Post by Josiah Sansone
Have you ever approved a drawing in EPDM, and two seconds after you click that “OK” button on the state transition, you look at the drawing and realize “Oh no! Something is WRONG!”? That’s right, human error has butted its ugly head into your perfectly controlled documentation system. Whatever the error might be; be it a typo, a miss-spelled name, an incorrect view or dangling dimension, invisible lines, or inaccurate tolerances, it means that you have to fix that drawing somehow. Now, you could simply roll back the drawing, fix the issue, and send it back through the transition. But what if you just went through a complex parallel transition to get multiple signatures? Or maybe you’re still doing red-lining and paper signatures, and you’ll have to have them all check it again before you fix it. You don’t want to send it through the revision process again, that would waste too much time. If your setup is like most companies, you can’t just edit the released copy; that would create a new working copy, which your employees in production or sales wouldn’t be able to see. Well today we’re going to show you how to create a new revision to fix a simple mistake, without creating a new revision.
This trick is called the quick change loop, or quick revision loop. Sometimes these are used to do a “does not need approval” revision change, but in this case we’re going to use it to create a new version and release that version as a “released” revision, but keep the revision the same, both in the drawing and in EPDM.
The first thing you’ll need is an editing state. If you have the ability to check-out and edit your drawings while they are in their Released state, you can just check out the drawing and edit it there. If you already have an editing state for your normal revision process, you can use that and we can add the quick-change loop from that point, or you can create a “quick change” Editing state with limited permissions. Remember that while this loop is useful for fixing typos, it should only be accessible to those trusted with this type of power; a less trustworthy employee could use this to try and fix sloppy mistakes or make a product change without anyone being the wiser.
For the purpose of this example, and to keep things as simple as possible, we will use our existing Editing state to edit the files for their Quick Change loop.
Next we need to create a Quick Change state, and assign the revision scheme used in the workflow to this state. Once the revision scheme is assigned, set the Increment Revision counter to 0.
Next we create a Quick Change Loop Transition from our Editing State to our Quick Change state, and add an Increment Revision command to this transition.
Once this is done, we create a second, automatic transition from the Quick Change state to the Released state.
Now our workflow should look something like this:
Give appropriate permissions for the new state and each transition for the users you want to have access to this Quick Change Loop. The history of a file passed through this loop should look like the following:
As you can see, we have two released Revisions at “A”, with two different versions. By adding transition and check-in comments, we can record and clarify any changes made to the documents during the quick-change loop.
With Enterprise (EPDM), SQL is used to control the versioning of documents. Revisions get bumped during transitions. This causes a concern in some cases. Let me explain.
In the workflow below, the assumption is that the revision gets bumped when the file is released – let’s say from A to B. However, that means the file was at revision A before it was submitted for approval. So, a change comes in – part number changes, coating changes, etc. You grab the current revision – Rev A – modify it and submit it. It was at A, a change was made and… it’s still at A. True, the file is no longer in the “released” state – it’s back at “awaiting approval” in my example.
The document’s state can be shown in a couple of places – including a column in Windows Explorer. However, drawings aren’t reviewed in the Windows Explorer view where it is easy to spot the workflow state. Using EPDM vernacular, the file is versioned, not revisioned and this situation causes some businesses angst.
EPDM workflows can be set to send notifications when files are submitted for approval. But let’s say your company needs more certitude – the title block needs to show that Rev B is in front of the checker/approver. That result is simple in EPDM - just bump the revision when the file is submitted for approval. That works until someone makes a mistake and it gets “rejected”. Now you’ve got a file at Rev B that needs to return to Rev A. There are a couple of easy ways around this problem – other than demanding engineering perfection.
We can set up the workflow to “reset” the revision. There is a “reset” function in workflow transitions, but that’s not what we’re after. We need to return the SQL revision to A. To do that, we add a “rejected” transition and set the actions in the transition as follows:
The REJECTED transition is set the same way. The difference is that the revision increment in the AWAITING state is set to 1 and it’s set to -1 in the INITIATED state.
The only step left is to lock down permissions to the files when they are waiting to be approved – “awaiting” in this example. This way only personnel that should be approving and releasing drawings will have access.
However, notice in the file’s history that it was at revision C for a period of time until it was rejected. Again, this causes some companies angst.
There is another way. The revision variable can be set to the next revision when the file is submitted for approval, but we can keep it a secret from SQL until the file is “Released”
Now the history looks much better and more reflective of the intent of the workflow.
In our next post, Josiah will give you an even better idea for how to “whiteout” some pesky accidental EPDM revision changes.
Post by Gabe Enright
One of the announcements at SolidWorks World was that the SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Administrator (CEPA) examination would be free until June 30. If you are an Administrator of EPDM it’s a great way to show that you are qualified and know what you are doing.
One of the great things about EPDM is that Administrative tasks can be shared. A team member might only be responsible for adding users to the system or setting up data cards. Although these are administrative functions and they are using the Admin Tool, it doesn’t mean they have the knowledge to fully administer EPDM. This can lead to widely varying skill levels among folks describing themselves as EPDM administrators. The CEPA is one objective way to measure your abilities.
To learn more about the CEPA exam check out the Certification section of SolidWorks Web site. There is a great description of the exam and the prerequisites. (You will need administrative access to EPDM for one and the ability to create a vault for example)
When you are ready to take the exam follow this link to the SolidWorks webstore. Instead of buying a test email the address provided to receive a coupon code for a free exam.
Once you’ve achieved your certification you’ll want to publish it. The SolidWorks Blog did a nice write-up recently on how to add your certifications to LinkedIn.
Another announcement at SolidWorks World was that there would soon be a way to add a link to your LinkedIn page from the SolidWorks Certification site. This means once someone has found you through the SolidWorks certification directory they can now contact you. This functionality has not yet been implemented but when it is we’ll post an update.
Good luck and let us know how you do!
Welcome back. Now that you've gathered all the information and download, you're ready for the upgrade.
One of the (many) advantages EPDM has over Workgroup is the client version of SolidWorks doesn’t have to match the major version of EPDM. So it’s easy to upgrade and test right away from the SolidWorks clients. So we can just focus on upgrading EPDM.
1> Download or dvd.
Keep the download handy. It is needed for all phases of the upgrade, including the clients.
2> License file
EPDM uses a license file that needs to be downloaded – like the good ol’ days of SNL (if you don’t know what SNL means, then you likely don’t remember the good ol’ days either). After an upgrade, the first thing you want to do is login to the vault, but instead of congratulations for a job well done, you get an error message:
The license file is acquired via the Customer Portal – My Support->My Products->Get License. Have that handy before upgrading … and before backing up (sorry, I couldn’t stop myself from mentioning it again). You’ll also need to know the name of the machine hosting the SQL service and the SA password for SQL.
3> Installation Guide
Have the Installation Guide handy. After unpacking the download (or loading the dvd), the guide is found at C:\yourfoldername\Support\Guides – pick your native language. I’m not sure why, but rather than “E”nglish, the English version is under “GB”. Don’t get me wrong, I know what “GB” represents, but I’m pretty sure no one in the world speaks “GB”. Anyway, the upgrade discussion starts on page 93 in the 2013 guide. Next, as the bullet list above notes, we upgrade the archives.
If your installation has everything on the same server – archives, database, and SQL, then you can upgrade the archives and the database at the same time. In either case, the process is straightforward. The download is a zip file, the dvd will fire up on its own. Once the EPDM installation gets going, you will be presented with two options on the first screen – “upgrade” and “exit”. If you don’t, then stop and figure out why you think EPDM is installed on this machine, since it isn’t.
After selecting upgrade, the installation wizard will let you know what it finds:
Again, if this list doesn’t match your expectations, stop and check it out.
Honestly, there’s not much to it after that. You’ll get a warning that the archive and database are running, but just select the default to automatically stop those services. I’ve tried it both ways and this is the easiest. If you get some errors discussing failed dll registrations, take screenshots and contact your Reseller. But even in those cases, a reboot and “repair” often fixes the problem. Once the update is complete, login to the admin tool and add-in your new license file.
After upgrading the archive and database, the clients get upgraded. Here’s the good news – it’s the same process. You saw the client upgrade in the selection list while updating the database and archives. You’ll need this same set of downloaded files (or dvd) for each client, so maybe place it on a network location.
Next, the file vaults get updated. This is a very often missed step in the upgrade. The Installation Guide discusses it, but the shortcut is to start the upgrade wizard manually from the “Upgrade” folder on the install CD (or download folder) by running Upgrade.exe. There’s no mystery in the upgrade, but note that a reboot of the SQL server is recommended after upgrading the file vaults.
Finally, update the Task Add-ins and Tasks like Convert and Print and Dispatch. Again, this often gets missed and unless you use them, you’ll never know. SWTaskAdd-in and the Convert, Design Checker, and Print tasks are copied to the C:\Program Files\SolidWorks Enterprise PDM\Default Data\ folder. Open the Convert_GB.cex and drag/drop the Task Add-ins into the Task node. All of this is covered in the Installation Guide. If you have custom dispatch scripting, don’t worry, that gets updated, but the dll's need to be replaced with new ones. However, if you have modified the Tasks, those will have to be updated manually. Besides, you have a backup if anything goes wrong.
Next, upgrade toolbox. This process can have a few variations, but keep in mind, this is only necessary if you are alos upgrading SolidWorks. The basic and most common process is check out the entire toolbox (typically the SolidWorks Data folder), use the corresponding SolidWorks upgrade to update the toolbox, then check the toolbox folder back into the vault. Is simple, no?
Now, a word about upgrading all of your SolidWorks files that are in the vault - Why? SolidWorks got rid of the annoying pop-up telling you the files is old. I agree, it’s nice – I’m OCD, too. But it's easy to over-estimate the number of files actively accessed. Consider letting everyone update the files as they are updated.
Finally, I strongly recommend against skipping major versions. I have experience with a Customer where this has caused a problem. I understand the concern about upgrading for every service pack, but skipping major versions is asking a lot of SolidWorks developers. I mean every bug fix needs to look back how far? Anyway, save yourself some trouble and update every year.
Now that we’ve gotten SQL taken care of, we can focus on the rest of EPDM.
We don’t really get too many support calls for EPDM upgrades issues. It’s a fairly robust process and there are a fair number of Customers that contract us to do it for them. Like any other upgrade, there are a few “high runners” – frequent support requests, so I’ll point out the things we get asked most often. This may help you decide whether this is a “we” or a “you” project.
First, if you’re a frequent reader of this blog or if you’ve ever been in one of my classes/demos/webinars, you’ve heard this before – I cannot over-emphasize backing up and…AND testing those backups. It’s never more important than when making changes to your company’s data management system and one reason we spent two posts on how to back up SQL (thanks Josiah).
Now, back to upgrading EPDM.
There are just a few steps in the process:
To begin, you’ll need to gather a few things for the trip.
- Download or dvd.
- License file
- Installation Guide
- Name of the machine hosting the SQL service
- Windows Admin login/password to the machine hosting the SQL service
- Windows Admin login/password to the machine hosting the Archives
- SQL Administrator password
- EPDM Admin login/password
Now go get those prerequisites and I’ll see you back here in the blog in a few days.
Post by Josiah Sansone
(The following assumes you have admin-level access to the server(s) and have warned your constituents that they need to logout of EPDM.)
We left off after completing the Full backup of SQL. Next, we need to create a maintenance plan to create differential backups along the way.
It’s up to you to determine how often to create differential backups, but remember that backups for EPDM should be synchronous; that is, a differential backup is no good unless it has a corresponding backup of the archive files located on the Archive server from the same period of time. If you are only making backup copies of your archive files every week, then you only need a differential backup to be performed with the same frequency. Whatever the frequency, we start by creating a maintenance plan. Expand the Management section of the SQL Management Console, then right click on Maintenance Plans and select “New Maintenance Plan” and name it “Backup Plan”. In the new maintenance plan window, double click on the Subplan_1 and rename it “Differential Backups”:
Then select the calendar icon next to the Schedule line and change the frequency to Daily, and set the time as desired (for our example we will set it at midnight) and make sure “No end date”
is selected and click OK, then click OK again on the Subplan Properties:
In the maintenance plan, from the left hand lower “Toolbox” panel, drag and drop a “Backup Database Task” for each database that needs to be backed up:
You may rename the tasks by right clicking on them and selecting rename:
Double click each task and set the backup type to “Differential”, select the database drop-down and select the database you are backing up (only select one database per task), then select “Back up databases across one or more files:” and click Add and browse to the corresponding full backup that you’ve already created. Make sure that next to “If Backup file exists:” the “Append” selection is chosen. Click OK, and repeat for the other tasks for each database:
Now in your maintenance plan window, select the button “Add Subplan” and name it Full Backups. We are going to create a second, less frequent Full backup which will overwrite our old Full backup. The reason for this is that while differential backups do save space as compared to creating a new Full Backup every night and saving them all, they still add size to the original full backup and can eventually become quite large. By creating a new Full backup every few weeks or month, it overwrites the old full backup and all of its appended differential backups, starting fresh. To determine how often to create a new Full backup, simply consider how long you will keep the backed up copies of your archive files. If you will only maintain two weeks of copies of your archive files, then it is only necessary to have two weeks’ worth of differential backups before you start over. Repeat the steps above in the new Subplan to create new tasks for each Database, keeping all the settings for the tasks the same, except selecting “Full” for the backup type, and next to “If backup files exist”, select “Overwrite”:
Once your tasks are configured, select the calendar button on the Full Backup subplan line to schedule your Full backup. Choose whatever frequency you desire, but set it to run 10 to 15 minutes after the time you set your differential backup to run, so they do not interfere with each-other. Now save your maintenance plan, and you’re all done. You now have a comprehensive backup plan for your EPDM SQL Databases.
Post by Josiah Sansone
(The following assumes you have admin-level access to the server(s) and have warned your constituents that they need to logout of EPDM.)
If you’re thinking about creating a backup plan for your SQL Databases, the first thing you’ll need to do is properly configure your SQL Database settings. The start, open and log into the SQL Management Console on your Database server. Once you’re in, right click on the server and select “Properties”:
In the Server Properties window, select “Database Settings” and then select the checkbox next to “Compress backup”:
This will default all database backups to be compressed, so they take up less space, and you won’t have to set it for each database backup task.
Next, you’ll want to select your Recovery Model type. There are three types of Recovery Models for SQL Databases, but for our purposes, we are only concerned with the Simple Recovery Model, as that is what is recommended by Solidworks for use with EPDM. By default, SQL Databases are set up with the Full Recovery Model active, so our next step is to change that. Right click on each of the Databases you will be backing up (At a minimum, this is the ConisioMasterDb and your Vault database) and select Properties. In the Properties window, select the “Options” section, and then select the Recovery Model drop-down and select “Simple”:
Hit the OK button and proceed to repeat the above step for each Database that needs to be backed up. Now that we’ve gotten our Databases ready for backups, we can proceed with setting up our backup chain. A Backup chain consists of a baseline “Full Backup” and a series of “Differential Backups” that are added onto it over time. Picture the backup chain as a ship’s anchor and chain, with the Full Backup as the anchor and the Differential Backups as links in the chain.
Start by creating a location for your database backups, preferably on a networked or mapped drive, should your server go down. Now, right click each of your databases and select Tasks > Backup:
On the backup screen, select Backup type “Full” and in the Destination window, remove the default backup location and click Add, then browse to your new backup location, and name the backup with the database name and .bak (Ex.: ConisioMasterDb.bak):
Click OK and wait for the Database to complete backing up. Repeat this step for each database to be backed up. Now you have your Anchor for your database chain.
Next, you need to create a maintenance plan to create differential backups along the way. We'll cover that and finish up the process in te next post.
SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Data Card Types
Did you know that there are four different types of data cards used by SolidWorks Enterprise PDM? These types of cards are: File Cards, Folder Cards, Template Input Forms, and Search Forms.
The File Cards are used to manage the properties or meta data about files in the database, making these files into what is referred to as "smart files". One quick fact on the File Cards is that you can have different File Cards for different types of files. This is one of the features that makes the software highly configurable.
The Folder Cards are used to manage the properties or meta data about folders in the database, making these folders into what is referred to as "smart folders". One quick fact about the properties on the smart folders is that these properties can be inherited by subfolders in that folder and they can also be inherited by the files in a folder. This allows one to manage some file properties from the folder or project level eliminating the need to enter these onto individual files. If I assign a Project Number to my project folder it can ripple down to the sub folders and any files I add to those folders. Imagine not having to add the project number to each drawing your create.
The Template Input Forms are used to gather information from the user to be used in the creation of folders and/or files using an Enterprise Template. One quick fact about the use of templates is that it can place lots of control over how new information is created in a vault. This is a great feature since it gives subtle - but strong - control over the users and the organization of the vault and the data/files in it.
The Search Forms are used to create custom searches. One quick fact about Search Forms is that their access is permission based. This means that you can come up with a search to be used by the Manufacturing group and make it so that only users in that group see that particular search form and, possibly, no other method for searching. This is great because while it is true that many people appreciate the "powerful and fast search tools" in Enterprise PDM, there are some users that don't really care to know the many ways you can search the Enterprise PDM database - workflow states, variable values, who has files checked out, content of files, etc. - just the way that they are used to searching, i.e. Number and/or Description.
Stay tuned for the next SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Tech Tip where we will explore the wonderful world of File Data Cards more thoroughly!
Lisa checks in with an overview of local views in EPDM.
SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Local File Vault View Overview
In order for any of the Windows Explorer-based SolidWorks Enterprise PDM clients to have access to a vault, the very first thing that must be done after the client installation is the creation of a local view of the vault or file vault view. The file vault view is directly connected to the archive server, which stores the physical files in a file vault archive, and the file vault database, which stores the information about files and activities in the file vault.
It is recommended that this file vault view, often referred to as "the blueberry" for the blue Enterprise PDM icon displayed for each file vault view, be located in the root of the local hard drive to make it easily accessible. See below for an example of a local file vault view:
The name of this vault, EPDM_Demo, is right next to the "blueberry". Notice that when the Folders option is used with Windows Explorer I can easily navigate through the file vault view on the left while seeing my file information on the right. The Windows Explorer view has the file information in the right top half with the columns having very useful PDM information such as Checked Out By, Description, Revision, State, etc. instead of the usual information in Windows Explorer like size of file and last modified date. The columns are configurable as to which properties are listed. The bottom right half displays the information about the file currently selected, a SolidWorks part, Arm.SldPrt, in this case.
As you can see from the example above, the data card for the SolidWorks part file has been modified to use the SolidWorks logo. It is very easy to use your own company's logo instead, giving you a feeling of “ownership” to the software as it is implemented to work with your particular PDM needs.
Speaking of data cards, stay tuned for the next SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Tech Tip!
SolidWorks Enterprise PDM CADD Edge Tech Tip #3
Just like with the SolidWorks Workgroup PDM product, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM has the benefit of the users working on their files locally and communicating or committing changes to/from the vault only when required. Having the SolidWorks “Save” operations local as opposed to going across a network is a huge improvement in the SolidWorks performance and it also offloads the network traffic and the associated strain on the network infrastructure. (This goes over very well with the IT staff!)
The version information displayed to the user lets them know how their locally cached version of a file compares to the vaulted versions available. The local cache version information is available in the Windows and Web clients as well as right in the SolidWorks and other CAD integrated clients.
If the locally cached file is newer than the vaulted version, the user sees something like the following: -/6. The "-" indicates a locally modified version of the file is cached locally and the "6" indicates that the vaulted (or most recently checked in) version is version 6. This scenario would indicate the need for a check in when the user wants to create a new version of the file, in this case version 7.
In the SolidWorks interface the user also has the visual indication with a green up arrow icon.
If the locally cached file is older than the vaulted version, the user sees something like the following: 4/6. The "4" indicates that the locally cached file is the vaulted version 4 of the file, and the "6" indicates that the latest available version is actually version 6.
This scenario would indicate the need for the user to get the latest version of the file if they want to be up to date. This can be done right inside of the SolidWorks or CAD application through the integrated client or with any of the other available clients as well. And, again, the integrated client in SolidWorks would show a red down arrow to indicate the out of date file.
Just as with any PDM system, it is up to the user to manage their local cache. There is an option to delete the local copy of a file during the check in process if they know that they are not going to be working on it again for a while and they can also select any file or folder and delete the local cache in order to manage their local disk space.
The real beauty of the Enterprise PDM local cache, is that the location of the files is exactly as they are in the vault. There is no need to keep track of a separate "Local View" that may look entirely different than the "Vault View". The user is always working in a local view of the vault itself called a local file vault view.
Speaking of the local file vault view, stay tuned for the next SolidWorks Enterprise PDM Tech Tip!