We’d like to imagine that Industry 4.0 is already here, with a digital thread weaving all throughout a business and its operations. In truth, we’re in a transition phase, as new technologies are developed to meet that Industry 4.0 vision and businesses work to adopt those solutions as they are released.
Increasingly crucial to creating a next-generation enterprise are software tools that connect each stage of operations to the next in a seamless manner. Product lifecycle management (PLM) and product data management (PDM) software serve to fulfill that role and, though Dassault Systèmes has already established itself as a PLM and PDM provider through its ENOVIA product, the company is striving to go beyond stand-alone PLM and PDM solutions and, instead design a complete operating system (OS) for creating and managing data throughout a business.
With the introduction of the SOLIDWORKS Connector on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, Dassault Systèmes is aiming to make the 3DEXPERIENCE, with its ENOVIA PDM and PLM applications, an all-encompassing solution for stakeholders throughout an enterprise and at all stages of operation, from initial voice of customer needs (form, fit) to design to manufacturing to certification by regulatory bodies
ENGINEERING.com spoke with Dassault Systèmes’ Arieh Halpern, director of life sciences industry, and Rick Hahn, a member of the ENOVIA Platform Development/SOLIDWORKS & XCAD Collaboration team, to learn more
The 3DEXPERIENCE as an OS
When Dassault Systèmes announced the creation of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform in 2013, the idea was new, complex and required a bit of decoding. The software giant was in the process of uniting all of its various products into a larger, well, experience. Four years have passed, and the company continues to improve this experience to create what Rick Hahn described as an OS.
“You can think of the 3DEXPERIENCE business platform, metaphorically, as an OS. The paradigm is synonymous with Windows, where you may have Word and Excel, but now can share information on a common platform. We’re looking at the approach of 3DEXPERIENCE the same way,” Hahn explained. “Many years ago, we were a CAD company, and then we began managing our CAD, which made us a PDM company. And, today, we manage the entire enterprise, which makes us a PLM company.
Now, it’s become necessary to go beyond ENOVIA and create an entire platform, as the company offers content services beyond the enterprise and managing the enterprise alone is no longer enough. For this reason, Dassault has sought to make it possible to share assets and leverage design department data across the entire business and to stakeholders beyond those who may need to access that information.
The User Interface
The ENOVIA PDM and PLM tools of the3DEXPERIENCE, then, blend into the background of whatever tool a user may be working with. For a designer or engineer, this usually means SOLIDWORKS. Running SOLIDWORKS looks no different when it is integrated into the larger 3DEXPERIENCE.
With the implementation of SOLIDWORKS Connector, which is similar to SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional, designers have access to a set of ENOVIA data management functions within the SOLIDWORKS environment. It’s possible to check in and check out data, promote the status of a design for review, or access full PLM functionality.
Because a designer never has to leave SOLIDWORKS to perform any of these functions and they operate so similarly to SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional, the designer is unburdened with learning a new piece of software. They can just save files to their desktop, bill-of-materials (BOM) data is automatically created for manufacturing purposes, and those local files are automatically synched to a central server, which maintains a single source and definition.
It also connects with Windows Explorer so that a user can quickly find stored data through browsing or searching with Explorer. The component and its associated data is displayed directly within Explorer, as well.
Benefits for Business
For a designer or an engineer, this means working just as they would before, but with added functionality. And for the enterprise at large, it represents a streamlined method for managing data at every point, according to Arieh Halpern.
“A lot of companies operate in silos. Your CAD tools reside on a specific engineer’s computer. Quite often, you have disparate engineering teams, so you need to be able to share mechanical design drawings when one engineer takes over for another one,” Halpern said. “That creates a problem when you try to have collaborative sharing and work on mechanical design data. Part of the problem is keeping complete revision control capabilities over those documents.”
With SOLIDWORKS Connector interfacing CAD software to the 3DEXPERIENCE data management system, it’s possible for there to be “one single source of truth,” as Halpern describes it, in a single data depository where everyone within a business has access to that unified set of information.
It’s then possible for an enterprise to leverage other Dassault solution offerings, such as tools for requirements management traceability, BOM,issue management or project management, which link mechanical designs to their requirements, BOM or the larger project. In this way, the PDM that a business may already be familiar with evolves into PLM.
Within the larger PLM capabilities, it’s possible to have complete engineering change management, like release and revision control, from within an organization. But it’s also possible to share all of your drawings with suppliers.
As new custom or smart devices are created, managing data for those products is becoming increasingly complex and a shorter time to market is increasingly important. This process is made that much more complicated in critical and highly regulated industries, such as the medical device sector.
For that reason, a unified and traceable method for managing data has become particularly crucial. When qualifying a device for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s necessary to not only manufacture a product within certain guidelines, but to also maintain a traceable record of the design process from the Design History File to the production process captured in the Device Master Record for quality control and possible audits.
Using an OS like the 3DEXPERIENCE and its data management tools, it’s possible to thread all of the necessary information for a device together for FDA regulation. You can then create a production BOM, which is fed into a device’s master record (DMR). This DMR, which contains all the information needed to manufacture and build a product together with content of the DHF, is necessary for obtaining FDA approval.
When these design files are delivered to the FDA in order to get a product approved for market, a business can have a living set of data. This means that, if a design needs to be changed in order to meet FDA requirements, all of the associated data can be changed along with it, as will the necessary DHF and DMR. And, if an FDA official or auditor needs to access the DHF and or DMR directly, it is all located in one place within a business.
While this may be particularly beneficial to fields in which regulations are of the utmost importance, the ability to connect every aspect of a product’s lifecycle throughout an enterprise and beyond would be an advantage to just about any area. It’s not difficult to imagine how a broader management of a product’s data would speed up development and time to market, while also making it easier to change or service those products once they’re released.