Part and Document Management: Why is it Complex?

March 8, 2014

parts-documents-management-plm

Parts and Documents are two different objects in engineering, product development and manufacturing. While “part” usually represents physical object, “document” usually represents specification, drawing or 3D model of part. Even it it sounds obvious, Document and Part management is not an easy and simple task.

In my post – How to manage Document versions, revisions and Part numbers, I’ve been mostly speaking about the need to have separate numbers for documents and parts. I also mentioned that bad practice to use the same numbers for both document and part, can lead to significant complexity and mistakes. At the same to implement a system or multiple system to manage Documents and Parts is complicated. Below I described potential three typical configurations you may find in companies related to document and parts management.

No PDM

Even PDM is not very new technology, you can still see many companies that not using PDM. If this is a case, you have a good chance to see documents (CAD and non-CAD) spread out in the network and shared drives. Without centralized document management system, a company is creating numbering convention how to provide document numbers. A good chance that you will see lots of Excel spreadsheets to be used for Parts and BOM management. Very often, a company will be using similar number convention for parts and mix it together with usage of OEM and supplier part numbers. You can also see homegrown system to manage Part Numbers in a separate database.

PDM + ERP

This is very typical situation where engineering and manufacturing are splitting responsibilities into silos. Engineering department is using PDM system (very often from the same vendor as CAD system) and manufacturing (as well as rest of the company) is using ERP system. Within this schema, PDM system is taking control of documents. Document numbers usually generated by PDM system according to predefined naming convention. Item masters and parts are managed by ERP. The complexity of this model is to link between documents in PDM system and parts/BOMs in ERP system. In most of the cases, the integration between them is manual or using batch import/ export procedures. Optionally, PDM system can manage parts (typically engineering parts).

PDM + PLM + ERP

It is not unusual to see both PDM and PLM systems co-exit in the same company. Similar configuration can be achieved by combination of PLM and ERP system. In the last case, PDM module is part of broader PLM offering. The specific characteristic of this type of environment is management of parts and engineering BOMs in PLM system. Sometimes, you can see PLM systems is responsible also for manufacturing BOM management. This configuration provides the most consistent way to interlink between Documents and Parts. Both numbers are available in PLM system which can use them. The weak part of this configuration is complexity of integration between PDM/PLM and ERP. Synchronization of Part Numbers and Document Numbers among all systems is a challenge that may potentially lead to data inconsistency.

What is my conclusion? The information about documents and parts is located across organizational departments and systems. At the same time, to manage them in a consistent way is very important. Regardless on the number of systems and the way to manage Document Numbers and Part Numbers to keep them separate and maintain linkage between them is the first priority. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


Autodesk Quietly Launched Their Cloud

September 26, 2011

Time ago, I was discussing on my blog about cloud file storage as one of the potential first step CAD vendors will take to adopt cloud. One of my posts about that was – Is Google Doc is a good place to store CAD files? I was very surprised to discover that Autodesk quietly launched their Autodesk Cloud services. Thanks to my web alert and Thomas Rambach ofcadtoolbox.com about the notification. You can see that Autodesk made cloud.autodesk.com website available. You can register to login and have 1GB free space to work on. Below I put some screenshots and explain few experiments I’ve made. As you can see from the home screen, it is all about Cloud Documents, and it reminds you Google Docs very much.

After quick registration (it was actually very smooth), you have an access to cloud folders.

So, what you can do? Actually, not much… You can upload files, search for them, tag them, upload next revisions. You can create folders and organize your files into these folders. On the following picture, you can see some elements of a future cloud apps features – additional storage, applications and more…

What is my take? Few months ago, I was trying out Dassault V6 Cloud Apps. Here is the link to refresh your memory. I was talking about SolidWorks n!Fuze as one of the DS V6 Cloud Services – My Experience with Dassault V6 Cloud on Amazon. If you will take a look on n!Fuze user interface and Autodesk Cloud UI, you can find some similarity. Don’t think it is wrong. I prefer to have UI simple, slick and straightforward. From that standpoint, I liked very much Autodesk Cloud appearance and user experience. However, the most important question to ask- is it going to be a viable option for people to store and use their files? How easy will be connecting from applications (desktop and web) to these services? How efficiently we can share files between these separate cloud services? All these questions are requiring a deeper discussion and answers before customers will touch these new services.

Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM and Engineering Documents Identification

July 15, 2010

My new website and blog is BeyondPLM. The original post is here.

The question of identification is probably of the most complicated and always raises lots of interest. I had a chance to discuss early on my blog a topic related to Part Numbers and Part Identification. The discussion raised lots of opinions and comments. You can track them on the following link. PLM marketing and sales speeches are rarely discussing this topic. It assumed as a solved problem. However, I don’t think so. Today I want to discuss multiple aspects related to the identification of drawings.

I read article by Kean Walmsley of Autodesk on his blog – Through the interface . He is discussing the idea of identification of drawings using QR Code. Kean presented various ways you can today handle QR codes in software and how you can organize your work with help of QR-enabled software. He is talking about coming AutoCAD plug-in to do this job.

Another article by Jeff Sweeney of 3DVision Technologies in his bar-coded blog post presents an idea how possible to use bar-code or how he called “1949 year technology” to identify drawings. In his example, he proposed to create an association between file attribute and bar-code and automate processes related to document.

Both articles made me think about different aspects related to identification of engineering documents, and I decided to share and discuss it.

Internal vs. External
Documents are everywhere. However, in my view, most of the organization can clearly differentiate between documents that are belonging to an organization and are under formal control of the organization and documents that circulated outside.

Logical vs. Physical
Most of us are working with virtual documents or files – CAD Files, Related PDF files, Images, Scans and just office documents with embedded design and engineering elements. However, organizations are still printing documents for various purposes. I can see some of them, such as use of documents in the manufacturing shop floor or sending documents together with physical products as part of documents and some others.

Integrations
Inside of the organization your documents are flowing between different people and organizations. You can see more and more organizations are starting to think about a single content management system. In some cases, PLM system is playing a role of a content management system for engineering documents. However, there are lots of situations where documents are distributed between multiple systems- CMS, PDM, PLM, ERP, etc. To be able to identify correlated documents can be an interesting solution.

Archives
The cost of storage is growing down. I’d expect IT in few more years will be discussing an option how to have all data on “spinning disks”. Flash storage is still expensive. So, a question of archiving and identification of drawing in archives can be interesting as well.

What is my conclusion today? I think, the problem of identification is a huge one. With all respect to our paperless future, we are document-driven society. I’m not touching now the future CAD on the cloud without files. We are still in a very preliminary stage in our trials to understand the problem of handling documents globally. There are many aspects that I mentioned in this post, and it seems to me, they are still very distributed within an organization’s boundary and beyond. I can envision kind of layered solution that will solve this problem. I’m looking forward to your comments and discussion.

Best, Oleg


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