New SolidWorks World resource

There is a new SolidWorks World 2010 resource that which attendees may take advantage.  It is the SolidWorks World 2010 website.  It allows you to view the facilities, plan your booth visitations, search and contact exhibitors, and plan attendance for events.  The only major drawback is that it doesn’t seem to link events with MS Outlook.  However, the maps of the convention center are worth the price of admission to the website (free).  🙂

Manage Your Data Already!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As an instructor at a vocational career college with internships at local design firms, I am constantly amazed at the number of companies using a really good Automated Design package like SolidWorks to make sure their designs work, are manufacturable, and meet the requirements of their customers.  (Meeting the requirements is no longer a viable business plan in this global economy, but that is a different topic all together.)

What scares me is that there are still companies out there who believe in 2 data management myths.  I will discuss the first one in this post and the second in a soon to follow rant.

The first data management myth: “Windows Explorer is a data management tool.”

Windows Explorer is a rudimentary viewer into a windows file/folder directories.  That is it. 

People, the models & drawings created in any CAD package at a manufacturing or design firm are the digital records & digital currency that make that company money.  Without those documents, how will you manufacture your product that sales and marketing have oversold in too little time?  Hmmmm? 

3D, History Based, Parametric modelers by nature have a complex set of file relations that no one should every have to figure out. 

If you improperly move this file to another directory or Lords of CAD  forbid “Rename the file to show the next revision in the part number, the drawing looses connectivity, content and functionality, the assembly opens with errors you have never even heard of.  The Yellow and red thing in the feature manager tree are really SolidWorks yelling at you telling you that you royally screwed up! 

Then there is the project of updated drawings to new revisions (you know, the I did not thoroughly review my design so now I have to modify the original design so it can actually work.)  What do you do now?  Make changes to the original document so you have no idea what the previous revision looked like?  Copy the document set and make the changes there renaming those files with the new revision in the file name(just the thought of renaming strikes the fear nerve in me).  Are you sure that you have triple checked all of the other files that your changed document effects?  This process using Windows Explorer is achievable at a costly price.  You design time.  I thought we were moving into an era of design productivity.  This arduous task seems to be light years from being productive.

 As soon as your company adopts a CAD package like SolidWorks it is time to implement Product/Project Data Management.  I know, there are some folk out there who are saying things like: “We only have one designer so we do not need it”  or “We have a procedure that ensures that file names are correct, blah blah, blah…”. 

For the first comment I ask, “Do you want to end up like the Big 3 always asking for bailouts for the people who by your vehicles”.  To be successful you need to be in business to make a profit now and into the future.  Get these systems up and running immediately so that if (when) your business does grow you do not need to scramble to figure something out now.  Every designer has the Greatest directory structure and file naming scheme that everyone will understand.  And monkeys fly out of my butt every day.  By the way, I have beautiful ocean front property to sell you in the Everglades.  What happens when that designer quits? 

Many PDM systems are very scalable to accommodate 1 – 100’s of users.  These data management systems also allow you to either use an existing directory structure or define an even easier one that will take no time for newbies to learn.  Earlier, Matt Lorono wrote a fantastic post about CAD standards, PDM can compliment your CAD standards with naming standards, filing standards, change standards, the list is endless.  It will really complete a Great CAD standard.  PDM can usually hook into ERP/MRP systems to reduce the number of times a cad jockey has to enter the same information over and over again.  Make drawing searches available to everyone company wide.  No CAD needed.

The comment about procedures… When is the last time you read your company procedures?  A procedure about file naming, directory structure, etc… is about 5 years wasted productivity because as we all know it is so incredibly productive to read those things.  We also know that every individual has different ways of bending the procedure to make it work for them.  Think about it, there are easily 50 ways to model the part you are in the process of modeling.  You are telling me you are going to restrict that to 1 way.  What happens when your 1 way inhibits productivity?  In the CAD system you set up templates that everyone starts from.  You require certain things to be done in the model like no under defined sketches, you can use the Design Checker to check these requirements.  With a proper PDM implementation you can set templates that replace the custom properties of a model, then transfer them to a drawing so you only have to enter title block info once.  You can set up a behind the scene directory structure that none of your people have to be aware of because once the info is in the PDM system, all of that info can be used to search for things using a Google style search.  Setup a fill naming structure that will automatically manage file names for your designers.  One less thing for them to worry about screwing up.

Get one of these systems in place now.  Most of them cost less then a one year subscription for your 1495 seat of SolidWorks.  Complete your CAD standards and become more productive now.  Remember, Windows Explorer is not Data management.  Is is a portal into the directory structure of your computer which often leads to chaos.

SW Dwg ER Blitz: Dwight Livingston Interview

Dwight Livingston is an Industrial Designer who participates on the SolidWorks Forums.  A couple of months ago or so, he took on a cause that hits close to home for many of us.  A discussion was started that asked the question, “when is solidworks ever going to focus on drawings for a new release?”  Mr. Livingston answered this call to arms by taking on a new project in the Drawings Forum called SolidWorks Drawing ER Blitz, where many people have come together to bring up drawing functionality that needs improvement, such as missing features, bugs, nice-to-haves, and more robust capabilities.   The purpose of this is effort is to compile a list in which all of us are welcome to vote.  The list will then be submitted to SolidWorks Corp, who have expressed interest in the results.  Stay tuned for more information on when and where to vote.

In the meantime, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Livingston about his project. 

Dwight, you are running a project in the SolidWorks Drawings Forum that has generated a lot of attention. You named it SolidWorks Drawings ER Blitz.  Please, tell me about this project and how you got started with it.

Dwight LivingstonThe effort grew out of a couple of frustrations. One is with the current Enhancement Request system. I’ve put in a few enhancement requests, but I never felt it worked for me. When I look through the listed ERs, none seem to be those that people are talking about on the forum. Some of the ERs did not make sense. If I added my own ER, it would not show up. I wanted a better process, one that would engage people and encourage critical discussion.

The other frustration has been Drawing Tables. Vertical padding in tables has never worked right, ever since I started using SolidWorks in 2004. Every year I expected it to be fixed, but the fix never came. I have been involved in writing CAD procedures for our shop, and they include table formatting for our drawings. With the current versions of SolidWorks, the tables often look like crap. The work-around is a lot of manual fussing with row heights. I had to include a little table in our procedure that shows proper row heights for how many lines of text. It’s embarrassing.

When the Eddie Cyganik started the forum topic “What Drawing Functionality Does SolidWorks Need to Improve?”, I thought that was a good way to address the ER process. Other people had similar ideas. Steve Calvert suggested an Enhancement Request Forum, which I think would be a great thing to have. Users could have a dialog with each other and with SolidWorks people, focusing on a specific ER. There’s be a chance to improve the ER, get people to understand what the ER is all about, show perhaps that SolidWorks already had the capability requested.

The other part was establishing the importance of an idea. It’s frustrating to see SolidWorks come out with enhancements that I can’t use, rather than add the things I need. The users need to provide SolidWorks with priorities. Voting is a way to do that. So we’re doing a big voting survey to choose which of all the enhancements we came up with would be the ones most people really want.

What was the inspiration for the name SolidWorks Drawings ER Blitz?

Not much inspiration. I wanted a term that would be easy to search. I was thinking of football, I guess, and a play where the defense concentrates their forces on a limited objective and takes the issue to the other side. That’s instead of spreading out and waiting to see what gets tossed our way. In can’t say “blitz” describes the speed of the process; it seems too slow.

The project is feed by individuals posting responses in the SolidWorks Forums.  Posts related to this project now approaches 200 (possibly already more).  What do you think of (or feel about) the responses and participation so far with this project?

It’s been good. Some of my own ERs got shot down – that’s a good thing. People explained some existing functionality that made the ERs unnecessary, so we weren’t clogging the process with requests that don’t need solutions. Some of the other ER schemes evolved as people commented and improved over time. That’s how I think it ought to work.

I wished we could have had more people making critiques. There may be ways to draw people into the discussion, make it easier for people to join in. I think the process should be more competitive. There should be feedback to tell people that their favorite idea is going down unless they improve it. Matt Lombard’s current column has a nice example of using polling tools, placed right in the discussion. After reading a couple of paragraphs you get to fill out a poll. You pick if you think a feature should work this way, or that way, or it doesn’t matter. I can see adding some additional choices, such as “I don’t understand what you are talking about”  and “What we really need is. . . .” That way we might get more people involved in the process.

What are you getting about all this?  🙂

We’ll see. I’ve received emails from SolidWorks, with interest in the ERs and in the process. That’s what I really hope for, is an improved ER process, one that engages more users, is more competitive, is more open, and encourages evolution of the ideas.

Direct input to the list of items within the project has now closed.  It has entered the voting stage.  What is your plan for the vote results?

The results will be posted on the forum. The plan is to list popular items as official ERs, which people may then go and support. That stage may be unnecessary, as the survey will go directly into SolidWorks evaluation process, in some manner.

SolidWorks Functionality that we take for granted…

Some of the students here at my school recently attended the Minnesota PTC user group.  Here they unveiled the Wildfire 4.0 release.  Many were very impressed by some of the new functionality Pro-E had to offer.  Let me give you a couple of items to ponder.  I will add more later this week:

New functionality in Pro-E Wildfire 4.0 –

1. They can now import Word and Excel into their files.

2. Their sketchers automatically selects your reference geometry for you in an attempt to reduce the number of clicks you use to define your sketch.  (Wait a second, no I have to delete that reference geometry and add the correct geometry.)

3. One of my students asked, why can’t I add more than 1 hole in the hole command?  Response :was that would be very complicated programming as it would be a feature in a feature.  The student replied he can do it in the SolidWorks Hole Wizard!” (These statements were not exact quotations but what the attendees had told me.

Anyhow, these are functionalities whether you like them or not that have been available in the software for many years.  Do not take these for granted.