Shape Your World
Joseph is the Professional Services Manager for GoEngineer and serves our customers as a data management consultant. He brings over 6 years of experience to the table; working with customers in virtually every industry. He spends the majority of his days working on-site with our customers to help … More »
September 12th, 2014 by Joseph Cutrona
Glory comes in one form with data management – Automation.
In a huge corporate demonstration with executives looking on and a hundred thousand on the line, the only “oohs” and “aahs” you’ll hear are the ones connected to productivity gain. Everyone at that level loves to see labor intensive tasks that today, take several steps and possibly a dedicated human resource, reduced to a right click menu option.
For example, let’s take an EPDM admin that supports an engineering group. He may get a small pat on the back for building in the ever essential revision control… But, watch their eyes light up when automated emails and electronic signatures are brought online.
From the top of the organization to the end CAD user, automation is king. We’ve seen some really slick automation over the years and then we’ve seen some downright brilliance. Whether from our own implementation specialists or from customer administrators, the following examples are sure to please.
An underutilized tool, Dispatch is an included EPDM add-in that allows a savvy user to design automation from a graphical user interface. Its options and menus are very reminiscent of coding but the user can create very clever programs or dispatch actions without ever having to write a single line of code. Folks with developer backgrounds may correlate the jump command in dispatch to an if statement or they may see the for all command as being very similar to a programmatic loop. I like to sound sophisticated by calling it “Pseudo Programming.” A Dispatch automation action can be triggered in one of four ways:
Some of the available commands include checking in or out a file, renaming a file, updating file information, and copying files. If none of that gets you excited, how about executing shell commands or updating registry values?
A simple but great example of a dispatch action is renaming a file. The situation is this: you have a number of legacy CAD files with description as file name. You’ve decided you would rather have the part number be the name of the files and the description moved into the file properties. The logic for all of this can be easily created in Dispatch without a single keystroke of programming. It can even run in batch! What will the interns do now?
Other great examples of dispatch we’ve seen over the years include: setting variables for multiple files at once, merging several variables into a single search field, copying files to a network drive and even printing PDF for MS Office Documents.
Another slick but underutilized tool is the XML “Data Document”. For example, let’s say you have a form of some sort that is used company wide. Perhaps it’s an Engineering Change Notification or a Specification Sheet that has several fields where data needs to be manually entered. Sounds like fun right?
Maybe you have Excel files or PDF forms that are serving this purpose today. The data card in Enterprise PDM becomes a natural and logical place for this data to be entered; it has fields, buttons and dropdowns to satisfy the weary soul. And, were it not for the occasional need for this document to be printed, we could eliminate the document entirely and allow the EPDM Data Card to serve the entire purpose (those of you, who don’t already use EPDM, bear with me. Pictures soon)
Enter the infamous XML datasheet. XML is just that, a data file. Think of it as the better looking cousin of the text File. It contains variable information and their values but it also formats it in a way that is similar to a web page with columns, colors, fonts and the like. Pair a simple XML data sheet with style sheet and you have an aesthetically pleasing “Form” like the one below. As with any preview, the XML file can be printed directly from the EPDM preview window and edits to fields on the EPDM Data Card will update in real time to the preview. No need to open or tinker with an actual file like that of our ancestors. The data card becomes the single and simple tool for capturing the form data.
As you may know, the database architecture for EPDM is the premier database application from our friends at Microsoft – SQL Standard. SQL has become quite familiar among those in the working world and offers its users speed and accuracy through the T-SQL query language. As with any database, you can run queries directly in the SQL Management Console (this assumes you have access to go tinkering around in the company SQL Server.)
For those of us in the real world, it’s more likely that we will be accessing the database through our secured desktop applications. This is where the Enterprise PDM Report Generator comes in.
Any query that can be run in SQL can be run in the Report Generator. Several harmless example reports are provided with the installation files (Default: C:\Program Files\SolidWorks Enterprise PDM). I encourage you to have a look and begin to take advantage of the reporting capabilities. You can open one of the Report Generator files in any text editor and see the simple formatting. The picture below shows a basic example of just that; I’ve opened one of the examples from SOLIDWORKS Corporate in a text editor. You can see there is a little formatting that needs to be in place including a description and “Company Name” but the last section is a SQL section.
This is where you paste in any SQL query. You can use your imagination here but picture the awe factor when you put a fancy report at the fingertips of executive management. How does the ability to run a report for “All Engineering Change orders Last Fiscal Quarter” sound? That one doesn’t do it for you? How about project status reports? Files a certain user accessed in a month? EPDM License Usage? The possibilities are endless because again, it’s literally just a SQL query. Once the SQL part is written and pasted into the text file format, it can be given to any users or groups to run securely at their discretion. For more information on building your own EPDM reports and other Glory through EPDM Administration, be sure to check out our YouTube channel. For Starters:
The sad truth is that Document Management Administration can be a fairly inglorious. We hardly get a pat on the back for adding a new user to the system or installing a new client. However, be not dismayed, with a little creativity and some great support from GoEngineer, impressive productivity gains and task automation can be yours for the taking.