Optimizing information: product data management
For projects with multiple employees involved, companies need to have a well-organized database to grant the appropriate access, saving, modification, and approval permissions regarding design amendments in a controlled and safe environment. Product Data Management (PDM) software ensures that everyone has access to the latest version of a project, but also to its history, so it is possible to track the evolution of any design from the very start.
Another advantage of PDM systems is that they make working with assemblies easier. Relationships between components are built automatically through their IDs, so that if we rename or relocate a file, the links to other files remain. PDM software also helps reduce unnecessary memory usage, since it does not allow for duplicates.
The software simplifies the organization of each design into files, it allows for easy management through tracking and advanced searches, and it makes all aspects of each project accessible:
- The author of the last update
- What changes were made
- The stage the project is in
The structure of every new project follows the natural workflow illustrated in the chart below:
First, in the design phase, the product designer creates a file with the initial design that must be checked in to the PDM.
This design is extremely unlikely to be the final version, but by checking the document in the memory we start creating versions whenever a change is saved. Versions are not relevant for the project document-wise, but they allow for follow-ups on the progress of the design and, since checked in files cannot be modified, they also protect us against unintentional changes.
Checked in files also unlock features such as warning messages regarding possible losses of information or moving files, and it allows users to comment changes in order to identify them in future reviews. The software keeps an automatic register of changes, identifies the users involved, and prevents multiple users from working on the same file simultaneously.
When all changes are applied and accepted, users can approve the latest version, and the PDM system changes the status of the file to ‘approved’. This approved file can then be sent to suppliers and customers.
The ‘approved’ status limits modifications. Any further change must start with a modification request, which changes the status of the file to ‘changing’. Similar procedures need to be carried out to change the status to ‘certified’ for products subject to regulations or set standards or to ‘obsolete’ when files become outdated.
To summarize, a PDM system ensures users that documents can’t be altered without leaving a trace, and that no information is lost. It reduces file organizing time, improves productivity, and enhances collaboration. At REGNER®, we rely on Solidworks Enterprise PDM software, which provides us with an extremely useful PDM solution containing a complete history of the design process of every single REGNER® product.