core features and gold partner add-ins with both SolidWorks Workgroup and Enterprise PDM. Topics covered:

- Compare Utilities (Drawings, Documents, Geometry, Features, BOM)

- Workgroup PDM issues with Compare tools in Windows 7 and Vista. (SPR 419281 & 335748)

- SolidWorks Revision Tables

- SolidWorks Toolbox

- SolidWorks Design Library

- CircuitWorks Libraries

- DriveWorks Pro 6 & 7

Over the years I have talked about PDM and the various tools in SolidWorks that can talk to PDM but I wanted to highlight some of the tight integration attributes for the SolidWorks user.  Many of the compare tools have been able to take advantage of the version/revisions within the PDM environment.  Workgroup PDM has always been the highly integrated option for SolidWorks users but Enterprise has really taken the lead in the past couple of releases.

Despite the advances, Enterprise PDM still lacks some of the tool-specific integaration like Workgroup into the compare tools, revision tables and the design library.  With the adoption of Windows 7 (starting with Vista), almost all the compare tools are no longer available to Workgroup PDM due to the lack of the vault browser (located on the left side of Windows Explorer in the File Open dialog).  This has been missing now since SolidWorks 2007 Pre release, when Vista was in testing, and officially was supported with SolidWorks 2008.  I am surprised this has not been remedied to date since the only workaround is to check out one version, save a copy, and repeat for another version to compare.  This approach side steps PDM and adds a substantial amount of work and manual file management to the user.  

To many users' surprise, both CircuitWorks and DriveWorks Pro have integrations into both PDM products from SolidWorks.  Out-of-the-box integration to PDM helps the adoption of add-in products like CW and DW! As PDM becomes more mainstream with the SolidWorks user, tight integration will become an important evaluation criteria! ~Lou

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SolidWorks:Heard! - Episode 264 - SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Automation

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Automation:

This podcast covers some of the automation options available to SolidWorks Enterprise PDM administrators to perform common tasks.  Topics covered:

- New Task options in Administration

- Understanding the Task layout

- Creating "Convert" tasks

- Creating "Print" tasks

- Application of tasks to send a released PDF to manufacturing

- Beyond Tasks - using Dispatch

- Dispatch layout

- Some common use cases for Dispatch scripts.

Many of you have heard me talk about the SolidWorks Task Scheduler, boasting some of the powerful tasks that it can do for data within Workgroup PDM.  EPDM 2010 finally got some of these tools but with a more powerful tool-set and option setup, the automation choices are deeper.

EPDM Tasks can be launched as part of a right click menu but more importantly can be launched as part of a transition action from one state in the workflow to another.  These tasks can convert data (automation of a Save As from SolidWorks) or print data based on conditions set by the administrator.  These tasks can operate based on user action, input or completely transparent to the user all together, allowing tedious tasks to be performed without delay.

I also talk briefly on EPDM Dispatch, a scripting tool that allows anyone (including non-programmer types) to build more complex sets of condition-based instructions to be executed.  This is why I typically advise customers against the custom programming route unless it is the only option.  Tasks and Dispatch allows EPDM to be expanded on without worrying about the possible "version tie-down" most home grown tools tend to add to systems like PDM. ~Lou

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