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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 »

CAD/PDM Software Evaluation: PTC Creo/Windchill PDM Essentials

 
July 1st, 2014 by Jeff Rowe

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

Overview

PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is intended to bring collaborative engineering to smaller companies for organizing and managing product content so that they can improve design reuse, broaden access to product information across roles, and ensure control over design versions and release processes.

PDM Essentials is basically a role-based, template-based, pre-configured bundle in an optimized Microsoft Windows environment.

PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is a scaled-down version of PDMLink, Windchill’s primary data management solution, allowing smaller firms to manage CAD data and product development-related Microsoft Office documents.

Windchill PDM Essentials Quick Tour Video

PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is optimized for use with Windows Server and Microsoft SQL Server to support up to approximately 25 CAD users and up to approximately 200 Web users.

Although there are some exclusions compared with full-blown Windchill, the following capabilities are included and preconfigured in PTC Windchill PDM Essentials:

  • Support for managing PTC Creo Parametric, AutoCAD, SolidWorks, and Inventor CAD documents
  • Support for managing Office documents (PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, TXT)
  • Server-side publishing and client-side viewing.

o   -Creo View Lite is included for client 3D viewing and markup.

o   -Creo Parametric CAD worker, publishing adapter, and the associated license are included and automatically configured for publishing.

  • Windchill Directory Server (for managing users)

Microsoft SQL Server 2012 is bundled with PTC Windchill PDM Essentials and is automatically installed and configured. This bundled SQL server version is licensed with, and can be used only with PTC Windchill PDM Essentials.

PTC says that Windchill PDM Essentials focuses on simplifying the installation and deployment process. Smaller companies have complained about the multiple steps and myriad components specific to a Windchill installation and configuration process, and this new version packages everything into one, so-called “easy-to-install” package, including a Microsoft SQL Server database. There are installation wizards to guide users through the set up, and the user interface has been tweaked to be more streamlined and accessible and to give users fewer choices (which, for simplicity’s sake is a good thing).

Before you can start using PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, a System Administrator must perform an initial setup to configure applicable business processes, as well as establish a data exchange protocol between PTC Creo Parametric and PTC Windchill PDM Essentials.

Before delving into PTC Windchill PDM Essentials, it is important to note a few basic concepts that are crucial to understanding how it works – Workspaces, Contexts, and Objects.

A Workspace is a private area where objects are managed and basic data management operations are performed. Objects can be brought into workspaces from authoring applications (such as Creo), from a file system, or from the commonspace. Commonspace is the collection of Windchill Contexts on a Windchill server that are accessible to users that have appropriate access privileges.

A Context organizes the database consistent with a company’s functional organization and has three critical components – data, people, and processes.

Objects, such as documents, are used for storing and managing information and content.

PTC Windchill PDM Essentials includes an out-of-the-box product template and an out-of-the-box library template, each with a corresponding shared team. New products and libraries are created using these templates. Although additional templates can be created, PTC recommends that these out-of-the-box templates are used for creating new products and libraries in order to ensure proper behavior.

Basic Workflow

The following fundamental steps outline key operations for using Windchill PDM with Creo Parametric in a streamlined process workflow.

  1. Connect to the Windchill server and create a new or access an existing Workspace.
  2. Use the server management utility to register a PDM server.
  3. Use Windchill data management actions from within PTC Creo Parametric.
  4. Use Windchill PDM Essentials Workspaces for working with objects – opening them, checking out and checking in files, importing files, etc.
  5. Store new designs.
  6. Reuse design data where existing designs can be accessed on the Windchill PDM Essentials server.

Of course, there is a lot more to the PDM process than that, but once understood, the process was surprisingly straightforward and relatively easy to repeat.

Final Thoughts

For current PTC Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire, or PTC Creo Parametric users, PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is very competitive and compelling.

For users of competing CAD products, such as SolidWorks, and Windchill PDM Essentials might not be as competitive because typical organization using SolidWorks is likely too small to consider implementing Windchill.

Overall, though, PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is very competitive for growing SMBs with workflows and processes that are likely to increase in magnitude and complexity.

In a nutshell, PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is sized for the existing needs of smaller companies, but provides the foundation for additional capabilities that a growing company will need in the future.

Report Card

Pros

  • PTC Windchill PDM Essentials is a very solid PDM solution that is scalable and unlikely to be outgrown.
  • Once implemented, very stable, and reliable.
  • Workspace concept is process/task oriented that is helpful for understanding the role of PDM in an organization.
  • Ability to have multiple workspaces, each dedicated to a specific project. Workspaces are easy to create, populate, and activate.

Cons

  • No obvious connection or interaction between PTC Creo and PTC Windchill PDM Essentials. Little common look, feel, and behavior between the two.
  • Without a dedicated IT system administrator, most SMBs would probably have to rely heavily on PTC or sales channel for support.
  • The Creo Parametric embedded browser is the only browser that supports the connection between a CAD application and a Windchill server. Standalone browsers do not support this connectivity.

Cost (MSRP): CAD (PTC Creo Parametric) — $5,140; PDM (PTC Windchill PDM Essentials) — $1,995.

Overall Grade: A-

For More Information: PTC Windchill PDM Essentials

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