25 Replies Latest reply on Feb 28, 2019 4:42 PM by Evan Dlugopolski

    Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?

    Evan Dlugopolski

      Hoping all you PDM users out there can provide some input on my situation. (I am not too familiar with the capabilities and uses for PDM) 

       

      My company is a contractor metal fabricator...For the most part, we are not in control of the design for the products we are making.  We are usually working with customer provided para-solids (IGES, STEP, etc.), PDFs, in-house tooling designs, our own drawings that we create to suit our in-process inspection, and SolidWorks inspection data.  We rarely need to have multiple designers working on the same project.  All files are currently managed on windows file explorer in a structure something like Customer>Part>Rev.  Our current process looks something this (some things may happen in parallel order)...

       

      1. Receive customer solids and PDFs. 
      2. Move files to proper location
      3. Verify solid to customer print
      4. Create our in-process inspection drawings from para-solids
      5. Merge those SolidWorks drawing files to customer PDF in PDF format (creates a master drawing PDF with all necessary drawings and production information)
      6. Release master drawing to public drawing directory (allows shop floor to access PDFs)
      7. Create necessary tooling (fixture, gauges, tools)
      8. 1st article run to prove out processes
      9. Create SolidWorks inspection
      10. Inspect parts 1st article
      11. Ready for production
      12. Repeat for new revisions

       

      So my questions are:

      • Is there any value in having SolidWorks PDM to help manage this process?
      • Are there any features of PDM in particular that will allow for better document control throughout in a case like this?
      • What features does PDM have for managing SolidWorks inspection data?
      • Is there any way for us to release edrawing that include customer PDFs and our SolidWorks drawings? Essentially, where we could have a live connection between our active master drawing (customer drawing PDF and our created solidworks drawings) and the production floor?  One of our biggest issues is anytime we change our process drawings, we have to re-merge it to the master PDF and delete the page with the old process drawing.  It would be nice to have a live link between our active drawing and production. 

      Ultimately we are looking for better document control and process efficiency.

       

      My concerns are that PDM is more for managing the design process and revision control, unlike in our case where we do not manage original design files.  I also fear that PDM will create a lot more data entry, management, and maintenance than our current process.

       

      Side note: We are using Epicor 10 and have looked into CADLink for creating BOM data.  Are there any advantage of using PDM if we decided to use CADLink as well? 

        • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
          Craig Schultz

          Short answer: Yes.

           

          I implemented this at my last place which was a sheet metal fab house like yours.

           

          If you want a longer answer, shoot me a private message and I'll let you know what I did to improve our workflow.

          • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
            M. D.

            I don't have experience at a fab shop but I would answer No it will probably hinder you more than help.  If you are not dealing with creating/modifying/updating Solidworks files and drawings then PDM isn't for you.  Most of the files you will be working with and editing on the day to day aren't Solidworks files it seems.  Also you don't have a hierarchical chain of command that needs to make approvals it seems.

             

            • Is there any value in having SolidWorks PDM to help manage this process?

            I would vote no.

            • Are there any features of PDM in particular that will allow for better document control throughout in a case like this?

            Not that I can think of especially since it doesn't sound like you have a strict in-house approval process.

            • What features does PDM have for managing SolidWorks inspection data?

            None that I know of.

            • Is there any way for us to release edrawing that include customer PDFs and our SolidWorks drawings? Essentially, where we could have a live connection between our active master drawing (customer drawing PDF and our created solidworks drawings) and the production floor?  One of our biggest issues is anytime we change our process drawings, we have to re-merge it to the master PDF and delete the page with the old process drawing.  It would be nice to have a live link between our active drawing and production.

            Don't think so.  You can have PDM "link" two documents but it isn't real per say.  it is just the same as if they were in a folder together and you can't see it outside PDM.

            • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
              David Matula

              if you have a seat of solidworks you should have some kind of pdm with it.  all you need to do is set up the vault and other items.  It cant be that difficult, but if it was really easy everyone would be working with it. 

              • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
                David Matula

                Document control is something that is used threw out the company.  If accounting wants to see what a spread sheet looked like 5 months ago, they can do that.

                If your safety and quality department need to do document control that would be great for them too. 

                There should not be a problem changing from a hard drive to a server down the road. 

                 

                The big selling point they always get me with is running the wrong version of a part.  How much it ends up costing the company could be more than enough to pay for the soft ware, and set up.  Then never say what happens when you have access to many versions of a part and how do you decided which one to run then. 

                 

                Thanks for all the conversation on this. 

                 

                have a great day....

                • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
                  Ronald Michaud

                  There is so much opportunity here....where to begin....

                  Just some ideas.....

                  1. Setup a share vault with specific clients that you do repeat business with to facilitate collaboration.
                  2. Are you ISO? Working within an environment that provides consistent data processing, captures vital steps such as design checks, approvals, notifications would be a great way to ensure compliance through your customer business.
                  3. Reporting? Need to create logs on a regular basis for managing up? Need to know your costs for better job quoting? Get real metrics from PDM in what ever configuration that makes sense to you ~ By customer, by business quarter, by year, by individual, by unique task......the sky's the limit to the savvy well organized administrator.
                  4. Need automated documentation for specific activities that fill in data for you in a consistent manor? ECR's, EN's, Kickoff forms, etc.
                  5. Need a single application that can do all of this and more and manage your data? Look no further.

                  PDM goes way beyond vaulting your project files. If being a better CAD Manager, Operations Manager, Design Collaborator is important to you or your customers, then take a deeper look into the possibilities that PDM has to offer.

                  • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
                    Nadia Shea

                    I'm going to disagree with the correct solution here....

                     

                    • Is there any value in having SolidWorks PDM to help manage this process?

                    I would vote no.

                     

                    Right now, you don't have any audit control. Forget revision control, you have nothing that tells you who does what except for the honor system. In a situation where you have files flying around fast and furious, especially OUTSIDE your organization, that will became an issue as your business grows.

                     

                    Second advantage (PDM Pro only) -> Web server. External users plus internal non-engineering users can be looking at the same file, with no need to email, make sure everyone has the same version. External users can upload their files to you though this site (need Contributor license)  YOU can control visibility of documents, on the fly, which you cannot do with email copies. Bonus feature, you can configure it to disallow users for downloading files, while they can still view, evaluate, measure, etc.. within an edrawings preview on the site.

                     

                    (Note: Burden of licensing is on the company that hosts the vault, but it is floating... aka one license for 10 customers if they are not in there all the time)

                     

                    • Are there any features of PDM in particular that will allow for better document control throughout in a case like this?

                    Not that I can think of especially since it doesn't sound like you have a strict in-house approval process.

                     

                    Again, audit... aka file history. PDM tracks who does what/when irregardless of approval process

                     

                    • What features does PDM have for managing SolidWorks inspection data?

                    None that I know of.

                     

                    IF it's a file, PDM can control it however which way you want.

                     

                     

                    • Is there any way for us to release edrawing that include customer PDFs and our SolidWorks drawings? Essentially, where we could have a live connection between our active master drawing (customer drawing PDF and our created solidworks drawings) and the production floor?  One of our biggest issues is anytime we change our process drawings, we have to re-merge it to the master PDF and delete the page with the old process drawing.  It would be nice to have a live link between our active drawing and production.

                    With Web server, why would you need to? Customers can see their drawing and your drawing PDF. Yours will be overwritten as needed and your customers will automatically see latest version, but you can allow them to see older version. This seems like a custom code for a PDF software than anything else.

                      • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
                        Evan Dlugopolski

                        Thanks!  I appreciate your input.

                         

                        To be clear....We do not design our own product.  We are a contract manufacturer.  By "Customer drawings" I mean drawings that are provided to us by the customer.  They provide the prints and specifications we are supposed to manufacture to.   However, we also create our own drawings to simplify or supplement customer drawings for our production process.  The customer drawing and our internal drawings are merged a PDF to create one PDF file that the shop floor can access to contain all the information they need to produce the part. 

                      • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
                        Ken Maren

                        Your process isn't special.   Your company doesn't do anything that hasn't been done before.  

                         

                        1. Receive customer solids and PDFs.

                        Control these with their own workflow.   If it were me, I would want to keep every revision they send mainly for CYA.  I am sure you have never dealy with a wrong part being made because a customer thought he sent you the right rev.

                        1. Move files to proper location

                        With PDM you wouldn't move anything again.    Most of your manual tasks would become automated through workflow.  

                        1. Verify solid to customer print

                        Again, this could be a part of the process.  Who verifies this?   Does someone sign off?   Make it part of the workflow with a digital sign off. 

                        1. Create our in-process inspection drawings from para-solids.

                        Put in PDM so it can be version controlled and revision controlled.  

                        1. Merge those SolidWorks drawing files to customer PDF in PDF format (creates a master drawing PDF with all necessary drawings and production information)

                        No need to do this anymore.   Most of this could become metadata which is all searchable.   Paste as reference the customer drawing to your released drawing.  

                        1. Release master drawing to public drawing directory (allows shop floor to access PDFs)

                        I imagine this is done manually through moving files, etc.   Releasing would be part of the workflow.   Users get access to released files through permissions.   This also eliminates IT needs as they don't have to manage folder access for old/new employees.  

                        1. Create necessary tooling (fixture, gauges, tools)

                        Use PDM to manage references between SolidWorks files.   No one at your company has probably ever lost references to files due to all the manual moving of files.  

                        1. 1st article run to prove out processes

                        Opportunity to use workflow to do just this.  

                        1. Create SolidWorks inspection

                        I have not used SolidWorks Inspection so I will pass on a comment.  

                        1. Inspect parts 1st article
                        2. Ready for production
                        3. Repeat for new revisions

                        Your company creates revisions.   Manage these through workflow with PDM.   This doesn't have to be for CAD files either.   Quality Docs, manufacturing docs, assembly instructions, etc.   Anything that is revision controlled should go into PDM.   All job-related docs could as well.   Keeping files, notes, etc in Outlook or on a network folder is trash.   It's put away never to be found again.   Like putting something in Grandma's attic.   How many times do people get up to walk around to ask where a file is at your company?  PDM eliminates most of this. 

                         

                        You use PDFs alot.   PDM could eliminate this and if you choose to stick with PDF, could automate the creation of PDFs through workflow and transitions.  

                         

                        Your company engineers probably never have issues working with files over the network.   Your company probably has the ultimate in speed and reliability when it comes to working on the network.   If you don't with PDM you always work locally increasing speed and stability.  

                         

                        This is just scratching the surface of PDM.  Above is it's most basic functionality.  

                          • Re: Is PDM worth using for a contract manufacturing company?
                            Evan Dlugopolski

                            Thank you for providing the valuable feedback and specific information I have been looking for.  I realize my company isn't special, in fact, I was hoping for someone like yourself who has already paved the way and done all the hard work for us.  Even better if I could hear from someone at company just like mine who was using PDM with success. But again, I appreciate you making assumptions about my thoughts and intentions.   

                             

                            My initial thoughts to your comments..

                            • Revision control at the production level is handled with our ERP.  We keep every rev in our system but only one active.  So if customer asks for part at a rev other than what is active we are immediately flagged before an enter is even ordered.
                            • What manual tasks could be automated?  We receive these files from customer so even with PDM they would have to be loaded wouldn't they?
                            • We currently have no process or sign off for model verification.  The engineer responsible for part launch or rev change is responsible for verifying information and solid models are correct for downstream CAM and manufacturing. So I could see PDM being useful here to verify and track this workflow.
                            • Version/Rev tracking would be nice for tracking our internal drawings. We don't usually have to make many changes to our drawings once they are created, though. 
                            • We would still need to merge PDFs.  These PDF files are what the shop floor uses.  We create one PDF with all relevant information for each part.  Customer drawings, instructions, internal drawings, etc.  Unless I am not understanding correctly..
                            • Releasing drawings automatically through workflow would be nice, but again we would need to merge these files first with all other non-solidworks documents.  Unless there is another way around this that I am not seeing.
                            • Managing tooling files and referencing them to their part files would be very nice.  But again, once, the tool is designed and built we don't revisit it often.  And if we do, we typically can find it no problem.

                             

                            It does sound like it would help manage improve the consistency of the workflow and make sure everything is getting done.  And of course the version control of all these documents would be great.

                             

                            You said:

                            You use PDFs alot. PDM could eliminate this and if you choose to stick with PDF, could automate the creation of PDFs through workflow and transitions.

                            We only use PDFs for the production employees to view on the shop floor.  We do however receive data/information/etc about parts in the form of PDFs a lot.  How could PDM eliminate this if that is the data format our customers use?

                             

                            Again, I really do appreciate your input.  It is very helpful.