What comes to mind when you hear that TLA (three-letter acronym)? What about PDM? For most CAD users, the acronyms PDM and PLM are basically synonymous for data management. How do I store my CAD data? How do I revise my CAD data? How does my CAD data flow through its life cycle? The further along those questions one progresses, the more departments outside of Engineering and Drafting get involved, and PDM moves more and more towards PLM. For others, those two acronyms immediately invoke a response much like Kleenex® is to facial tissue, like Xerox is to photo copying, like Band-Aid® is to bandages, and like Tylenol® is to aspirin. In other words, CAD users think Teamcenter, or SAS, or Enovia and companies like Siemens, IBM, and Dassault (certainly there are others). Design Data Manager is even a name that often comes up when talking to SMB.
But there is another product out there as well. It is not as well known as the names I dropped above, but it is full of features useful to most CAD departments. The product is Visual Vault.
What makes Visual Vault different from all the other PDM/PLM solutions on the market? Frankly, the same things that make those other ones different from Visual Vault: the features you need through an interface you can understand at the price you can afford. To avoid making this look like a sponsored advertisement, I’m not going to list the features of the software; finding them is easy enough by clicking on the link provided above. Instead, I can tell you about my experience with Visual Vault.
In short, I’m a fan of it. I used it for a short while during my tenure at a company that had it installed. Compared to Teamcenter, which I also have experience with, Visual Vault was much easier to grasp. The web interface was very intuitive. The only training I required was specific corporate workflows and how they were implemented within Visual Vault. This company integrated sales quotes flowing to engineering design requirements to drawing release. From there it progressed to the shop for part fabrication and of course revision control. Scheduling and planning were in the flow after engineering, so notifications of jobs in-queue were essentially “broadcast” to all needed parties. It was also easy to customize workflows. The out-of-the-box solution may follow the 80/20 rule, but Visual Vault was so easy to use it was no problem adapting it to the special 20% without the expertise of a full-time PLM administrator – and the cost associated with keeping one on staff.
Granted, not all software is perfect. The one thing most lacking, in my opinion, was a visual process flow diagram. It would have been much easier, and much more intuitive, if there was a block diagram feature to map the life cycle instead of only a text-based web interface.
If you are still in the market for a PDM/PLM solution, consider looking into Visual Vault.