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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has almost 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the design … More »

Software Evaluation: SolidWorks & SolidWorks Enterprise PDM

 
May 29th, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of a series of four evaluation articles of CAD/PDM systems for SMBs.

Overview

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM is one of two PDM products offered by DS SolidWorks and is a separate purchase. SolidWorks Workgroup PDM is available integrated inside of SolidWorks Premium and Professional.

Data cards are crucial elements for managing design data with EPDM because they contain metadata about the files, folders, items, and templates in the vault database. Data card information is stored centrally, so users can search and locate information about files, folders, items, and templates without needing local copies.

By adding controls such as text fields, list boxes, check boxes, and tabs, data cards are used for managing the design process.

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM 2014

The workflow process consists of administrator-defined states and transitions that are used to route documents for approval.

Enterprise PDM workflows represent internal workflows practiced in a company. A workflow can control the life cycle of a document, project, or process by defining what files a user or group can access.

For example, a workflow can define that the engineering department has full access to engineering documents in the first stage of development, whereas the quality assurance group has access only after the documents have reached a ready-for-approval stage.

The workflow process consists of administrator-defined states and transitions that are used to route documents for approval.

Enterprise PDM workflows represent internal workflows practiced in a company. A workflow can control the life cycle of a document, project, or process by defining what files a user or group can access.

For example, a workflow can define that the engineering department has full access to engineering documents in the first stage of development, whereas the quality assurance group has access only after the documents have reached a ready-for-approval stage.

Workflows are used to automate repetitive tasks such as:

  • Updating file data card information when a document moves through the workflow
  • Notifying users and groups when a document has reached a milestone
  • Assigning revision numbers to approved documents

DS SolidWorks recommends defining an entire workflow before adding associated files to the vault. However, an active workflow can also be revised.

When a new vault is created, Enterprise PDM creates a default workflow simply named Default Workflow. This default workflow can be modified or new ones can be created to match the processes used in a company.

The workflow process consists of administrator defined states and transitions that are used to route documents for approval. A workflow transition represents the progression of a file or process from one state to another. Each transition has a name, such as “Submit for Approval” and “Request Change,” and transitions can trigger other actions to happen.

Files in the vault are associated with workflow states that represent where the files are in the approval process.

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM vaults store the files and information about items and files (metadata) managed by Enterprise PDM.

Enterprise PDM includes functionality for working with bills of materials (BOMs). When an assembly, drawing, or weldment part in the file view is selected, the Bill of Materials tab displays a table of the components in the file.

Basic Workflow

Data is stored in a central archive called a file vault, which can be regularly backed up and shared by a product development team. To access files, a working folder is created on a local computer called a file vault view.

A file vault is a central archive for files and the database that stores information about them. To access files, a local file vault view is created that connects directly to the file vault.

SolidWorks Enterprise PDM vs. Workgroup PDM 2014

Log in to Enterprise PDM to work on files in the vault. Logging in to the file vault view provides access to files with assigned permissions.

When logged in to Enterprise PDM through Windows Explorer, the Explorer window is modified to help work with files in the vault.

The Enterprise PDM user interface is integrated with Windows Explorer, with added menu options, toolbar buttons, and dialog boxes.

There are three Enterprise PDM Explorer views:

  • File view – Lists the files in the vault. This is the default view.
  • Bills of Materials view- For the current folder, lists named BOMs and computed BOMs that have been activated.
  • Search view -Shows the most recently used search.

When the display is set to show files, which is the default, the top section of the right pane shows the files and folders in the vault.

Files are checked out to edit them, so that no one else can make changes, though other users can still view and copy the files.

To check files out, select one or more files to check out.

  • If a single file is selected a single file that does not contain references, the check out is complete. The name of the person with the file appears in the “Checked out by”column in the file view pane.
  • If multiple files or a file that contains references are selected, the Check Out dialog box opens so that check out choices can be made.

To check files in, when a file is modified and checked in, its version number is incremented and it becomes available for checkout by others. If no changes are made, the version number is not incremented. If files are added to a local file vault view, they must be checked in to make them accessible to other users.

To give others access to files added to the vault, the files must be checked in.

Final Thoughts

Despite its limitations, especially on the manufacturing side of product development, there is a lot to like with SolidWorks EPDM, and many customers seem to agree with that sentiment. Although EPDM seems like it will be around for the foreseeable future, Dassault Systemes is starting to market ENOVIA as a collaboration (that includes data management) solution for SMBs using SolidWorks. In other words, PDM and PLM. For the time being, however, EPDM is a good choice for many SolidWorks customers who are also SMBs.

 Report Card

Pros

  • Relatively easy to implement and use.
  • Excellent, easy to use administrative interface with drag-and-drop capabilities for assigning user groups and tasks — very graphical.
  • Enterprise PDM has several default templates for structuring parts, assemblies, and drawings, as well as file locations.
  • Data Card concept.

 Cons

  • Relies on Windows Explorer for a sizable portion of its functionality.
  • Correctly renaming a files within EPDM requires diligence.
  • All CAD updates must be coordinated with the next higher assembly (NHA) owner for maintaining integrity and ensuring update status of a design. This requires notifications (email or phone) and design team coordination.

 Cost (MSRP): CAD (SolidWorks) — $3,995; PDM (Enterprise PDM) — $1,795

Overall Grade: B+

For more Information: SolidWorks Enterprise PDM

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