The ability to use PLM in downstream applications was always a challenge. There are multiple reasons for that – complexity of products, expensive licenses, long implementation cycle. At the same time, the value of downstream application is huge. The amount of data that organization can proliferate downstream is growing – it is 3D/2D CAD models and drawings, manufacturing planning information, technical documentation, RFQ for suppliers and many others. I had a chance to read CAD CAM News few days ago. The article is how PROSTEP develops of 3D PDF generator to facilitate information exchange in the organization. The title was catchy – PROSTEP packages the whole world of engineering in a 3D PDF document. Here is my favorite passage:
PROSTEP PDF Generator 3D allows the server-based extraction of all types of engineering data from the respective CAD, PLM or ERP systems and the embedding of this data in 3D PDF documents. In addition, the container function allows native CAD data, Word documents, pictures and video clips to be added to these documents. Depending on the rights granted by the document owner, the contents can be visualized, copied, printed and/or annotated with Adobe Reader. “Intelligent” templates allow information to be entered into fields on forms or incorporated in dynamic bar codes so that it is automatically evaluated upon return and transferred to the backend systems.
It made me think about the approach. Data is extracted from files, PDM/PLM and ERP systems. The 3D PDF file is generated. Then files can be distributed downstream in the organization and among suppliers. Adobe reader is the only application that needed for this purpose. You can navigate to the following link to see examples of 3D PDF file generated for different purposes.
The advantages of this approach is clear. Files can be sent everywhere and accessed by any person in the organization. No need for licenses. Adobe interface is simple enough. However, what is the potential downside? In my view, connectivity (or potential “dis-connectivity”) is one of them. Information “packed” into 3D PDF file is similar to the other file-oriented solution (i.e. Excel files with Bill of Materials). The ability to have an updated information re-packed again can be critical to provide “timely” information downstream.
What is my conclusion? To find a reliable way to make the information available downstream is critical for many organizations. 3D PDF seems to be as an option. The file-orientation paradigm helps current users to achieve their goal in an easy way. However, the “packing” a whole system into set of files seems to me problematic. The synchronization, run for updated information can become a nightmare. Just my thoughts… What is your opinion?