15 Replies Latest reply on Nov 21, 2013 1:33 PM by Jim Sculley

    Anybody getting away from PDFs?

    Andrew Dvorak

      Hope this isn't a repeat as my search skills in the forum are still limited.

       

      We generate a lot of PDFs that are used by our suppliers and Production and Sales. The PDFs are generated automatically and put into a directory specific to there workflow state (working revision, In design and Production). Creating the PDFs works pretty well. The file names combines the part number and revision (I'd love to include the description but I could never make Tim Read's advanced scripting of the convert task work).

       

      Here's my issue - maintaining only the latest revision of the PDF in each of the folders, approximately 30 with each supplier having different combinations. For each of the newly published PDFs I have to search for the same name, move the previous version to a PDF archive, deleted all the ones that were paste shared and then paste share the new version to appropriate supplier. It's a maintenance nightmare. The other issue is that there are no relationships between the PDFs. So when I am sharing a weldment, I have to manually locate all the component PDFs of the weldment to share as well.

       

      I have started righting a spec to have a custom add-in created to support this PDF method.

       

      What I am asking here is, does anybody successfully work without PDFs, just the Solidworks files? Here are the pros that I see:

      1) I can make sure that suppliers can only see released versions of the Solidworks files

      2) Once I share the Solidworks files I don't have to delete and share again for revision changes; when the new version is released to Production the supplier should be able to get latest and see the new revision automatically.

      3) Solidworks models are viewable with free eDrawings, so just like PDFs there is a nice viewer for suppliers to work with.

      4) If I need an earlier revision of the part made, a supplier should be able to Get version to access it.

      5) Even though weldment components also have to be shared (no inheritence rights) at least I can easily see the BOM and share the component files. (I'd liek to have an add-in that this automatically too)

       

      Cons:

      1) I'm worried about drawings being accurate. When I preview a drawing in EPDM I see a bunch of times the drawing needs updating watermark. I think this is from both cyclic references and virtual parts.

       

      Your thoughts?

       

      Regards,

       

      Andy Dvorak

        • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
          Adrian Velazquez

          We don't use PDFs, our final Drawings are SolidWorks Detached Drawings. This eliminates your Cons.

          • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
            John Sutherland

            eDrawings is probably not backward compatable.

             

            I suggest checking that your collaborators can install and use it.

            • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
              Chris Weeks

              We try to stay clear of PDFs, we use e-drawings for customer reference purposes and have directed a bunch of of customers toward using the free download and had good reviews from them!

               

              They like seeing a 3D sample that you can rotate and measure as well, to review before production begins.

              • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                Mathew Stevenson

                We use PDF's but as to printing, this takes way to much time. Looking in to FlatterFiles.com now.

                • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                  Iftach Priel

                  There are some advateges to PDFs still: everyone has it, it's quick to open, detached, and you don't have to ask your suppliers to install any special program for it. This is specially true when sending out drawings to get a quotes from a large number of suppliers.

                   

                  We actually do use PDFs, but in a different way:

                   

                  Only approved versions (revisions) are task-converted to PDF in their approval transition. These PDFs are all saved in one folder, on a server outside the vault. The name of the files is exactly the name they had as drawings in the vault, which in our case is also the catalog number. In other words, the name of the PDF doesn't contain anything like "REV_B" or "V-2.8". Whenever a new revision of a file is approved, the new PDF is saved with the same name over the old one, thus deleting it.

                  Logistics, purchase and production personal can access any specific PDF file using a link from the ERP system. the link includes the file name, which is of course the catalog number they are looking at.

                  This way we make sure that they can only see the last revision that was approved. They don't  have to "know" which revision to look for. Hitting the links opens the last one.

                  Older versions, when needed, can still be accessed by the CAD users on the EPDM, and than "saved as PDF". Of course these users usually understand better what they're doing...


                  We do the same thing with X_T files for the models.



                    • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                      Jim Sculley

                      We store PDFs in an EPDM vault directory (that is accessible to all necessary groups.  The documents are grouped by part number in groups of 1000 to keep directory sizes manageable.  They are the document of record since they are guaranteed not to be changed inadvertently, unlike SW files. 

                       

                      They are automatically generated by an EPDM add-in when a drawing enters the 'Approved' state.  Any completed revision or non-revision change to a drawing will trigger an EPDM add-in that checks out the current PDF and then overwrites it with a new copy.  This maintains the PDF history in EPDM so that any user (not just SolidWorks users) can see old revisions of a document.

                       

                        When a drawing is moved from 'Approved' to some other state such as 'Change Pending', the associated PDF file is moved to a similar state and becomes inaccessible to groups outside engineering.  This prevents parts that are changing form being made to the previous revision.

                       

                      Jim S.

                        • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                          Iftach Priel

                          Jim,

                          This sounds like a very good way to get the most out of EPDM and the advateges of PDF files. I didn't mention it, but the reason we save outside the vault is that we have a compatibility problem between the ERP software (Priority) and the EPDM. When we solve that, I think I'll try to do it.

                          One question though: Can you overwrite a file in the vault the way you do on a regular window folder?  I thought this is not possible.

                          Thanks,

                          Iftach

                            • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                              Jim Sculley

                              Iftach Priel wrote:

                               

                              Jim,

                              This sounds like a very good way to get the most out of EPDM and the advateges of PDF files. I didn't mention it, but the reason we save outside the vault is that we have a compatibility problem between the ERP software (Priority) and the EPDM. When we solve that, I think I'll try to do it.

                              One question though: Can you overwrite a file in the vault the way you do on a regular window folder?  I thought this is not possible.

                              Thanks,

                              Iftach

                              You can overwrite a file in the vault if the vault file is checked out.  For example, if you have A.pdf in the valut and a different A.pdf on your desktop, you can check out the file in the vault and then drag the desktop file into the vault folder and you will asked if you want to overwrite, just like a regular Windows file.  On check in, the new EPDM version will reflect the new file, but you can still get the previous version.

                               

                              My add-in checks out the PDF, opens the SolidWorks drawing, uses the Save As API command to generate a new PDF (overwriting the old PDF) and finally checks in the PDF.

                               

                              JIm S.

                            • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                              Pete Yodis

                              Jim,

                               

                                   Can you explain how the associated PDF is moved to a different state when the source drawing is being worked on?  Is this an automatic process for you?  Is just the latest revision of the PDF put into that state, or are all revisions of the PDF put into that state?

                                • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                                  Jim Sculley

                                  The work is done by a custom C# add-in I wrote.  Add-ins can be set up to watch for specific events such as PRE_STATE (a file is about to move to a new state) and POST_STATE (a file has finished moving to a new state). 

                                   

                                  In my addin, when a SolidWorks drawing (e.g. 400001.slddrw)  is about to enter a state in which I am interested (e.g. Approved), the add-in looks to see if the associated PDF (400001.pdf) exists.  If it doesn't, the add-in opens the drawing in SW, saves as PDF, adds the PDF to the vault, checks it in and transitions the PDF to its 'Published' state.  If the PDF already exists, it is first checked out and then SW is used to save as a new copy, overwriting the existing PDF.

                                   

                                  The same addin performs a lot of other work such as assigning part numbers to the files and renaming and moving them to appropriate directories when a user 'releases' a part from Engineering to production.  Altogether it is 2800 lines of code and about 40 different classes.

                                   

                                  As for your second question, there is only one PDF file.  The previous revisions are accessible via the 'Get Version' command, but from the end user perspective, there is only one PDF ,which is the latest revision.  This was one of the main motivations for creating the add-in.  I wanted to eliminate the possibility of making parts to the wrong revision because a user forgot to generate a new PDF when the SW drawing was revised.  When it happens automatically, the user doesn't have to think about it.

                                   

                                  Jim S.

                            • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                              Andrew Dvorak

                              Thanks to those whoo expressed their opinions and experience. Right now I'll stay with managing PDFs but will keep  thinking over your statements.

                               

                              Andy

                              • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                                Brian McEwen

                                Good question Andrew, and a lot of interesting replies.  I'm just starting on EPDM implementation and I'm curious about some of the things that were said.  I don't fully understand your 30 different folders for suppliers, but sounds like a pain.

                                 

                                @Andrew  - with your current system I assume your pdf drawings are stored outside the PDM Vault, in some shared folder. But with your possible change to sharing the SolidWorks drawing via EPDM - you would need to provide all your suppliers with an EPDM Viewer login? I suppose you can have fewer floating seats than suppliers, but still that sounds expensive. 

                                 

                                ...In fact in the original post it may be that you are not really comparing pdf and native SolidWorks (via eDrawings) - you are  comparing publishing via EPDM versus a bunch of network folders. 

                                 

                                For managing PDF in EPDM it seems like Jim Sculley has a good system figured out. 

                                 

                                "1) I can make sure that suppliers can only see released versions of the Solidworks files"  If you only want suppliers to see one version it seems like you should consider the method Iftach Priel explained where the curret pdf overwrites the old ones, no rev in the filename, then you don't need to move them around as much. 

                                 

                                "The other issue is that there are no relationships between the PDFs. So when I am sharing a weldment, I have to manually locate all the component PDFs of the weldment to share as well."  I don't know enough about your system to be sure, but it sounds like you could put all these components on one weldment drawing - if they are always ordered together.  We have reworked some of our weldment drawings to this multi-sheet method and it worked for us.  If you change one component you do need to bump the rev on the whole thing. 

                                 

                                These are just ideas, I'm hoping you will explain how there is more to the story I'm not seeing.  I think we will be publishing our drawings with pdf outside the vault (continuing what we did without a PDM system).  We won't have enough seats for all our users to get into the Vault.

                                  • Re: Anybody getting away from PDFs?
                                    Andrew Dvorak

                                    Brian,

                                     

                                    It is a great pain.

                                     

                                    To clarify, each of our suppliers has a unique folder in EPDM where we "paste shared" the files they need to see. We might have, for example, 7 wire harness, 10 steel, 6 plastic and 4 label suppliers. They only see the files they are providing or quoting product for us, which means each folder has different stuff in it.

                                     

                                    To further complicate the matter, our drawing standard requires we publish drawings to PDFs that combine the part number, description and revision in the name. This means a number of the responder methods can't be used since they overwrite the previous PDF when a new version is created. We have to delete the previous version and add the latest version (our suppliers have complained about the different revisions in their folders.)

                                     

                                    That's one of the reasons why I'm angling towards the native Solidworks file. Our POs specify the revision of the item. The vendor can get a specific revison of the Solidworks file using Get version. The vendor first only see the one part number, and then gets the version the PO requires versus seeing multiple revisions of a file and maybe select the wrong one? Frankly, I don't know what their problem is (6 of one, half dozen another?) But they have complained and mostly because we rarely, very rarely manufacture to previous revisions.

                                     

                                    Regarding EPDM web login, and I hate this.... Solidworks uses the more expensive contributor license automatically for every web login. In our case, every suppier should be View Only as we don't collaborate in this way. But with 30 suppliers and 5 contributors in-house, we have not yet had a conflict. We have 5 contributor licenses total to cover them all. Because logins between in-house users and suppliers bounce around during the day, no one has complained of not being able to log in. You have to think of time usage versus number of users. I still think Solidworks should allow setting specifically web user licenses as well as regular licenses.