What is change management? And what roll does a CAD Admin play in it?
As most of you know, change management is the method by which we track the changes and traceability of a product. There are different names for this method depending on the company, but they are all in essence meant to do the same task. It is the key to success of any sized company to have a properly documented and efficient change management system in place.
Engineering changes have a few basic steps; first, there is the change request from the field. Second, the change order comes from the engineer to make the change. Next, the design group will make the changes and send it through checking. The final step is the change notice back to the field that it is complete.
In this post I will cover some of the ways that the CAD Admin can help automate and fully digitize this process. No more are the days of printing off reams of paper to get one change all the way through your system. The time of printed drawings and drawings in general, are numbered and becoming a thing of the past. They will join board drawings in the halls of “I can’t believe we use to do it that way.” Most of the products that are named in this post are already available within your SOLIDWORKS Professional and Premium packages.
With nearly everyone carrying smart phones and/or tablets these days, the method of making change requests has completely changed. E-drawings Professional allows your engineers in the field or on the shop floor to not only look up drawings, but also make mark-ups and send the design team the information through email. This eliminates the need for the engineer to have a stack of prints at the ready in case there is a need to look at a particular print. It also decreases the time to production. The design team can start immediately on the change before the engineer ever gets back to the office.
Once the design team has made the required changes, it usually starts a long process of going through checks and re-checks due to non-fit, form or function errors on the drawings. In today’s fast paced work place, every time the product moves from the designer/drafter to the checker, it normally sits in a queue while the individual is working on another task. There are two functions within your SOLIDWORKS Pro & Prem. that allow you to automate your checking process to reduce time spent in queue.
- The Design Checker. In my opinion, this tool name can be a bit misleading. It is not going to check the validity of your design. What is does do however, is check your modeling practices and drafting standards used in the creation of that part or assembly against a predetermined standard set by your company.
- The Draw Compare. This tool is capable of comparing the drawing and drafting standards of the drawing file to a predetermined company standard.
In combination, these tools not only ensure that every drafter and designer is creating content to the company’s exact standard, but the checker can now focus on fit, form & function, and get through each part, assembly or drawing much more quickly.
In addition, there’s a third tool that can be used in the change management process; a PDF comparison tool. As you will see in the next step, PDF’s can be created automatically. But with this tool, the checker, knowing that the model and drawing are already to company standard, can use this overlay tool to see only the parts of the drawing that have changed instead of looking over the whole drawing. Most of these tools allow for the user to refine the scope of the tool and what is highlighted.
PDM (Product Data Management)
With Enterprise PDM, or another pdm, your company can now have a centralized location for all of its files. It also allows for building of customer workflows for your change management process. The drafter/designer checks the part out of the vault and can see everywhere it is being used before making the necessary changes. Simultaneously, everyone else that is using or will be using that part will see that a change is being made. Once the part is placed back in the vault and is ready for checking, an email will be sent to the checker notifying them of the part in queue. At each stage of the process, the PDM system will create a PDF of the drawing and automatically place the name and date of the individual whom has signed off on that stage of the process. This can save a lot of time and potential errors if the drafter is having to re-open the drawing.
After the process of the change is complete, the EPDM can now send out a notification to all departments that there has been a released change made. It can then be programmed to move the released PDF into a production folder for sourcing. Sales and manufacturing have access without the need of expensive licenses being used by non-engineering personnel to view the SOLIDWORKS drawing files.
The last tool I want to mention is something I saw demonstrated at a user’s group meeting. It is a product called Flatter Files. It is a program that works with your EPDM to publish not just individual PDF’s but reads the bill of material of the assemblies and creates entire drawing books for the product. At which you can now send a link to your customers and vendors instead of a PDF or drawing. This ensures that every time the vendor or customer click the link to view the drawing package, every pdf is to the current revision level. The best part is, it runs on the Google cloud. So your vendors, customers and internal department have access anywhere they have WiFi with the reassurance that they are protected by Google security.
As you will notice, never did I mention the word PRINT. We are in an age where having physical prints is just not necessary. Not only can we have everything we need ready at our fingertips, but you can eliminate overhead and costs of having bulky copy machines, paper storage, and all the trash and filing cabinets required. You, as the CAD Admin, can be the conduit by which you guide your company’s engineering department out of the 1990’s and into the digital age.
For any additional information on the SOLIDWORKS tools I mentioned in this post, either contact your sales rep for more information or go to our website at www.goengineer.com
For your reference: Part 1 of CAD Admin’s Corner series