Collaborative PLM

Starting from CAD data management , Collaborative PLM represents the stage in the evolutionary chain before complete digitalization in the further development of PDM/PLM solutions in the technical-industrial environment. Collaborative means that PLM processes are expanded beyond company boundaries. In today’s connected world, companies need to think across companies and systems. This enables internally and externally networked process coordination along the entire product life cycle in real time. Controlled via the Collaborative PLM solution, partners, customers and suppliers are integrated into the company processes. What is important here is that the way you work with external parties follows the same rules as the internal PLM processes.

PROCAD has developed PROOM, a collaborative PLM platform for document exchange that is specifically designed to meet the requirements of manufacturing companies. Virtual project rooms enable the assignment and management of user permissions so that the company can specify exactly who can see, edit or exchange what. Activity logs are kept for each project room to ensure traceability. The document exchange itself is done with just a few clicks. All changes to the documents are automatically synchronized.

Confidential documents

Safety and process control in one

Today, distributed, specialized teams often work together in technical companies. As part of such development processes, confidential documents are processed by a wide range of partners who operate outside the company’s own boundaries. For this reason, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM solution) must be viewed as an overall solution – the essence of Collaborative PLM . Professional data exchange instruments are required at the interfaces. Until now, email and FTP were the most frequently used transport methods, but they have clear disadvantages: Email traffic is insecure and not very suitable for confidential documents. During FTP transfers, file versions are overwritten in an uncontrolled manner, logging is inadequate, and only uploads and downloads are possible. However, in a business environment you often have to deal with very large files that need to be shared. Document management, control, versioning, rights assignment and setting up individual project rooms are also required.

Data exchange platforms like Dropbox originally come from the private sector, but now often offer a professional corporate version. Although the idea of ​​confidential documents is taken into account by allowing different data rooms to be set up for dedicated user groups, they are still not tailored to the specific requirements of the technical environment.

Security for confidential documents must take place at different levels: both during data transfer and during logged changes to files. The biggest disadvantage of common data exchange platforms is certainly that they are not embedded in the company’s existing collaborative PLM landscape. This means that there is still a gap between the system landscapes. The processes involved in exchanging and working on construction plans, CAD drawings, change orders, tenders and other technical documents are not seamlessly connected.

Virtual project rooms

Document exchange platform for traceable collaboration

Virtual data rooms create the bridge for technical companies to access files in a controlled manner. A virtual data room is a digital platform for the quick and secure exchange of information and for increasing the efficiency of the exchange of information between different project members. Such platforms are suitable for use in communication-intensive processes, such as between design departments and external (development) partners. Such development partnerships are about collaborative work, confidentiality and integration into existing systems. The demands on the exchange of information are increasing due to the currently growing technical complexity. External partners, customers or suppliers on the extended workbench must be able to work together consistently and reliably, without system or media breaks. This is where document exchange platforms for professional users come in by connecting processes between internal and external. Such virtual data rooms allow file exchange across system and company boundaries to be carried out securely and comprehensibly.

Particularly in technical companies, there are already established structures, procedures and approval processes that a virtual project room can reflect well. The head of a digital project room can use a sophisticated access authorization concept to precisely control which project members are allowed to do what with the documents and when. All activities can be tracked using integrated monitoring functions and dedicated user rights. By synchronizing, for example, CAD data or technical specifications across the project room, designers and development partners can access the current files at any time. Since the files are not located locally, possibly in an employee’s email inbox, a virtual project room means you are independent of the presence/absences and processing status of other project members. The sync function also provides the option to edit files offline.

PROOM’s virtual project rooms allow those involved in the project to concentrate on the content and not on the administration. This means projects are carried out faster and more successfully and compliance guidelines are adhered to.

Collaboration across locations

Cross-site coordination and data replication

Cross-location collaboration for companies that use a PDM/ PLM system at multiple locations is made possible (as with PRO.FILE) via a so-called “Enterprise Transaction Oriented Replication” (ETOR). This provides globally distributed teams with a scalable Collaborative PLM solution.

This is also necessary in view of today’s practice, as not only large companies but also medium-sized manufacturers in mechanical and plant engineering or in the automotive supply industry carry out design and development at internationally distributed locations. This collaboration in teams distributed around the world needs to be coordinated, synchronized and enabled quick access to current data for everyone involved.

ETOR solves this by replicating the development data. This means that all data is provided locally at each location. In order to process CAD data, open, read, display and save it, there is no need to set up a transmission to the central server. Modern database technology ensures that the basic idea of ​​product life cycle management (PDM/ PLM system ), according to which all users work on a common database, is still adhered to.

With a high-performance database, each location can work with its own database and also keep all CAD models and other development documents completely locally. This means that reading, displaying and saving always take place on site. The local server then transfers the data to all other locations in the background. This gives them even more autonomy because even if the connection to the central PLM server is interrupted, they can still continue working. Once the line is back up, the locations and headquarters automatically sync the data.

Data replication at distributed locations significantly simplifies development collaboration in globally distributed teams. A prerequisite is always reliable synchronization between the central database and local changes. If this is the case, distributed teams can continue working even in the event of line interruptions without endangering the data integrity of the entire system. You can replace entire assemblies with one click – safely, error-free and without change conflicts.

PLM ordering processes

Seamless processes and efficient order processing

A collaborative PLM solution should clearly map cross-company workflows. The designer can create product folders for each product in the PDM/ PLM system according to the structure specified in the CAD system, e.g. AutoCAD, Autodesk Inventor, Creo, Solid Edge or Solidworks. These are filled with drawings, parts lists , technical documents, calculations, etc. A PLM ordering process then usually starts with an incoming order. The project manager creates the new order in the ERP system under a unique number, which is then automatically transferred to the PDM/PLM software with the metadata of the order (customer, product type and number). An order folder with this number will be created there. The designer receives the specification of the order, copies the project structure from the product folder to the order folder and then fills it with life.

The latest versions of the drawings are always documented in the product folder, while the order folder shows what was actually built. Once the order has been put together, the drawings are sent to production. A directory in the PDM/ PLM system records the production status of the product. This provides evidence of when which drawing was sent to the customer or to production in which version. The company can seamlessly document the entire ordering process from order receipt through design to production.

Here again, the property of a PDM/PLM system as a product data backbone proves to be invaluable, as it makes tasks and version statuses of documents traceable and archived at any time during an order. This enables the company to handle its order processes efficiently and deliver finished products to the customer on time. Whether those involved are located at home or abroad, whether they are local or globally distributed teams, does not matter at this point.