In a few of my previous posts, I have hinted about the integrated PDM that is within TopSolid 7.
In this post, I am going to do more than hint. I am going to show you why PDM could be the missing piece to your companies engineering and manufacturing structure.
So, what is PDM?
PDM stands for Product Data Management. PDM can be used to manage such things as:
- Major and Minor Versions of parts/assemblies/drawings…
- User permissions (who can edit what for example)
- Naming structures
Simply put, PDM is used to manage electronic data of all types.
Now in some circles using the word PDM is almost like using fowl language! And I can understand why.
PDM has traditionally been an afterthought to the product that it is written to manage. Confusing right?
And if it is confusing at this point, imagine using one of those products that was written as an afterthought! Now, you might ask what I mean by this. And it would be a great questions! (Kudos to you!) And here would be my answer.
In the world of software development, there are many challenges to be overcome. For example, product X, was developed to be a Cad solution. In fact they started the development as a Cad product. And it wasn’t until 6-7 years later that they decided to add PDM as a module to their product. Sound familiar?
Well, you can’t just add PDM to your product line. In fact to do it correctly, you need to go back to the core of your product and essentially rewrite a bunch of the base of the product. Now, depending on complexity, you are talking about some very serious and costly development. And the biggest problem with going back to the source code is that any modifications made there, most likely will have adverse effects on code written later in the product. This causes what we all have come to know as software bugs!
Now because of this problem, many companies try to work around having to rewrite their source code. And from a financial standpoint, this makes perfect sense. However on a functional and usability stand point, this is what can cause products to have a bad reputation. When a product as important and as deep as PDM really can be is written with a level of integration that is skin deep at best, that products usability and feeling will suffer.
In other words, users may start to feel like they are working with two different products now, versus just one fully integrated solution. And this, in my humble opinion, is where PDM often gets it’s bad reputation from. If the product feels clunky…if you wind up having to use “work a rounds” to get it to work correctly…if the interface just doesn’t come close to matching the interface of the product that it is trying to manage, then you have a clumsy product that is not only hard to use, but most likely will not be accepted by your users. Or they’ll fight you tooth and nail over using it.
That doesn’t sound very fun at all does it?
So what makes TopSolid 7 different?
TopSolid 7 is the evolution of everything good in the Cad/Cam/Pdm world. TopSolid 7 is a completely rewritten product line. Yup…Missler Software started over from a blank sheet of paper. They actually stepped back from their 20+ years of software development and took a strong look at everything that they felt a modern product should be made of. And guess what? PDM was first on the list.
So, this means that before Missler developed any Cad or Cam applications under this new platform, they first developed their data management environment.
Only after the development of TopSolid 7′s PDM Kernel, did they begin the development of Cad and then Cam.
And the result?
You have TopSolid 7. A complete Cad/Cam product that is built 100% around a PDM engine at the core.
This means that you or your users can benefit from all of the power of a full featured PDM environment without even realizing that you’re in one! Yup! TopSolid 7′s PDM is completely transparent within TopSolid 7.
I know this… PDM is a huge subject! And it can be hard to understand the benefits. At this point you should now understand what, developmentally speaking, makes a good PDM product.
But now, you might be still wondering…why do you care? What can PDM really do for you?
I figure the best way to help you understand some of the basic benefits of PDM is with a sample. That said…
In this sample, we are going to take a look at a small manufacturing company that is using TopSolid 7 to design, manufacture and manage their projects with. In this case they are manufacturing a small fixture table for one of their customers. They will be making a total of 50 of these tables.
Like in all manufacturing environments, changes happen. However, and I know you will find this hard to believe, but some changes can actually blow the approved manufacturing budget of a project! And the hard part is to know if the Engineering Change that is being applied is going to do this.
So in this sample we are going to do an engineering change study. This will be done on a very simple machined part. To begin the study we are going to open an Excel file that contains the company’s Manufacturing Change cost justification sheet. And you will notice that this excel file is also being managed by TopSolid 7′s PDM. In the image below you will see the Cam file and the Excel file. This is showing the basic information that we are using in our cost analysis.
In this change, we are going to make the Connecting Arm 2 inches longer. This means that the rough material costs will be greater and the time it takes to machine will also be greater. Now we also know that we have a maximum target cost per part of $8.25.
At this point in the study, we make the change to the connecting arm design. TopSolid 7′s integrated PDM automatically notifies us of all related documents that need to be updated based on the change that we have made. The next logical step is to update everything. Once that is done, we take the newly updated data, such as the new weight of the blank and the newly updated machining times and enter it into our cost justification form. And guess what happens. We have now proven that if we make this change, we will be over budget. And remember…being over budget is bad! The image below shows the new information inserted into the cost justification sheet.
Since you now know that this change would cost too much money and blow your budget, you need to undo all of the changes that have been made to all of the files related to the connecting arm. Without PDM, this step would be a nightmare. You would have to remember what you have modified and go in and manually modify everything back to where you “thought” it was before the change. Can you see mistakes happening here? I can.
But because TopSolid 7′s PDM is there. All you need to do is ask it to undo all the changes that you just made. In fact all you need to do is right mouse click on the assembly, and choose “Undo changes”. And TopSolid 7, does the rest for you. It automatically reverts all affected files to the previous version stored in the PDM! And this takes just a few seconds to complete. And now all engineering and manufacturing data is back to the way it was before you began this study! You have to admit…that’s pretty cool! The next image shows the undo changes command to you.
So now you should have a pretty good understanding of a way to use PDM within your company. In this brief sample, the benefits of PDM as shown to you were:
- You Never left TopSolid 7
- TopSolid 7 notified you of every related document that needs to be updated based on your change
- Cost justification proved change is too expensive
- PDM allowed you to easily undo the changes as to not effect released engineering and manufacturing data
- Process took only a few minutes
And now, as is my favorite way to show off TopSolid 7…following is a video that shows you exactly the steps taken as described above. Please take a few minutes and watch the video. Then think about how TopSolid 7′s PDM could help your company control their manufacturing environment