Engineering Design Data Management Checklist
What is Engineering Data Management? Engineering Data Management (EDM) can be described as a process of storing and controlling the data related to your product’s lifecycle. As engineering, manufacturing, and purchasing create more and more data, challenges can begin to arise if you do not have the proper planning in place. SOLIDWORKS has multiple options to organize and automate these processes to improve documentation and save time, but how do you know which solution is right for you?
The SOLIDWORKS family has three products specifically designed to handle EDM for small to large organizations:
Luckily, there is a simple upgrade path between each product. The real question is: where should you start? In the following checklist, I have laid out the top items to take into consideration when determining which Engineering Data Management solution is right for you. Review these factors to see which solution is the best fit for your organization or to identify areas that will need more consideration before you can begin.
How many users will need access to the engineering data?
The number of users accessing your engineering data can have a significant impact on the right management solution for your organization. With more users comes more data and a greater challenge in keeping track of how it is all connected. The main concern here is database performance. PDM Standard is a great solution for companies that do not have that many users accessing the data simultaneously (5 or less generally) and only need a singular process to manage the engineering data. This is a scalable option as you can upgrade your vault to PDM Professional to unlock additional computing power, and additional SQL licensing can extend the system even further for multi-national corporations. SOLIDWORKS Manage sits on top of the PDM Professional data management vault and provides more robust process and reporting solutions. For any organization planning to have 5 or more concurrent users any time soon, PDM Professional or PDM Professional with SOLIDWORKS Manage should be considered to avoid performance issues that may arise with PDM Standard.
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Will users outside of the engineering team need access?
All three solutions can be accessed using a VPN connected to your company network if you have an employee working remotely or offices connected to a single WAN. PDM Professional and Manage, however, both have native web clients that can be accessed through a web server to give access to customers, vendors, suppliers, or other stakeholders as needed. Access to data is restricted by policy. The user only sees files that are in the location and the workflow state that their policy provides access to. The PDM Professional web portal provides a mobile friendly interface with the most common commands and features users will need. Manage offers a plenary web interface which provides complete access to all functions and features from inside a web browser.
How are engineering changes tied back to the design data?
With a robust engineering change process, you will most likely have supporting documentation to show why a certain change was made or the reason for such a change. This may include anything ranging from an engineering change requests, orders or notices, emails, or pictures. Being able to see how all this data relates to the engineering data is paramount to a successful engineering change process.
SOLIDWORKS PDM allows users to create these custom references between SOLIDWORKS files and any other file type. By creating these custom references, you will never have to spend hours searching for the documentation of the change as it will be directly available from the SOLIDWORKS drawings, assembly, or part file.
SOLIDWORKS Manage also enables methods to create these references through a pre-defined process. The change process in SOLIDWORKS Manage can be broken down into sub-processes that allow for alternate paths depending on the attached data or requested change. The references are all automatically maintained, and visibility is expanded further with Manage Dashboards.
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How are tasks assigned and tracked? How are projects kept on time? Does time need to be tracked?
During the design process, there are many tasks that will need to be performed on time in order to ensure on-time completion of a project or change. Making sure users can easily see everything that is expected to be completed will help keep projects on time and processes to be followed.
Using workflows in SOLIDWORKS PDM will keep all files organized by folders as well as progress and status. Notifications can announce that there is design work to be completed or files to review at key points along the process. Also, users can fill in an “Assigned To” property, which can be used in a favourited search that will show all documents expected from a certain individual.
PDM Standard requires all files to follow the same workflow and is sufficient for small groups that follow a very basic workflow. PDM Professional can sort documents into appropriate workflows based on multiple criteria and can be sorted or re-directed as needed to accommodate even complex systems. Finally, a “Delayed in State” notification will notify selected employees if a document was not completed or reviewed in a pre-determined amount of time. This is perfect for managers to quickly identify problems as progress stalls.
For a more robust project management solution, SOLIDWORKS Manage provides each user with a dashboard view that is updated in real time to show all tasks that are currently assigned to them. Gantt charts allow planning and monitoring for each project by tasks and can include additional task details, dependencies, and allotted time. Supporting documentation can be linked and complex processes can be created and tracked as needed. One of the greatest benefits of the allotted time for tasks in SOLIDWORKS Manage is the ability to use the tracked time to automate time sheets for each employee.
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How is data secured and archived?
Intellectual property is the lifeline of a company and protecting it is of the utmost concern. Making sure that intellectual property is only available to the appropriate resources is always a concern for companies. Controlling read and write access is the most basic level of control for standard file management. However, companies often need to control WHEN employees can access this data. A great example is when Manufacturing wants to access engineering data, but only once that data has been approved for production.
In SOLIDWORKS PDM, administrators can control user access to files at certain points in the design process and track the files’ progress along the way. At any point, a user can pull an older version to review the changes to a design if they are given the permission. Additionally, PDM will show WHO performed the changes and WHEN those changes were performed. SOLIDWORKS Manage will take that audit control a step further by showing when and by whom a file was open or viewed.
If your company is fighting an uphill battle against any of these challenges, give MLC CAD Systems a call. We can help you find a path forward with our Professional Data Management software like SOLIDWORKS PDM or SOLIDWORKS PDM with SOLIDWORKS Manage.
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About the author
Braxton is an Elite Applications Expert with MLC CAD Systems based in the Kansas City area. He has extensive knowledge of the SOLIDWORKS portfolio of products and specializes in SOLIDWORKS Data Management solutions. His background includes product design from concept to market release and is currently responsible for supporting and training SOLIDWORKS users. In addition to training and support, he also implements Data Management solutions.