Legacy Data in SW PDM
SOLIDWORKS PDM (Standard or Professional) is a wonderful way to organize and streamline productivity in an engineering environment. All departments of an organization can benefit whether you are engineering, management, manufacturing, or sales. Whether you are just starting your engineering efforts or you have a long history of development and design, you will most likely need to bring in legacy data or files that have been previously revised (such as customer data). I would like to introduce a new feature in SOLIDWORKS PDM 2016 aimed to assist in just that: set revision.
Where is This Used in SOLIDWORKS PDM?
When not using a PDM system, an end user has full control over the revision a particular part or drawing may designate by manually typing in a value. For most intents and purposes, this work just fine and there are seldom issues regarding mistypes and incorrect references. A PDM system such as SOLIDWORKS PDM mitigates this situation by using a revision counter that correctly moves to the next value as it is defined by your organization. Typically, a custom property field for the file can read this counter value on a workflow transition and absorb the value into the datacard.
What About Historic Data?
All files added to the PDM system start with their revision counter(s) set to the first value. This works perfectly for all new files as no new file has a revision, they should get the first defined revision counter value. Where this becomes complicated is when dealing with legacy data that has a history at your organization. If you are bringing in data that has been released multiple times (e.g. revision ‘D’ or ‘4’), we want the counter to know to move to ‘E’ or ‘5’ on the next release. We do not want the first release to be marked ‘A’ or ‘1’.
How Can This Be Achieved?
Fortunately, there are a few options available to us. I would first like to briefly mention a few methods prior to SOLIDWORKS PDM 2016 and then discuss the new ‘Set Revision’ functionality.
With the ‘Increment Revision’ command, found in Windows Explorer under Modify => Increment Revision, the function would allow you to move the file forward one counter value. The specific counter moved would depend on the state the file is currently in.
The downsides to this functionality was that it never displayed what the current counter value was, you had to perform the action once for every level needed to increment (A would be 1 time, B-2, C-3, etc.) and it did not write to the variable value on the data card. Primarily, this would be useful for a few files occasionally needing to be adjusted, but would not be ideal for a large sampling of files.
Creating an entire workflow or part of a workflow that can facilitate the setting of revision values is a very efficient way of being able to handle a large amount of files at once. Each of the red automatic transitions have conditions that look for specific criteria. In this case, in order to have the counter set to ‘A’, the file would have to have an ‘A’ for its revision value. This would be true for B through E in this scenario. One can imagine that this workflow can get quite complex and tedious to manage if you have revisions that go beyond E. It would be likely that file sets with many revisions may require accommodations for Z, AA, AAA, or more.
Apart from the elbow grease required for setup, another ‘minor’ drawback of this method is that it typically creates extra versions of files as soon as they are added to the system.
Option 3: API Add-In
In SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM and now SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional, the access to the API provide powerful tools for automation and expediting tasks. With access to any function within EPDM, an add-in could be created that automates the setting of a revision and updating a data card which would be similar functionality to the two previous examples. In the workflow example, the workflow criteria would require that the revision already existed in the data card (possible through variable mapping).
Another value that an add-in could bring to the table would be the possibility of reading the expected revision value from not only the data card but possibly retrieving it from an outside source (text file or ERP system).
While quite flexible use of the API requires programming knowledge and would not be considered ‘out of the box’ functionality.
New in SOLIDWORKS PDM 2016, is the ‘Set Revision’ feature. It actually replaces the ‘Increment Revision’ functionality completely and can be initiated by Modify => Set Revision. This tool allows the user to set values of a group of files to value indicated on the data card. In the image above, we can see that the counter by default would like to go to A, but the data card is indicating D. If we right click on the files and select ‘Set All New Revision Values to Card Variable Value’ the A value will reflect the D value in the data card. Not only does this give a nice visual feedback of what will happen, it works on multiple files quite nicely.
To enable this functionality, the file must be in a state that has a revision counter assigned. Note the new field circled above on the revision tab. This new drop down indicates which variable will be used to read the revision value from when a ‘Set Revision’ command is initiated.
As indicated earlier, this replaces the ‘Increment Revision’ functionality, so that option no longer exists under folder permissions or workflow state permissions. Instead, the option for ‘Set Revision’ will need to be enabled for groups cleaning up and importing data.
While the previous methods (except option 1) are all still viable in 2016, the new Set Revision functionality is quite powerful and worth a look. It makes bringing in legacy files more efficient, manageable, and friendly to the environment and infrastructure.