8 Replies Latest reply on Jan 9, 2017 4:45 PM by Bernie Daraz

    SolidWorks use in the shop

    Gary Lucas

      We build equipment skids.  We are a startup operation with a couple of fairly complex products for waste treatment.  As with any startup we struggle with simply getting the massive number of parts modeled, part numbers in every part and the huge number of part drawings and assembly drawings needed to build our product.  Adding to that is that I have a young engineer assisting me that has not yet fully grasped the concept that drawings are the language that engineers and the shop use to communicate.  Plus the shop guys are all new to this product and I am training them as well.


      It was suggested by one of the young guys that we should have a computer in the shop and work right from the 3D models.  I shot that down as I have tried this in the past and there were tons of reasons it didn't work well.  This included a lack of tolerances, notes, and feedback to engineering just to name a few.  Plus I have so often been told by people they know how to use AutoCad or SolidWorks, and I am well aware these casual users mostly make a mess they are completely unaware of without proper training.


      However in light of the way things are going out in the shop (slow, lots of rework) without me being there constantly I am reconsidering the idea.  Currently thinking only for the assembly operation because the failure to provide enough drawings with all the right dimensions really causes problems.  The correct solution is more manpower but that won't be happening soon.  So I am very interested in what others might be doing out in the shop, how well it works, and what they have done to pull it off.  We have a large workbench in the assembly area that is on wheels and has a structure down the middle with a board to hold drawings on both sides.  We could easily mount a large screen 4K television (cheap after Christmas) there as a monitor and use it with a wireless mouse and keyboard.  Alternately we have an unused foreman's standing desk with drawers and such that could be used.


      Is the free SolidWorks Viewer usable in this context?  Can it open both drawings and assemblies? Can you take measurements easily?  Is there a mechanism for redlining, or shop notes?  Especially in a 3D model, can comments get added that engineering can review simply by opening the model?  Are their 3rd party software solutions that would do this better?



        • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
          Glenn Schroeder

          You should probably look into eDrawings.

          • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
            John Stoltzfus

            Here we use paper hard copies up to the prototype and after final product review all the drawings are updated and released as a pdf, which get's thrown into one folder (which I don't like, should be in the same product folder, but oh well) - then the shop can open and print the drawings as required. 


            And.............  Only trained users mess with the software, lot of guys want to, but like you said be prepared to fix muck ups....

            • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
              Ryan McVay

              Gary Lucas Which problems are the priority? As I read your post you pointed out that 2D drawings are still the de facto format for communication and that you are now open to looking at a MBE (Model based enterprise) strategy. Either of these strategies still requires authors that understand the strategy and MDE will require end-users (your shop and supplies) to understand model-based definitions (GD&T and your own 2-1/2D views). It's a big change either way you look at it.


              If you are concerned about data "manglement" by the shop that can be resolved by putting your files into a read-only folder- that is if you are not using a data management tool.


              You might want to look at eDrawing for your view and markup solutions. Yes, there are other solutions but your solution will really depend on how you want your design/manufacturing workflow to operate. And how integrated you want your systems.

              My best advice, since you are just starting out, is to think long term strategy and build the proper architecture up front to get you there. That includes really thinking about ECO process, defining part attributes that will be read by future tools- including Microsoft indexing, PDM tools, etc.


              SW, or an CAD tool, will allow you to generate a lot of data quickly. Don't let your unruly data drive your future processes. Get it right out of the chute!

                • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
                  Gary Lucas

                  We are pretty well organized at the moment. 3d models generate BOMs, which get imported directly into our ERP system via a custom excel macro that massages the data so it come in clean.  The ERP system then rolls up all the materials needed, produces a pick list by subasssemblies which get subtracted from orders, and then consolidated POs to vendors get generated.  The ERP BOMs print bin labels for all sub-assemblies by job which match the sub-assembly drawings that go in the bins.  A reciever ticket version of the PO is used to direct all the incoming materials into the proper bins with the drawings.  Sometimes being a startup when you have experience in the how, Iets you skip cleaning up years of stuff done wrong!  I think this is a pretty good start.


                  Drawings to vendors are not a problem at all, most parts we make in house as one offs, only two major items get made by outside vendors.  So what I was hoping was to simply fill in the missing data in the shop by granting access to the models and drawing files.  I was hoping maybe a program like SW Viewer, or Edrawings would make this simple. I thought that Edrawings required publishing in a format other than a SW model.  So that drawing could be continuously out of date as engineering is tweaking things while the shop is building them. However if measurement can be maded, and simple notes could be added in a 3D model viewer then I think we'd install the shop PC.

                    • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
                      Anna Wood

                      Ryan makes some great points.


                      We use reduced dimension drawings.   Not everything is dimensioned to the nth degree.  We take advantage of the fact that our in house downstream users work from our 3D cad files.


                      We have a couple extra networked seats of SolidWorks that our downstream users can access to query 3D models if they need to. These seats are also used by our CAM and wire programmers and inspection people.  They use this in conjunction with the reduced dimension drawing pdf's that we generate and release in our document management system.  I do not want to have to manage a second set of eDrawings.  It is enough to manage the sldprt, sldasm, slddrw's and released pdf's.


                      Engineering is not in the business of data translation for any downstream users...  eDrawings is data translation in my book.  One set of master data for all downstream users.


                      We do not use pdm.  We have a very good Windows files explorer directory setup to keep all of our files.  We had the good fortune to have our engineering manager setup a very good system when we went 2D cad back in 1985.  We have been able to leverage it ever since to good use even in a 3D world.


                      We have very good document management system and also read only access into our cad files for our downstream users.


                      Reduced dimension drawings gets us down the road of model based dimensioning without going all in.  We save a huge amount of engineering time not re-creating documents and info that is already in the cad files.  Our users can answer a lot of their own questions with access to the models.


                      Has worked well for us for many, many years.....



                        • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
                          Gary Lucas


                          it sounds like you are doing what I'd like to do, except for two things.  It is done at a higher level, Cam, and inspection, and not assembly so the SW skillset is expected to be there.  Second you are using a full seat of SolidWorks to do it.  We have two seats of SW, if I had a third seat it sure as heck wouldn't be out in the shop at our size!

                            • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
                              Anna Wood

                              Gary Lucas wrote:



                              it sounds like you are doing what I'd like to do, except for two things. It is done at a higher level, Cam, and inspection, and not assembly so the SW skillset is expected to be there. Second you are using a full seat of SolidWorks to do it. We have two seats of SW, if I had a third seat it sure as heck wouldn't be out in the shop at our size!


                              Our assembly people also have access to the networked seats.  Not just for CAM, wire and inspection.


                              The money we pay for the seats for downstream users pays for itself very quickly over the overhead of engineering needing to manage eDrawings and answering shop questions.  None of that activity comes for free.


                              You do not need a high level of training to open files and query the feature tree, view or measure.


                              We also encourage a higher level of skill with our technicians/tradesmen and give them the tools they need to do their jobs well.


                              Your mileage may vary....

                      • Re: SolidWorks use in the shop
                        Bernie Daraz

                        If I can offer practices we have used for years.


                        This relates to precision sheet metal manufacturing only. One job job I worked we programmed a job and another programmer inspected your program, it was then released to manufacturing. The turret or laser load was the responsibility of the operator. The part then went through the entire manufacturing process without inspection, only the bends were inspected before welding or paint. After paint or finish it was a simple visual inspection. We had very, very few errors.


                        Another place I DXF'd out the flat for an inspector from the programming system. Same basic procedure, we also had very, very few errors. Inspection may have been done in AutoCAD using the dimension tools.


                        The business card said, Quality Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication and it was true. I left that place 25 years ago and will be having dinner with my old bosses and a coworker middle of next month. They sold that business for $15 million about 10 years after they started it.