Posted by Gabe Enright
Now that I spend a lot of time talking with companies about how they will manage their SolidWorks Product Data I am often asked questions about the PDM solutions offered by SolidWorks. People often want to start with Workgroup PDM and figure they will grow into EPDM later. I personally feel the EPDM is the way to go for any company that wants to manage their CAD data and share a few points about Workgroup that gets them thinking. These are the main five points I share. There are many more.
5 Reasons Companies Migrate away from Workgroup PDM
1. NO Enhancements
While Workgroup continues to be updated to be compatible with each release of SolidWorks, it has had little functionality added. The last release that had significant enhancement was SolidWorks 2007. That's 8 years ago! There has been one true enhancement since then and it was added in SolidWorks 2008.
When reading the shortcomings in the next four points recall the words of a revered (or reviled depending on your location) New England sports figure, “It is what it is”
2. Unique Names
Every file in a Workgroup vault must have a unique name. You can't have two parts called Bracket or two Assemblies called "Initial Concept" even if they are in different folders. In theory this is a good practice, however users find it restrictive and will work outside the system to get around it.
Taking this a step further, folder names also must be unique. If you have folders for projects and like to organize them with subfolders, like "Artwork", "Customer Requirements“ or "Schematics" you have to make those names unique as well. This is cumbersome and often times even more restrictive than file names.
3. Not good for managing non-SolidWorks files
Workgroup was designed to manage SolidWorks files (Parts, Assemblies, and Drawings.) Any other file that a user would like to manage must be done with SolidWorks Explorer. You can either Drag and Drop those files into the vault, One at a time Only, or add them in a process that is a lot more like uploading a file to a website. Getting them out and changing them is similarly tedious.
4. Every change makes a Revision
Every time you check in a file to the vault, Workgroup is going to file it as a new Revision. There are workarounds but in the end most avoid checking in their work until they absolutely have to, which is dangerous.
5. Limited Workflow capability
Workgroup has the ability to set up ONE limited Workflow. This presents two key limitations
•First because it only has one lifecycle, all files must follow the same set of rules. Many companies have different rules for different departments. Manufacturing and Tooling will have more freedom than the Product Development groups. Everyone using a Workgroup Vault has to follow the same rules and those rules apply to all file types.
•Second the Workflow capability is limited and not robust. Companies have to adapt their procedures to the Workgroup limitations.
Because of these two limitations most companies never even turn on the Lifecycle module in Workgroup.
If you'd like to learn more about PDM we are running a series of webinars in February.
Follow thelink to register for one or all three. Click HERE
The Enterprise PDM add-in for MS Office has been released. The EPDM toolbar shows up in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Functions include the basics, plus Select File in Explorer View and you can initiate the search function.
There is a little-used feature for EPDM data card edit boxes – the input formula (at the bottom of the Edit-properties dialog). This is a very powerful tool with many uses. The input functions allow access to both the variables and some basic programming functions like the current date, mathematics, and string searches.
For example, if you would like to use the value of a variable to categorize the associated SolidWorks file, the input formula can be used to capture a portion or all of the data string in that variable. Translating engineering information into more generally accessible information is another use. Engineers use technical terms like AWG instead of wire gauge and PA instead of nylon. In that case, the data card could contain a separate tab for non-technical viewers and use the input formula to create aliases (convert a pull down list to numerical values) and publish the term “metal” if the material is gold, steel, tin, etc.
Another use is searching for one value when any number of values is possible. For example, a particular fastener may have multiple sources, so searching for all the assemblies that use a ¼-20 bolt won’t tell you how many assemblies have fasteners from ACME. To solve this, create a data card with several “supplier” edit boxes. Then either on the same or another tab, aggregate the responses into one – searchable – field.
The logical replacement for a space is underscore. I teach PDM classes and in those I tell Customers there are times when spaces in names are fine and times when they aren't ... so don't use them and then you cannot be wrong.
We recently ran across a situation where the underscore causes an issue - so much for "can't be wrong". If you would like to create a condition in a transition or would like to search to find the underscore, you need special formatting in the condition - like the "emoticon" above.
Placing a condition that looks for _ fails to produce the desired result. Microsoft Search Engine (Windows Explorer) is not what EPDM uses. EPDM instead uses the SQL database to perform these types of actions and in SQL an underscore is a wildcard character for 1 character.
The correct way to call out an underscore is to use the following syntax so that SQL knows how to distinguish it. ‘ [ _ ] ‘ (spaces added for clarity)
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.