January 11, 2010
keytech PLM V12: Product Lifecycle Management for SolidWorks
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| by Jeff Rowe - Contributing Editor
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While a majority of design and engineering departments around the world have embraced CAD technologies, only a fraction of them have implemented a system in parallel for managing the resulting mountain of CAD data and documents. Here in 2010, why is this still largely the case? A number of reasons, really, and many departments and organizations still internally justify not having a true product document management (PDM) or product lifecycle management (PLM) system in place – product and implementation cost, training, the need for creating company-wide standards – the list goes on and on. The truth is that virtually every organization could benefit from implementing a PDM, or
preferably, a PLM system that connects the engineering department to procurement to the factory floor, and so on. There’s really no good excuse anymore for not having some type of PLM system in place.
keytech PLM V12 is a little different than other PLM systems in the market in that it functions as a Product Lifecycle Management system in the context of a Data Lifecycle Management system that I found more easily understood and useable. In other words, keytech PLM V12 is all about data management, not only document management.
keytech PLM products are developed to manage a product from its conceptual phase through its disposal. All information, data and files associated with the product lifecycle are centrally managed and controlled by keytech PLM. The process of creating, changing, and maintaining all data and files is supported, controlled and documented in a secure environment. keytech PLM can store and manage a wide variety of 2D or 3D drawings and models and associated structures, bills of material (BOMs) MSOffice documents, as well as all of the associated metadata.
As you work with keytech PLM, title blocks are automatically filled in and BOMs are automatically created and written to associated drawings. This product operates well in most multi-cad environments. In addition to the standard PDM functionality required by any PLM system, keytech PLM V12 also features unique abilities such as managing both item structures and document structures interchangeably and allows for flexible previews with movable windows ideal for the multi-screen workstation.
I’m reviewing keytech PLM V12 integrated into SolidWorks Premium 2010 on an HP Elitebook 8730w mobile workstation. A couple of the key benefits of the 8730w are its generous keyboard and high-end DreamColor display with 1920 x 1200 (WUXGA) resolution. If you have to peer at a computer screen all day, the 8730w’s display offers welcome relief because of its resolution and brightness. Also a good keyboard and display make it well-suited for MCAD-related work.
Installing keytech PLM V12 is a straightforward process, and once that’s done, your ready for managing data. From within SolidWorks, you click the keytech PLM icon and login with a pre-assigned username and password. The integration with SolidWorks is strong and the information exchange between keytech PLM and SolidWorks is bidirectional.
The first screen displayed literally asks you “Where do you want to start?” This is always helpful, especially for new users like myself.
keytech PLM Initial Screen
Its uncluttered UI is a benefit for learning keytech PLM in relatively short order. On most screens, the system prompts you by requiring that the only information that has to be entered is highlighted as yellow fields. The rest is optional, but experience has shown that the more information you enter, the better. One important aspect of the user experience I would like to see improved is keyetch PLM’s documentation. It’s too feature-oriented and not task-oriented enough, and this could provide new users with difficulties because although the UI is uncluttered, it is not completely intuitive and the data input process is fairly rigid, but adaptable. Online tutorials are
available, but online or classroom training would definitely be helpful for most new users to get up to speed.
keytech PLM with an active project, a structure window for a trailer, and a document editor with a preview of the trailer assembly
Most users will begin with keytech PLM’s basic functionality – storing and loading parts and structures (parts, assemblies, and drawings).
Storing basically involves importing objects into keytech PLM from SolidWorks in this case (or other supported CAD systems) and saving them. For storing parts, you click Store on the keytech PLM toolbar. The Store dialog is displayed, select a store option for the part, enter the required information for defining the part, click Store to complete the process. Storing structures is basically the same, except that you must define Store Options (that define whether new items or documents are created, existing files and documents are overwritten, or revisioned) and Store Rules (for processing multiple models with a store option automatically assigned when the rule is applied). It’s
a little more involved than that, but not too much.
Loading basically involves opening previously stored SolidWorks objects (parts and structures) with the keytech PLM Editor tab. Clicking a part or structure opens it in a new SolidWorks graphics window. For loading structures, you have three functional options:
Load Used Revisions – Loads a SolidWorks model structure and uses the revisions that are displayed in the feature structure tree.
Load Released Revisions – Loads a SolidWorks model structure and uses released revisions
Load Latest Revisions – Loads a SolidWorks model structure and uses the latest revision.
After storing and loading parts and structures, the bill of material (BOM) is an essential element for a fully functional PLM system. In keytech PLM, a BOM is an item structure or document structure and contains all of the items and information needed for actually producing a physical product. Because of the high level of integration, the keytech BOM interacts very well with the SolidWorks BOM, and allows for exporting a keytech PLM BOM, transferring position numbers from keytech PLM to SolidWorks, and adding a keytech PLM BOM with its attributes to a SolidWorks assembly loaded from keytech PLM. I noticed also that bills of items that comprise an assembly are automatically updated when an
assembly is stored – a handy, no-brainer feature.
All in all, from a technical perspective, keytech PLM is a very capable, and easy to learn PLM system.
Pricing and Summary
Pricing for keytech PLM starts at $950 for the base module, and the SolidWorks integration is $540. These constitute keytech PLM’s least expensive combination, although probably not the most useful, because you'd want to at least add the BOM management module for an additional $540. So, for $2030 per seat you get a fully functional PLM system. You'll also need server application for supported databases (Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle) that runs around $3800, for an unrestricted number of clients.
keytech PLM also offers a wide variety of add-ins, such as Classification, Project Management, ERP integrations, and a wide range of supported CAD integrations beyond SolidWorks. This modular approach is a positive aspect and adds to keytech PLM’s flexibility and scalability. For example, the keytech PLM base module can be implemented with or without a SolidWorks implementation; a BOM Manager module could be added for the engineering department; and a Folders module could be implemented for program managers. In other words, keytech PLM ensures that the right people get the right PLM functionality for their specific purposes.
What this also means is that keytech PLM is more than what is available out of the box. It can be used as a plug-and-play application, but it can also be custom programmed with several possible ERP integrations, such as SAP, Oracle, BAAN, INFOR ERP, MS Dynamics AX or NAV,This customization can be developed internally by keyetch or by the customer, with a little guidance. This capability goes far beyond some competitors, who export product data to XML to and ERP system in a unidirectional manner.
With its capabilities and price point, keytech PLM is targeted to mid-size and large companies, so there is a large field in which to play.
Although I used keytech PLM V12 in a SolidWorks-only environment, the product is also well-suited for a multi-CAD environment, including CATIA, Inventor, SpaceClaim and SolidEdge. Again, a capability that will appeal to medium and large companies that almost certainly use multiple CAD systems.
The specific things I like best about keytech PLM and its approach are that it covers a product’s entire lifecycle via workflow; it is focused on data management, not just document management; and its levels of security, increasingly essential for protecting IP. Its unique process orientation, as well as modularity, and scalability help make it more approachable and affordable in the PLM space when compared with most of its competition.
For more information:
Interview: A Few Minutes With keytech PLM
During the course of this product review, I spoke to Mark Driscoll, Vice President, North America for keytech PLM Inc. about his company and his views on the PLM industry. Mark joined keytech PLM earlier this year, after having spent the past 10 years with SolidWorks Corporation. While there Mark managed the SolidWorks certification program and launched SolidWorks’ global OEM program. He has been involved in CAD for more than 20 years and is currently building the North American business for keytech PLM.
Mark Driscoll, Vice President, North America, keytech PLM Inc.
MCADCafe: Mark, can you briefly tell us what makes keytech PLM unique and sets it apart from the competition?
If I were to sum it up in three words they would be independent, focused and secure. You see, keytech PLM is independent in a number of ways; first, we are free from larger corporate bureaucracies that limit flexibility and a company’s ability to respond to the needs of customers. We are also financially independent and secure which allows us to invest in our future, both from a product and a staffing point of view.
When I talk about being focused, I mean that we are focused on PLM . . . period. We don’t focus on other products or systems. Product-wise, we are focused on PLM and that shows in the richness and reliability of our product. This also allows us to focus on our customers and ensuring that they have a data management system that allows them to realize the cost and time saving benefits of fully integrated PLM.
Finally, security is the minimum that you expect from your data management solution and keytech PLM provides that security, paying the utmost respect to the integrity of your data. And again, our financial independence adds to this security because our customers never have to worry about the focus that their PLM solution provider has.
MCADCafe: Can you discuss the relationship keytech PLM products have with its diverse line of services?
Of course our product and our service go hand in hand. BUT because our product is developed with customer success in mind, service is much easier to handle. The key for us is to make it easy to implement our product in the hundreds of varied customer environments we support. To do this we made it easy to migrate data and get into production quickly.
Both our product and our service adhere to the same philosophy, Think Big but Start Small. Having this focus on implementations allows us to stay focused on the immediate needs of customers while setting them up for the greater benefits of a fully integrated PLM solution.
MCADCafe: What have been the fundamental challenges to your customers’ success with 3D modeling and how has keytech PLM overcome these challenges?
Many of our customers tell us about the difficulty of getting their PLM system up and running. How difficult it was to migrate 3D CAD data, how difficult it was to map information correctly, how complex it was to roll out the software across the whole organization. Many of them complained about a lack of focus from their vendor and slow response in getting their fixes implemented.
With keytech PLM, customers realize the benefits of a one stop shop. We write the software and run it. We know how to integrate our software in to almost every production environment. Our product interfaces with dozens of ERP and CAD systems as well as the full suite of Microsoft products.
Our success lies in getting our product to fit into the customer’s process, not getting the customer to change their processes to fit our software.
MCADCafe: What are the main goals keytech PLM and your customers are seeking from 3D modeling and PLM?
Clearly efficient access to the correct data is the key. Our customers expect keytech PLM to be a bridge between the engineering data created by R&D or the other engineering groups and the other functional groups in the company such as purchasing, manufacturing, logistics, IT and even marketing.
Keytech PLM offers our customers the ability to quickly and easily find the information they are looking for. Customers trust us to provide the correct version, and trust us to maintain the integrity of the data. Beyond just data retrieval, we provide, workflow management, project planning and tracking, notifications of status changes and actions required, full and robust bill of materials management, management of standard parts, management of semi-finished parts, data management between internal users and external vendors and of course, bi-directional integration with some of the most popular ERP systems in the world.
MCADCafe: Can you discuss what we might expect to see from keytech PLM in the coming year?
We are really excited about the upcoming launch of keytech PLM Version 12. This release will feature an updated user interface and a number of new features.
We are a young and dynamic company and you can expect to see us and hear from us quite often.
MCADCafe: To sum up, what is your vision and strategy to maintaining and increasing the value of your company to your customers and other shareholders?
I come back to my original comments, Focus, Independence and Security. We are an independent PLM company that focuses ONLY on PLM, free from the distractions of other product missions and we provide security and peace of mind that our customer’s get the best product possible.
For more information, go to
The Week’s Top 5
At MCADCafé we track many things, including the stories that have attracted the most interest from our subscribers. Below are the five news items that were the most viewed during last week.
Autodesk and Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks agreed to settle a lawsuit pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In the lawsuit, Autodesk’s allegations included that SolidWorks inappropriately used Autodesk’s trademarks AutoCAD and DWG. SolidWorks asserted counterclaims against Autodesk. To resolve the matter, Autodesk and SolidWorks have each agreed to dismiss all claims and have entered into a confidential settlement agreement. The lawsuit is Case No. 3:08-cv-04397-WHA, pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Editor’s Note: More on this lawsuit and outcome next time.
TransMagic announced the first release of a 64-bit version of its flagship product, TransMagic EXPERT. Translating large 3D design files is a memory-intensive operation has traditionally been very challenging, primarily due to system memory restrictions. TransMagic 64-Bit changes large CAD file translation by solving this common problem. TransMagic reports that the new platform offers 10-20% better performance and an increase in file size capability. Translating multi-gigabyte files on a single computer is now possible with TransMagic 64-Bit. The new TransMagic 64-Bit release renders the 3GB memory limit of 32-bit applications obsolete for the purpose of translating large files. To
translate a file in a standalone application the computer must simultaneously maintain both the source file and the target file in memory during the process until the translation is complete. This creates an upper limit on the file size capability of all 32-bit 3D translation products. With TransMagic’s 64-bit application, memory access and file size issues can be virtually unlimited.
Delcam has launched the first version of its PowerSHAPE CAD system to incorporate Parasolid software. The integration of Parasolid reinforces PowerSHAPE’s solid modelling capabilities, alongside its surface modeling capabilities developed over more than 30 years. The combination of the two technologies provides a solution for designers that undertake conceptual design with PowerSHAPE and for toolmakers that use imported data extensively for tooling design. PowerSHAPE 2010 provides comprehensive tools for creating valid Parasolid models from existing PowerSHAPE models and from data imported from systems that operate at lower precision than Parasolid. PowerSHAPE 2010 uses the
checker mechanism in Parasolid to report any inconsistencies in the model when data is imported. It then offers a series of automatic and interactive strategies to adjust surfaces as necessary, using its extensive tools to create a valid Parasolid model.
IMSI/Design announced it has released DoubleCAD XT Pro v2. DoubleCAD XT Pro v2 works like AutoCAD LT but goes beyond with a host of new features and enhancements, including:
Drawing Compare: Compare two DoubleCAD (.2CD), .DWG, .TCW, .JPG, .BMP, or .PNG drawings for all visual differences.
Hatch Pattern Creator: Create, modify, and combine custom hatch patterns with control over scaling, orientation, and position.
Exploding Viewports: Convert visible geometry in your viewports into flattened, editable 2D geometry within your layouts, even hidden line views.
New and Enhanced 2D CAD Tools: Revision Cloud, Chain Polyline, Bisector Line, Minimal Distance Line, Select By Query, Transform Recorder, Surface Area Measurement, Double Point Arc tools, and more.
Enhanced .DWG compatibility.
AutoCAD Exchange, a comprehensive online community for AutoCAD users, has received nearly 300,000 unique visitors from around the world. AutoCAD Exchange is a content-rich destination for all AutoCAD software users from industries including manufacturing, architecture, and construction to network with fellow users, connect with experts, access tips and learning material such as tutorials and Autodesk University courseware, and provide feedback to AutoCAD product developers. One of the most active areas of the site is “Ask the Expert,” that provides a forum for AutoCAD users and CAD experts to discuss topics such as CAD manager best practices and user tips. There are
roughly 50 different dialogues in a given week. Autodesk is constantly refreshing the content on the AutoCAD Exchange to provide the most relevant and comprehensive multimedia tips, eLearning tools and CAD information.
Jeffrey Rowe is the editor of
and MCAD Weekly Review. He can be reached at
Email Contact or 408.850.9230.
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-- Jeff Rowe, MCADCafe.com Contributing Editor.