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Product Data Management, a must for working in 3D

PDM captures a complete, accurate, and detailed “audit trail”—from start to finish—for every product, assembly, and component an organization develops. 
Which is why it is so important, particularly in 3D design, explains Manoj Mehta, Country Manager, SolidWorks, India and SAARC.
Most product developers know that implementing modern computer-aided design (CAD) tools not only improves productivity, but also helps achieve their goals of accelerating time-to-market, shortening design cycles, reducing development costs, and improving product quality. From the earliest application of 2D design tools to the growing use of 3D solid modeling systems, CAD technology has made a dramatic impact on product development, improving efficiency, quality, and innovation. Along with the greater productivity that CAD automation provides, product development organizations face a whole new set of challenges. These include managing, controlling, and sharing the incredible influx in the volume and diversity of product design data that engineers now create through the use of better and more automated design tools.
Designing products in the digital age demands an easy-to-use, efficient, and cost-effective product data management (PDM) solution. The PDM system must not only support the creation and control of increasing amounts of diverse types of 3D product design data, but also must foster collaboration across design teams and with external partners. An effective PDM system does more than simply fulfill the role that documentation management systems played in the past. It also represents a critically important next step for maximizing the productivity benefits of CAD automation across product development stages and throughout the extended enterprise.
In many ways, the differences between using a paper document management system and working with a Windows-based PDM system are analogous to locating library materials with a card catalog versus finding the information via an online search engine. Paper document management systems are time- and labor-intensive, as well as prone to error since drawings can end up missing or misfiled. In addition, they discourage collaboration and design reuse because only one person at a time can sign out a drawing. Plus, sharing the information with colleagues or partners requires copying prints, mailing drawing tubes, or sending hard-to-read faxes.
An effective PDM system does more than simply fulfill the role that documentation management systems played in the past. It also represents a critically important next step for maximizing the productivity benefits of CAD automation across product development stages and throughout the extended enterprise.
Besides providing a wealth of productivity-enhancing benefits, 3D design and analysis tools create unique data management challenges. Unlike flat, distinct, and autonomous drawing files, 3D files contain many references, associations, and interrelationships that link them to other files. These parts, drawings, bills of materials (BOMs), multiple configurations, analysis results, and assemblies need to be managed, preserved, and safeguarded. Revising a 3D file or collaborating with other engineers on different parts of a 3D assembly involves much more than updating a single file. It demands an effective PDM system for controlling access to data, recording design changes to files, and managing the ramifications of those changes on other linked files. Working in 3D, a PDM system is virtually mandatory. When a change to a file is made, the PDM system helps to ensure that the resulting ripples created throughout the associated design data are necessary and desired, rather than haphazard and costly.
In design environments larger than a single user, it is nearly impossible—and definitely impractical—to manage 3D design data effectively with the “project folder” and “shared drives” approach. Managing assemblies, parts, and drawings requires careful adherence to procedures for file naming and an elaborate process for creating new folders. For a manufacturing company to maximize the power of 3D CAD technology, boost productivity, foster collaboration, and utilize valuable 3D design data to its fullest extent, product developers need a simple, easy-to-use PDM solution.
While the need for a simple, secure PDM solution for managing the diversity of 3D product design data within a workgroup or across the enterprise is patently obvious, the right PDM solution eluded many manufacturers. Many of the early PDM systems were expensive, inflexible, poorly designed, and training-intensive, or they required an army of consultants and months or years of work to implement. Companies that tried to implement other PDM applications often had bad experiences, leading to negative perceptions and real barriers to the widespread adoption of valid PDM solutions.
However, the new-age PDM solutions have completely changed the PDM paradigm by creating a simple, efficient, affordable solution to meet the PDM needs of any mainstream product development organization. PDM software could track and record every event, each design stage, and every version that impacts a specific set of design data. In addition to managing CAD files of parts, assemblies, and drawings, the system could also manage any other pieces of related software and design data, such as Excel spreadsheets of photorealistic renderings and allows product developers to securely manage product design data, effectively control access, and virtually eliminate the potential for PDM-related errors or loss of data.
Managing collaboration around the world, across the enterprise
Supporting and encouraging design collaboration, design reuse, and increased cooperation among previously isolated departments, customers, and external partners are important components of an effective, mainstream PDM system. An efficient PDM solution allows manufacturers to set up, administer, and adjust the characteristics of their vaults to meet their unique development requirements. Replicating portions of the PDM Vault to different servers, or providing secure web access to design data at the user level, enables product development organizations to support collaboration anywhere in the world.
Well-defined processes, combined with the system’s built-in notification capabilities, ensure that the right people review and approve product designs and changes, as well as release designs for production, at the right time.

Intelligent use, search, and audit capabilities
While securing, managing, and safeguarding 3D product design data are important functions of any PDM application, finding and reusing product designs or documenting specific product development processes are equally important requirements for an effective mainstream PDM system. From a design engineer’s perspective, having the ability to find and view design-related documents, models, and files quickly and effortlessly may even be the most immediately recognizable benefit of implementing a PDM system.
Implementing modern, information-rich 3D design and analysis tools can produce significant productivity gains that can help product development organizations achieve their goals of shortening design cycles, decreasing development costs, improving product quality, and accelerating time-to-market. However, to maximize the power of 3D CAD technology, foster collaboration, and utilize valuable 3D design data to its fullest extent throughout a manufacturing organization, product developers need a simple, easy-to-use PDM solution.
With the introduction of SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, DS SolidWorks has completely changed the PDM paradigm by creating an easy-to-use, efficient, and affordable solution to meet the PDM needs of any mainstream product development organization. In addition to managing CAD files of parts, assemblies, and drawings, the system manages any other pieces of related design data, while supporting collaboration around the world and throughout the extended enterprise. With SolidWorks Enterprise PDM, product developers can securely manage product design data, effectively control access, and virtually eliminate the potential for PDM-related errors or loss of data.
A mainstream PDM system also gives product development organizations the tools they need to manage workflows, automate critical cycles, streamline operations, drive innovation, increase overall effectiveness, integrate systems, and accelerate time-to-market. The system facilitates design reuse by enabling manufacturers to classify, organize, and group design information for quick search and retrieval.
PDM automatically captures a complete, accurate, and detailed audit trail—from start to finish—for every product, assembly, and component an organization develops. The system’s auditing capability automates the process of making design modifications, adding new features, or identifying design errors or potential issues. It can also help medical device manufacturers decrease the overhead associated with meeting their regulatory documentation compliance obligations, while reducing the risk of noncompliance at the same time.




    


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