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Parts

part-management-pdm-complexity

How to manage Parts? It sounds like a trivial and simple question. Every manufacturing companies and engineering organization is facing this problem. However, it is not as simple as you might think so. The information about Parts (aka Items) is often scattered between CAD drawings, multiple Excel files, PDM and ERP systems. One of the biggest problem is to how to manage revisions and changes for Parts. I captured this problem in some of my previous writings. Future CAD-PLM and Assembly Version Management; Why versioning is complicated in PDM?; PLM, ERP and Managing of Effectivity; Revisions in CAD/PLM/ERP: Old Problems or New Challenges?

Recent GrabCAD blog – Part Revisions: Deal or No Deal made me think again about why is so complex to manage parts in every PDM environment. The following passage explains what means Part has no revision:

Documentation can be revised, but the part itself should not. If a part changes, the revised part is issued a new part number. In the case of PMI, where the “documentation” portion is integral to the part, revisions are more esoteric. Allowable PMI revisions in that case depend on whether the documentation portion is being updated or the part model is being physically changed.

The following passage explains one of my 5 Don’ts in BOM management - Don’t use the same ID for Part Numbers and Drawing Numbers:

In many cases, the documentation is a fully dimensioned engineering drawing, though these days it might also be Product Manufacturing Information (PMI), if you’re riding the technology wave. In the case of a drawing, the documentation also carries an identifying number. While it may be tempting to make the part and drawing numbers the same, such an approach aims to misbehave. For example, a drawing is often changed for very different reasons than the part it describes, often in a fashion that has no impact on design. In addition, drawings may describe multiple parts. In other words, drawing and part life cycles are unique, so the identification number for each must also be unique.

Now, let me go back to the original question. Why is so complex to manage parts in PDM? Here are two main reasons:

1- Complexity of two lifecycles – CAD and Items

CAD documents and Part lifecycle is fundamentally different. PDM system manage CAD files revisions and dependencies between files. Parts (Items) requires Part Numbers and Effectivity to control FFF (Form, Fit and Function) also known as interchangeability rules. Revision can be applied, but it won’t be used to identify a part.

2- Disagreement about where is “master” of part information and cross system integration

Part information is scattered between PDM, ERP and supply chain management systems. Organizations are having hard time to agree WHO is controlling Part creation process. When changes happens or new parts is created, information must be synchronized between multiple systems. It raises the complexity of overall integration and data management.

What is my conclusion? Complexity of two lifecycle management is a key problem in part management in PDM. It is hard to combine part lifecycle including interchangeability rules and effectivity with proper management of CAD documents. The user workflows are getting complex and engineers are having hard time to use the system. While the reality of manufacturing is that both documents and parts need to managed in an appropriate way, PDM vendors facing real challenges to get efficient Part Management processes in place. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

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Let me talk again about Part Numbers. The last time I wrote about Part Numbers, it created a healthy discussion. I’d encourage you to refresh your memory and read one of my blog post back one year ago – PLM Data, Identification and Part Numbers. I found some interesting facts specially reading all 51 comments to this post. Finally, the following picture on Josh Mings’ yfrog, made me think about Parts, Items and Numbering system again.

The picture is, obviously, funny… However, it made me think about some problems related to identification of “things” in CAD, PDM, PLM products and, actually, about global data identification in a manufacturing company.

Part Numbers and Global Identification Problem

One of the problems I can see in manufacturing organizations is related to identification of assemblies, parts, documents and other related information. The problem is not new. It was exists many years. The elements of identification have multiple dimensions. You can think about different phases of lifecyle on one side. On the other side, you can think about manufacturing sites. There are many other elements in this identification schema. You can ask me – companies are implementing solutions to identify parts – what’s the big deals? It is just names or numbers…

I think, these problems become more complicated because of several trends that happen in manufacturing these days. I just bring few – globalization and global manufacturing, the complexity of products, supply chain optimization and many others. In my view, the complexity of identification causes raising complexity of software to support it and, at the end, the complexity of business processes. Take a look on the following picture from Wikipedia (obviously, I don’t want to expose any customer data I have):

I can also mention few other problems that exist in every manufacturing company and not only for large OEMs – handling of loosely coupled information, manage multiple and sometimes un-planned information sources, harmonization of many “small packets” of corporate data, etc. To have an efficient identification can be helpful. I can see companies are spending lots of time discussing an “identification” problem and trying to come to a reasonable solution that fits their need.

Identification Silver Bullet and Semantic Web Promise

Is there a “silver bullet” that can help to companies to solve identification problems? Unfortunately, in my view, the technologies that were developed 20-30 years ago cannot scale up to handle existing complexity of the information stored in CAD, PDM, PLM, ERP and other business systems. I see an interesting promise coming from semantic technologies that were developed for the last decade. One of the possible solutions is to apply the techniques developed on the web such as URI as well as elements of RDF and OWL to identify elements of data. In a nutshell, the idea of unique global data identification that can be developed on the level that provides Part Numbering schema in multiple divisions in your company.

What is my conclusion? There is no silver bullet that can solve the problem of Part Numbers and data identification in manufacturing companies tomorrow. Data related problems cannot be solved overnight. At the same time, application of new technologies that were developed on the web for the last 10-15 years can provide a step by step plan to solve the current “data disaster”. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

*picture is courtesy of solidsmack yfrog account.

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