23 Replies Latest reply on Jan 29, 2015 3:41 PM by Matthew Phaneuf

    Can I get a recommendation

    Jeff Hamilton

      We are currently using Workgroup along with a manual (paper) approval process that goes back to the old drawing board days. Basically mark up your drawings in pdf or paper, make the changes in Solidworks, create an extremely detailed release package on Publisher, print it off and manually carry it around to get approval signatures. If it sits on the signff board (a table in drafting) it can sit there literally for months. The Workgroup vault itself acts very much like an old fashioned locked room with file drawers where you keep only the released drawings until someone needs them again to check out and make changes. Revision history is handled both through Workgroup (by it's nature) and through all the duplicated documentation of the release package itself. (Alot of duplicated information.)

       

      Has anyone moved from a similar system to EPDM and have a good story of how it improved their business?

        • Re: Can I get a recommendation
          Michael LaFleche

          We use EPDM for the revision control of drawings as well as for the automated ECO process.  We have a change control workflow that pushes an electronic document through the sign-off process to all parties involved.  There are many examples and ideas here on this forum including some from Jeff Sweeney and others if you go to Re: Using Word or Excel for Engineering Change Documentation. that is a start.  EPDM is really good at this kind of thing.  Our process is very complex and we have ECO participants working across four continents.

          Capture.PNG

          • Re: Can I get a recommendation
            Brian McEwen

            Jeff,

            I'll add a word of caution.  In transferring and improving your EC Process EPDM is going to create more work for you (or ideally your PDM team) for months.  And it is going to create more work relative to how much you try to stuff into it. The more steps you try to automate the more complex it gets, and a vendor can't do it right without significant involvement by insiders.   If you go to EPDM do not start with a workflow like Michael shows - it is easier to add states than remove.

             

            I always like to see other workflows. Thanks for sharing Michael. But that was clearly a lot of work to create and fine tune. 

             

            I limited my main workflow to 6 states, and it was still a lot of work to set up.  

             

            So anyway you need to make sure you have a group of people who are interested in working to improve the process, and a lot of the improvement can probably be done without EPDM. But yes, in the long run EPDM can be a significant benefit. 

              • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                Jeff Hamilton

                Thank you for the word of warning. That is exactly what I was thinking (not so sure that's how management see it though) start small and branch out or we'll end up with a mess. Our VAR also feels this way too.

                  • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                    Brian McEwen

                    Try budgeting it in 2 or more phases. I think the management folks like to see it defined, and how much it will cost for each phase as you increase the system. Thankfully, our phase 2 has not happened yet, it is going to be more than 1 year after phase 1. 

                      • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                        Michael LaFleche

                        Our process took about 2 months, and involved a Kaizen process to develop the workflow and documents.  About 80 hours of actual design and work on my part, 2 weeks of testing plus some follow up to add other items that were not included in the initial Kaizen (3 days locked in a room together)  But yes, start simple.  We wanted to have ERP connectivity with the ECN process, but decided this would be a phase 2 item.  Ongoing maintenance on the process is typically a couple hours a month for us.

                          • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                            Jeff Hamilton

                            We have a new product development group, main engineering and design drafting (who do most of the major ENs). Since it is something that is customizable as you go, I would like to start phase one in our development group since that group is small their approval process is much more limited. Then after some of the issues are worked out expand phase 2 into engineering and design drafting, starting with some smaller requests. We would probably have to have a Kaizen for that and possibly a smaller one for phase one.

                            • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                              Jeff Hamilton

                              Do you usually release one drawing at a time or can you do several as part of the same package?

                                • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                  Michael LaFleche

                                  We generally do one, but it can be several.  We copy CTRL-C the Drawing files and paste them as a reference onto the ECN document.  There are two workflows.  One for the general engineering source document and the one above for the ECN process. 

                                   

                                  Note the two transitions that attach to the state ECO.  They are both called 'make changes"  The engineering workflow also has a "make changes" transition name after the "approved" state which will bring the engineering source workflow back to the Working state to actually make the changes.  Any drawing files (and therefore models) that are pasted as a reference will then automatically go to the "Working" state.

                                  • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                    Brian McEwen

                                    Usually it  is okay to do multiple drawings on one EC.  It varies with the scope of the change, but they should be related somehow. We do from 1 (or 0) drawings, up to about 50 per EC (large is EC is generally for a new assembly).

                                     

                                    Most EPDM systems use the Paste As Reference method for managing EC, but it is far from ideal - I'm sure there are ways to make it better (some get into API programming, etc).  We no longer use it, here is why:

                                    *Paste as Ref will drag the child files thru when the parent is transitioned to a new state. But people don't tell you it doesn't work cleanly.  You have to manage checkboxes almost every time you use it.  It will check things you don't want and not check things you do.

                                    *When you look at the Contains  (or Where Used) tab you often seen junk that doesn't make sense - child items of the things that are actually Pasted as Ref.  You cannot do anything from the Contains or Where Used tab anyway (only useful thing is browse to files in their folder).

                                     

                                    Instead...

                                    *We use a Search based system - so we put a consistent EC number on every file in the EC.  From the Search results you can run Dispatch scripts, Change State, and Check-in-out. Once the EC is on the appropriate files we don't have to worry about it - if you Change State and you get exactly what you expect. By default we don't search on All Versions - so we only get the stuff that is still part of the EC (when things are removed).

                                     

                                    For adding things to the EC - the way we were doing things it took longer to use Paste as Ref than it does to add the EC number to the files.  (I use a Version Free variable to make it easy to add files to the EC).

                                      • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                        Matthew Phaneuf

                                        Hi Brian - "so we put a consistent EC number on every file in the EC" - are you using the File or Folder Card when you do this? You're process is interesting, and I'm curious about alternatives to "Paste As Ref". I think I understand what you're doing and how; if you'd like to share I'd love a copy of that workflow or a screen shot anyway) to pull apart and test my own here. Either way, that looks good, thanks for the insight!

                                        MattP

                                         

                                          • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                            Brian McEwen

                                            Matthew -

                                            EC number... I put it on the file data cards. It does need to be added intentionally to model and drawing.  I have a Dispatch script - and provided the files are in the same folder - you can multi-select them, right-click, and add the EC number to all files in one step.  The Current EC number is going to a version free variable. This makes it very easy to add, you don't have to check out the file to change it (in any state in our setup).  Accidentally added it to the wrong file? No problem, just delete it. When the EC is released - the version free variable writes to a regular variable that stores "Released ECO" (see image of data card). 

                                            datacardexample.JPG

                                            So to start an EC you go around add the EC number to relevant files (it is automatically added to the Excel EC info file - created via an EPDM template). Then you search by Current ECO number, then you change state to "Edit" (without managing checkboxes) and get to work.  This is just so much easier than Paste As Reference in my experience.  In comparison it is almost elegant.

                                             

                                            See also - Re: Automate "Paste As Reference" -

                                             

                                            It is important to customize your search cards if you go with this approach. I have a Full search which is a heavily modified EPDM Complete search. And I have a Thin Search with 3 things: File Name, Text (searches all variables on the data card  (it is on unimpressive sounding "History" tab of Complete search)), and Current ECO... okay 4 things, it has the Browse tool to pick a folder.  Thin Search probably covers more than 80% of search needs.

                                             

                                            Check out this discussion - Re: Grade my workflow -  Those are images of my workflow. There have been some changes but it is still basically those 3 workflows. The main thing that is not shown in the old (idealistic?) workflow is that I ended up adding a lot of Admin shortcut transitions - to the CAD workflow - because migration was not very clean so many files in mixed up states.

                                             

                                            The Excel EC package document goes thru the same workflow as the CAD files, simple.  The QuickPublish state is working great for prototype work. One transition and we can stamp a model-drawing pair with a revision (01, 02, 03, vs Released state uses A, B, C revs), and then it is visible to our machine shop, and it is clear when we change it to a new revision.

                                             

                                            The non-cad workflow is working well for our procedures and work instructions in Word. Unless they are EC controlled (need input from multiple departments), then they go thru the CAD/EC workflow.     Good luck.

                                              • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                                Matthew Phaneuf

                                                Brian;

                                                this is great, thanks VERY much. I can't tear into this too much at the moment due to the impending doom of snow here on the East Coast, but fear not, I will. At first glance, the links and workflows you've included are ones I've followed and tested! My WFs mimic many of those, I figured if they work for others, why not plagiarize! Srsly, the only difference I have are 1. my WFs are small, 5-6 states MAX, so that others could admin if need be, and 2. I have WF links and "trap doors" all over. It's fairly impossible for someone to be stuck in a WF, without the fear of needing the top level Admin to delete/destroy a document. Oh, and an advanced Phase they have for ePDM here is for every department to be using it, in some fashion. The complexity of building WFs that interact with each other, where documents can more simultaneously, that's why I'm so curious about referencing documents. I think that is pretty powerful, and makes a big impact with the users. So for now, thanks, and I'm sure I'll have more questions later.

                                                MattP

                                                 

                                                PS - the other thread about about being an Admin -  https://forum.solidworks.com/thread/89870 - a few of these guys are writing add-ins, programming, etc. How do you feel about that? It seems like you and I have a more traditional approach. Thanks!

                                                  • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                                    Brian McEwen

                                                    I saw some of that thread. My philosophy is to work to keep it simple, because the system will tend to get more complex over the years.  I can see wanting to do what is possible with the software, and bloating the system if you don't look at cost/benefit.

                                                     

                                                    But  everyone has a different situation.  The more users you have the more total time you save with an incremental improvement.  If some Admins have the skills to create their API hacks then go for it. My primary job is mechanical engineer, but I am the lone EPDM admin, and I would have to do a lot of learning and research to get into API, and I don't think we would get big improvements out of it.  Also I have quite a bit of trust in our small group of SolidWorks users, sounds like some Admins have to exert tighter control.

                                                     

                                                    One of my goals is simplicity - we can add more later if it really adds value. And we do have a phase 2 vaguely planned, but I'll probably get outside help for it. If I do use some Add-Ins later I hope to keep  it so the system is functional even if I have to turn that Add-in off at some point.  

                                                     

                                                    I saw a good talk at SolidWorks World called Avoiding Complexity (Kent Keller and Sandford). It was a good counterpoint to the desire to automate-because-it-would-be-cool.

                                                      • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                                        Matthew Phaneuf

                                                        Brian;

                                                         

                                                        I wanted to add this, if not for the fact that, like me, I know the Forum is a good source of information on how to "make that idea work or come to life". Please tell me your thoughts on this as well; using a Template ( RMB in the Vault ) I created an ECN. The auto-generated "serial" number is stamped onto the Folder Card, which just trickles down to all the documents. I'm only half done, so I will need to wipe away that version-free variable, which I'm already clearing variables in the ECN workflow anyway. I think I can approach this idea the same way you did with the Dispatch. I may examine that at some point, I am still waiting on a new Development server, all I have is my local machine. Thanks so far!
                                                        MattP

                                                         

                                                         

                                                         

                                                        ECN Template Card.JPG

                                    • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                      Jeff Hamilton

                                      Attached is a sample of what we do now. All manually signed off.

                                      • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                        Jeff Hamilton

                                        Sounds like an issue we need to consider.

                                        • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                          Andrew Kronquist

                                          We use Jira for project tracking, ECRs, and just about everything like that.

                                          • Re: Can I get a recommendation
                                            Matthew Phaneuf

                                            Jeff;

                                            same boat here. Currently I have 7 workflows where many tie into each other (Development, Pre-Prod, Production, ECN, etc) that accomplishes what Michael's example shows, and what your workflow should, accurate real life process. My approaches differ in places, but most of the built-in tricks are utilized. I'm not a programmer, I understand it that's all, so there is no programming. I've picked the brains of anyone I could at my VAR to learn how to build not just a workflow, but a Vault. I'm not even in a Development Vault yet - I've done everything on my own machine, and shared and tested with other users here a very strange way - my Cdrive was the Development Vault (Server). That was probably the most important thing - and many others made this point - you've got to collaborate with others, learn the real life process, and test test test. Keep improving. Since last May I've created 15 Vaults and probably a couple hundred workflows. This ECN workflow below doesn't hold a candle to others WFs, but I will say that I could hand this to anyone at my company and they could admin it - including the parallel transitions, the actions, all the bells/whistles that make the magic happen. (the matching paths are for whether the Approvals include Sales Department or not). I think that's important to keep in mind as you go too......by the way, last year, when I got here, that's what I was given to build "an ECN process digitally", an ECN.pdf !! so Yeah, there's some success.

                                            If I can offer any more suggestions feel free to contact me - I don't know it all, but what I've learned to this point has been from some top notch AE's and it sounds like you are I are in similar situations. MattP

                                            .001 ECN.JPG