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Drawings

I suggest you an experiment. Invite two engineers and ask them to provide a definition for some of PDM/PLM related terms. I’d not be surprised if you will get more than two definitions. It is not unusual to spend lots of time during PLM software implementation meetings to define terms, language and meaning of things. Regardless on terminology, I found BOM to be a central element in every product development organization and business. It contains a recipe of your product, process and, at the end of the day, becomes a lifeblood of your product development processes. Thinking about BOM management solution, I can see four major things that need to be defined, discussed and clarified.

BOM and Part Lists

Bill of Materials (BOM) is a list of all items required to make a parent item. It includes components, raw materials and sub-assemblies. You may also include intermediate items identifying in-process elements to facilitate planning and other manufacturing processes. Depends on industry, people can call BOM differently. For example, in process industry, it can be called recipe or formula. Opposite to BOM, Part List is usually a term used to call a single level list for a specific level of assembly or sub-assembly.

Part Number 

This is one of the most tricky defined terms in a whole product development and BOM management story. Here is a short definition. Part Number (PN) is an unique identifier that identify a single object in bill of material. However, the trick is how to define object and how to keep it consistent with your processes. Assigning part numbers is often complicated and one of the most discussed topics. The traditional definition of FFF (Form, Fit and Function) helps to identify the right objects. Interchangeable parts, substitiute items, special parts – this is only a short list of issues that comes into the discussion around part numbering process.

Routing 

Think about navigation system with the road between different places. Now imagine part numbers. Routing is a roadmap that defines the path of part numbers across manufacturing floor by specifying workstations and labor time associated with every station. Usually routing applied to manufactured parts or items.

Drawings

Drawings represents a significant part of history and confusing engineering habits. Historically, drawing is the place where people put bill of materials for a product. It also solves the problem of Bill of Materials distribution in the company. At the same time, BOM on a drawing brings lots of disadvantages. In many situations, people don’t need drawing, but only need bill of materials and/or part list. Another point of confusion is numbering system. The discussion is about applying part numbers on drawings. In most of the situations, it represents the limitation of systems used for product development (PDM/PLM). To separate between Part Numbers and Document Numbers is the most reasonable ways to manage it, in my view.

What is my conclusion? Regardless of what systems you plan to use, I recommend you to have cross-department organizational discussion about these four pillars. Usually, it helps to understand product development processes. Engineering and manufacturing are two main organizations usually involved into BOM processes. To clarify terms will give you a tremendous value during PDM/PLM system implementation and integration with ERP. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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The question of identification is probably of the most complicated and always raises lots of interest. I had a chance to discuss early on my blog a topic related to Part Numbers and Part Identification. The discussion raised lots of opinions and comments. You can track them on the following link. PLM marketing and sales speeches are rarely discussing this topic. It assumed as a solved problem. However, I don’t think so. Today I want to discuss multiple aspects related to the identification of drawings.

I read article by Kean Walmsley of Autodesk on his blog – Through the interface . He is discussing the idea of identification of drawings using QR Code. Kean presented various ways you can today handle QR codes in software and how you can organize your work with help of QR-enabled software. He is talking about coming AutoCAD plug-in to do this job.

Another article by Jeff Sweeney of 3DVision Technologies in his bar-coded blog post presents an idea how possible to use bar-code or how he called “1949 year technology” to identify drawings. In his example, he proposed to create an association between file attribute and bar-code and automate processes related to document.

Both articles made me think about different aspects related to identification of engineering documents, and I decided to share and discuss it.

Internal vs. External
Documents are everywhere. However, in my view, most of the organization can clearly differentiate between documents that are belonging to an organization and are under formal control of the organization and documents that circulated outside.

Logical vs. Physical
Most of us are working with virtual documents or files – CAD Files, Related PDF files, Images, Scans and just office documents with embedded design and engineering elements. However, organizations are still printing documents for various purposes. I can see some of them, such as use of documents in the manufacturing shop floor or sending documents together with physical products as part of documents and some others.

Integrations
Inside of the organization your documents are flowing between different people and organizations. You can see more and more organizations are starting to think about a single content management system. In some cases, PLM system is playing a role of a content management system for engineering documents. However, there are lots of situations where documents are distributed between multiple systems- CMS, PDM, PLM, ERP, etc. To be able to identify correlated documents can be an interesting solution.

Archives
The cost of storage is growing down. I’d expect IT in few more years will be discussing an option how to have all data on “spinning disks”. Flash storage is still expensive. So, a question of archiving and identification of drawing in archives can be interesting as well.

What is my conclusion today? I think, the problem of identification is a huge one. With all respect to our paperless future, we are document-driven society. I’m not touching now the future CAD on the cloud without files. We are still in a very preliminary stage in our trials to understand the problem of handling documents globally. There are many aspects that I mentioned in this post, and it seems to me, they are still very distributed within an organization’s boundary and beyond. I can envision kind of layered solution that will solve this problem. I’m looking forward to your comments and discussion.

Best, Oleg

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