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Small company PDM implementation

Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
We are a small company that is specialized in CAD.

We curentlly use two PC workstations with Solidworks Standard on one and Solidworks Professional on other. One workstation is also used as data storage, so the other is working over the network to access this data. This is curentlly working fine, but it is not recommended as I'm aware. But we are limited with our resources and this was the only way to go so far. We also use collaboration option when we work on same projects.

The plan is to implement PDM to our company, because of easier work and easier versioning, specially on larger projects. Does anyone have any recomendations about implementation? Companies here that implement PDM don't sell server computer and we have to find it ourselves. This will probably be the first step. To acquire server and use it as a main data storage and after some time implement PDM. Any recomendations about server computer for such small company? I have to point out that we do all IT work for our small company ourselves and if it is possible we would like to keep it that way.

We would also like to know main practical differences between PDM pro and standard, if anyone can point them out quickly.

Thanks for answers in advance.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

JerinG,

What do you need PDM to accomplish? Without clear objectives, you will screw up.

PDM gives you a storage vault. It logs who is doing changes. It prevent unauthorized changes. It allows you to drop all of your working data on a local hard drive. This is especially useful for remote laptops. You should make your drawing database searchable. This will require a lot of thought. You need to communicate outside your engineering department. PDM may help you with this. Again, you need to think out what you want.

--
JHG

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
That is also why I'm asking this here. For some feedback of PDM in small companies.

I don't need PDM for checking who is doing changes, because we are too small for this. Some of our projects are big for such small company and it is hard to manually making revisions with all parts renaming - you quickly forget something. Solidworks Explorer is also slow and if I'm correct PDM uses different database managing. It would also be great if we could have all our data on remote server computer and then work localy only with files that need changes. This is useful also for making remote database on server PC which is also under RAID protection. Every few weeks we also make a backup copy of all our data and store it in another remote location. So I see a server PC as another backup and with RAID some aditional data saftey. But to work quickly and effective and with large amount of data we have to load this data to our workstations and I'm only aware of PDM that does this. If there are any other options, please state them. We also don't like having two different databases because this makes work much harder, if we are working on same projects.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

We are a small company. I mainly use it but we have 2 contributors that just use it to look at stuff. I do all the changes and I also do all the approvals in all the areas of the workflow. Its not ideal, but its just me running it for now. We mainly use it for document control, consisting of revision management, work locally, files are stored on protected server that is backed up (unlike my HDD). Allow others to view the files and their data cards for better understanding of the parts\assemblies makes life easier for everyone and my phone doesn't ring near as often. Using PDM forces us to follow specific rules, where before you just named the file to anything you wanted, which doesn't work in PDM. I love the fact that everything is saved under a part number, even if its purchased. We have other rules for internal jobs, also for library (purchased) components.

To me all files should be saved a unique part number and the data card is where the description and all the other info about the part\assembly should exist. We have special cards for engines. The engines are purchased, but they have specific information we needed added to card so we can look at the card and not have to open the files to check it. All the other purchased components have a different card. Same goes for projects and Internal projects.

Example of our Engine and Purchased Data cards.


All of our Projects have a "Project number" and a "Project name". That info is transfer down through all the folders that I create in the Project. That info is also transferred to all the files I add to the project. If you setup the variables properly and you link your all your files types correctly along with your templates you won't have to do much.

We have PDM STD and it works for what we need. Yeah the Pro would be nice and would remove some of the manual stuff I have to track, such as Project Numbers and our Library numbers, but since its just me doing all of it, its no big deal. If I had a couple of more hands in the cookie jar, then there would have to more rules made, but it still would not be a problem.

The biggest thing you should do before implementing it is to have a plan on what you want to do and how you want to accomplish it. Such as part number control, revision control, workflow process, etc.. If you are going to be using the PDM STD, then you need to be aware of the limitations within that bundle. PDM Pro has far less limitations.

Scott Baugh, CSWP pc2
CAD Systems Manager
Evapar

www.evapar.com

Quote:

"If it's not broke, Don't fix it!"
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
SBaugh and drawoh,

Thank you for your answers. Nice to hear from someone who uses PDM in very similar way we would like to. I know that I have to know and plan what I want to do and accomplish. We already have a manual workflow with project numbering, revisions, etc. that works for us. We would like to implement it to PDM and automate as much as we could. But I don't know how to gnerate a workflow, when I don't know what PDM can offer me. I saw some presentations and it looked like we could accomplish a lot with PDM pro. I never used PDM before. And it is also quite an investment for us.

My plan is to set a meeting with my VAR and show them on our most complex projects what we would like to achive. And then we will se if we could do that with PDM standard. It will be more afordable for me to upgrade one SW standard to prof to get one more licence of PDM standard. It would still be nice if I could find some practical pointers on what are the limitations in PDM standard in comparison with PDM prof.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

You don't have the full automation in PDM STD that you get in Pro. Such as automated part number scheme. I handle that manually myself and since its me its easy. At my last job there was two of us and the hardest part was we both had our own ideas on how it should be. He got what he wanted, because I left, lol (not because of that of course). That is a huge difference between the two. STD also has a 10GB Database limit, however that is a hard limit to hit, but its still a limitation.

The workflow is really fairly simple. Its all the little items inside the state and transitions that will be more confusing. I recommend that you take the training course if you buy the software. PDM is not something that can be learned on the fly. I merely learned by playing with it for several years. This is only the 2nd time i have had to set it up since its release several years ago.

Scott Baugh, CSWP pc2
CAD Systems Manager
Evapar

www.evapar.com

Quote:

"If it's not broke, Don't fix it!"
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
I will try with PDM standard first. It is enough expense for now to get a server and one SW upgrade from standard to pro. I checked and PDM pro will be too much for us. Any recomendations for the server machine? This is something I have to find first. I will also ask my VAR but it doesn't hurt to know more.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

Do you not have an IT person there to help you sort out a server? I ask because at my previous job I was forced to be the IT Engineer and I am not in any way an IT dude. Myself and another employee talked the owner into purchasing a basic tower server, similar to this:

http://www.dell.com/en-us/work/shop/cty/pdp/spd/po...

I know it was Dell and it was a tower. We paid about 2k for the server and I talked them into paying for the extended help in setting it up which was another $1500 or so and it was WELL WORTH EVERY PENNY, especially if you no nothing about servers (which I didn't and still only know enough to destroy one). ***The one thing that we did that you need to know that we were not made aware of until it was too late, is that the server CANNOT BE INSTALLED AS A DOMAIN SERVER.*** I was told afterwards that PDM will not install on a Domain server, after we had already setup the server as a Domain... sigh... It took more persuasion and several conversations with Dell before they agreed to help me reinstall it again as a Non-Domain server. The expensive service you pay for is a one time online help service fee just to set it up. So you need to get it right the first time.

However without a Domain its going to be hard to get other people to connect to the vault. My recommendation for you before you try and do ANY of this on your own, is to get or contract in an IT professional that can get you the right server per your needs and one that will last a decent life cycle. Also so they can set it up and connect everyone that is going to be using it, even if its just you. Its too much to take on as one person unless you are skilled in the art of servers. An IT persons fee will probably be less than the service fee Dell charges to set it up. The other thing you might have to worry about is access to the server. Especially if you don't have any Ethernet lines ran. If your connecting to the vault I would recommend a hard line over a WiFi line.

Hopefully my pitfalls in doing this will help you from repeating the same ones. Most of the reason why I had so many issues was because the owner was unwilling to pay the money needed to prevent the problems from occurring. Once we started having so many problems he realized far to late it would have been a lot less expensive just to contract in an IT person in at the beginning... which he did finally, but it was to late and it cost more money to fix the issues.

I left the company shortly after that, far to much stress and chaos and the above adventure did not help.

Kind Regards,

Scott Baugh, CSWP pc2
CAD Systems Manager
Evapar

www.evapar.com

Quote:

"If it's not broke, Don't fix it!"
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Small company PDM implementation

SBaugh,

Interesting story.

About twenty years ago, I was put in charge of the CAD network, and I was sent out for two weeks of UNIX system administration training, Sun Solaris 2 at the time. When I got back, the first thing I did was set up a projects directory where everybody would work. Way back in its drafting board days, the company had set up a drawing numbering system that went project, assembly and sequential number. This made for an obvious and very convenient directory tree. I set up file permissions so that everyone could read and write to everything. Eventually, I wrote scripts that locked and unlocked files and directories, and that implemented an ECR system. UNIX provides no equivalent of a Windows C: drive, the bugaboo of CAD administrators everywhere. My process made sense to everyone, so I had little difficulty in selling it. A different drawing number system would have been a challenge. This was long before the days of laptops.

Eventually, one guy moved his working files into his personal directory, and he set the file permissions so that no one could see what he was doing. My best guess is that he was threatened for not getting work done, so he locked down his work so that he could not be spied on. He was much better at office politics than he was at reasoning. He was fired.

When we switched to Windows, SolidWorks and SmarTeam, it became a dis-functional mess. We had no history of chaos to learn from. Our people who installed SmarTeam, were rigidly process-driven. They made no effort to create user-friendly interfaces for design and manufacturing. The attitude was that we need PDM, therefore, we will install PDM and operate PDM. Hence, my remarks above about having clear objectives.

--
JHG

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
Today I had a long discussion with my VAR and we went through with all our current working processes. We already have very establised work procedure for such a small engineering company and as I expected it is relatively well prepared for PDM implementation. Some things would get a lot easier. I can say that there are some things that look good in PDM Pro (option of tasking) but I also got the feeling that Pro is too much as I expected before. Maybe an upgrade later if needed. For tasks we use #TASK application and it tuned out great so far.

One thing suprised me a little bit, though. I thought about that option before, but since you can find that you need a server machine for PDM, I didn't check it out more. They said, that they studied our case and for such a small company they don't see why invest in server machine, when we can buy less capable workstation and put PDM on it. There would also be our whole database on that workstation with RAID mirroring. PDM workstation will be connected via 10/100/1000 ethernet switch with both of our current workstations.
Any thoughts and limitations about this option?

Also what RAID level do you recommend and which is used most for this kind of data storage managment?

RE: Small company PDM implementation

JerinG,

I am not an expert on RAID. If you have two-drive RAID array, you have faster access to the hard drive. If you have more than two drives, one can be a redundant checksum drive, and you have a more robust file server.

If you really want fast disk speeds, you want to work on your local C: drive. PDM enables this. You check out onto your local drive. You work, possibly disconnected from the network. When you are done, or well enough on, you check your data in, onto the server, where it is backed up and where everyone else has access to it.

Without PDM, local hard drives are an administration nightmare.

--
JHG

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
drawoh,

That is exactly what we want to and will do and I'm aware of all the positive impact this has for our work. My main question is still if PDM computer can be regular PC or is it neccessary that it is server PC. RAID question was just by the way. What do most users of PDM have and if I get some feedback so it will be easier to decide. Thanks for all the answers.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

Now that you mention that I remember the IT manager telling me that our PDM server is a on a virtual drive. SW does not recommend it, but it has worked without an issue since I started here back in April. It's also fast and reliable. When we first started getting PDM installed it was on standard PC machine, that was too old to be used as a workstation. So your answer is yes it will work. You still want to be on a hard line versus on a wifi connection or you will see a speed issue.

One thing I want to mention is that I have had problems with working offline. Yeah you can do it, but I always had trouble getting back on and getting the server files updated to my offline files. I always got it, but it came with some extra work.

Regard,

Scott Baugh, CSWP pc2
CAD Systems Manager
Evapar

www.evapar.com

Quote:

"If it's not broke, Don't fix it!"
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
Ok. That's good to know. I will have all three computers linked via 10/100/1000 ethernet switch. I never thought about working via wifi connection. Maybe an option for the future if I will need it. I already have both of my workstations connected via that switch, I will just add new one, since I have 8 ports. I have to take into consideration PDM standard system requirements when choosing regular PC workstation: PDM system requirements.

Sbaugh,

Whith what do you think that your offline working problems were related to? PDM standard or using regular PC instead of server PC? Or anything else?

RE: Small company PDM implementation

We have just upgraded from Workgroup PDM to PDM Pro. I will say that there are some definite advantages to PDM Pro over Workgroup. We went completely to Pro because the cost for us to convert for workgroup to PDM basic was about half the cost as converting to Pro. The other reason is we want to have automated exporting of our BOM's and some other data to a master database to feed our MRP, marketing, sales and website information.
I am the engineer who is in charge of configuring the system. Our IT group set up a virtual machine on the amazon cloud.

We installed PDM Pro 2 weeks ago and I have gone through the 1week training. I am still moving files from our legacy folder into the folders that our users can access in the evenings and here and there during the day. I still have to do my engineering job designing new products. I have 7 years and about 30+ products and upgrades worth of files to move so it is a time consuming process. We highly sort our files, every part and assembly has its own directory so it takes about 3-5 minutes to transition each directory from the "Legacy" folders to the open to the office folders.

Here are Good and bad points I have discovered over the last 2 weeks:
Good
You work off your local hard drive but looks like you are working in the vault.
Searching is quick
Easy to rename files and folders and PDM keeps track of that for you and updates all the pointers. (once the files have been checked in. If you rename before checking in the pointers do not exist yet and are lost.


Bad
Saving is not checking in. With Workgroup it was not either but was definitely a different feel since you were not working in the vault. Other users cannot see the latest version of the files you have not checked in.
We have a long latency timing so right clicking to do anything takes a while. This has to do with the connection between us and the server. If I remote ino the server and do the same things it is very fast. If this was only a local office LAN it would be really fast. We are not an IT company for we outsource all most all of our servers to the cloud.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

Quote (GRF)



...

Bad
Saving is not checking in. With Workgroup it was not either but was definitely a different feel since you were not working in the vault. Other users cannot see the latest version of the files you have not checked in.
We have a long latency timing so right clicking to do anything takes a while. This has to do with the connection between us and the server. If I remote ino the server and do the same things it is very fast. If this was only a local office LAN it would be really fast. We are not an IT company for we outsource all most all of our servers to the cloud.

This is good, not bad.

Unless you always are located right next to and connected to your PDM server, saving should be to a hard drive, only. With a slow network, check outs and check ins will be slow. Since you are not constantly doing this, it does not matter very much. Your actual CAD work must be efficient. If people need to see what you are doing, check it in. If you are working on the local hard drive of a laptop, maybe you should check in every evening when you quit work.

--
JHG

RE: Small company PDM implementation

JerinG

I never was able to deduce what or why I was having such a hard time getting my files to update. From what I can remember it was hard to get my laptop to reconnect to the server. Once I was able to get it connected (Blue (offline) to Green (online) folders). It was asking to overwrite existing files that were in the vault, which I did not understand, because the files were still checked out to me. It was not the same online process. When your online and you check in a file it just gives you the check in menu. When you are offline and get back online to check in a series of files it asks you to overwrite, then check in.

It shouldn't be that hard, but it is a different process and if your not familiar with it it can be a little overwhelming, because my worst fear about the PDM vault is screwing something up or losing data. Even though there are some built features to prevent that. I know myself pretty well, I can mess just about anything up, even when I am not trying to and that's when I do my best work. hammer

Scott Baugh, CSWP pc2
CAD Systems Manager
Evapar

www.evapar.com

Quote:

"If it's not broke, Don't fix it!"
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies

RE: Small company PDM implementation

If you have never used PDM before, it will take some time to get used to. You will definitely want to sign up for support to get you started at the very minimum.

Until recently, everywhere I worked, I was the only one running Solidworks. When I started this job, I had NEVER worked off of a PDM before. I have been here 4 months and still struggle every once in a while.

The biggest plus, I see, for PDM is that you can keep track of changes and revert back to previous versions without having to save the file as a different name. Because of this, you always have to be cognoscente of what you are working on and which version.

The next plus would be that only one person can work on a part/assembly/drawing at a time. Since the file has to be checked out of the vault, someone else can't pull the same file and make changes you aren't aware of while you are making your changes. Make sense?

A big negative is that anyone who accesses the vault has to have some type of license to do so. My coworker and I have standard access. Our QA and Purchasing department have different, view only, licenses. You just have to buy everything you need.

Honestly, unless you are working with a lot of repeat parts and since there are only two of you using Solidworks, I would just buy a centralized server, with back-up, and then use communication between the two of you. Would be a lot less costly.

Just my $0.02

RE: Small company PDM implementation

(OP)
Yes, that was an option also. But how would you suggest to get the files to both of our workstations to work on them? I don't want to work with files directly over network anymore. I'm doing it now, when I access the database we have on one of our workstations. It was causing us some problems in the past and the files get larger (don't know why, but Dassault also says that is an possibility with that kind of procedure) and we loose workstation performance. Copying manually back and forth is not an option. Too much room for error.

I'm considering PDM standard for now as I mentioned. We have one already and we will get the other with upgrade of one of our SW standard licences to Professional. I also have support, implementation and traning in current offer pricing. We planed for bigger expenses than what is curentlly in offer, so it's good. Main problem is to find time for PDM implementation during all work that is in progress. But if we won't do it now, we will probably never do it.smile

I will also replace one of our weaker workstations with a new one and use the older as a "server" machine with RAID (probably level 1) data storage for all our company data. It should be enough for two of us and get the job done for what we need.

RE: Small company PDM implementation

To answer one of your questions, for a file server I would recommend RAID 5, or 10 depending on what you can afford. It has saved our bacon more than once when drives inevitably fail and the machine stays up and running.

That would also be a reason to buy a true “server” machine and not a PC. Servers tend to have RAID built in and “hot swappable" drives. Which means when a drive does fail, you can pop it out and replace it without shutting the machine down and opening up the case.

Check out Dell's Outlet site. They have reconditioned machines, including servers at discounted prices and full warranties. You just have to be quick as they don’t stay there long.

--
Ryan Gudorf
CAD/CAM Supervisor
Budde Sheet Metal Works, Inc.

Windows 7 Professional x64 SP1
Solid Edge V20
NX10.0.2.6
TC10 in Testing
32 GB RAM, nVIDIA Quadro K4200

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