When you look at most organizations who design using CAD tools, almost all use the .PDF format to share files with others. The .PDF file format is easy to share, works consistently and most everyone has access to software to open them.
The problem that most companies face with this process is that someone has to manage these files. Doing this requires someone to know where it needs to be placed, whether to overwrite and old version of the .PDF or, move it. Don’t forget, they must remember the naming scheme so it can easily be identified as the latest and all while timing this with a change. It is a very resource intensive function and requires precision. If done incorrectly, there is a potential for the wrong data to go to the wrong person. An example would be if someone from the purchasing department was looking for the latest version to send to a vendor for manufacturing and they grab an old revision because someone forgot to generate the .PDF or made a mistake.
Early on in my career I was told never to approach someone with a problem unless I have considered a solution. The solution is Product Data Management. SOLIDWORKS PDM will manage this process automatically. It can create, name and overwrite files the moment it is required and it’s as simple as a 2 step process to get going once you own PDM:
- Identify Workflow step to trigger Creation
- Configure PDM task
Let’s dig a little deeper to see how much effort is involved in each step.
First and foremost we need to understand the mechanism of timing. In most organizations want it to happen automatically but also have the freedom to allow manual creation when it’s necessary. The Automation is built into a workflow as a task that occurs during a file transition.
In most cases, the automation will occur during the transition to final release. In the case of the image above, during the “passed approval” transition. PDM will also allow users to to create a .PDF file on demand. This is done by adding an option to the right click menu in Windows Explorer. During step one, you should identify if this is desired because it will need to be configured in step two.
Configuring a task to create a .PDF file is done in the PDM administration tool by right clicking the task node in the tree and selecting “new task”. The screenshots below illustrate how to configure the important feature to automate this task:
This option is used to add a menu in Windows Explorer for manual .PDF creation.
Conversion settings allows you to configure how it handles multiple sheets. Does it create a single .PDF or one for each sheet?
Output file details allow us to configure location and file naming. File naming can include adding a custom property like revision automatically to the naming convention. Configuration of all options is fast and simple and once complete, your task is ready to be used on the workflow.
PDM has the tools to eliminate the manual process you have today for .PDF creation. This will allow your teams to focus on other activities that add value to your design process. There are a few more short steps to link the workflow and task together and you’ll be well on your way to .PDF process optimization.