Engineering used to be a relatively solitary job. You were handed an assignment, say to design a mechanical drive system. You would then work by yourself in a cubicle until the design was ready to share with others for comments and feedback. At which point you would likely discover that the assumptions you had going into the project were no longer true. For example, the loads on the drive system, the available envelope and the durability requirements might have changed. The design was obsolete by the time it was completed and required substantial rework.
Today, most every industry has become more competitive, more globalized, more collaborative. Shrinking market windows have reduced the amount of time available to bring new products to market. Engineering teams are under tremendous pressure to get the design right the first time. Collaboration has become much more important and challenging as co-workers, contractors, suppliers, customers, etc. are often located far away, sometimes halfway around the world. Large companies have invested in dedicated proprietary collaboration systems that are powerful but often too expensive, complicated and unwieldy for small and mid-sized organizations.
How can small and medium size companies develop the high levels of collaborative efficiency that is needed to compete in today’s market?
PTC has introduced Windchill ProductPoint 1.1. This software allows for product-engineering collaboration that delivers what PTC calls “social product development” by bringing the benefits of social networking technology to product development.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 integrates social networking technologies such as instant messaging, Facebook, blogs and wikis, into the process for designing and manufacturing discrete products.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 is built on top of Microsoft SharePoint, Microsoft’s technology infrastructure for collaboration. Microsoft SharePoint has already been adopted by tens of thousands of manufacturing companies for document sharing and management and is included at no extra cost with every copy of Windows Server 2003 and 2008.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 extends Microsoft SharePoint by adding key product data management capabilities such as integral support for Pro/ENGINEER product structure, enterprise-level security, an automatic locking mechanism that ensures only one person can change a product at a time, and version control capabilities. You can easily create products sites each of which helps to organize the work of a product team by facilitating collaboration and limiting access to authorized users of that site. Catalog sites serve as repositories for standard parts, templates, formats and documents—facilitating design re-use.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 addresses common problems faced by smaller companies that are currently using a network drive to share CAD data. It eliminates the possibility of one user overwriting another’s changes by automatically locking a file when a user checks it out for editing. It makes it easy to recall previous versions of a design. It enables you to quickly search for files on a wide range of criteria. Windchill Product Point also complements existing Windchill installations by providing secure product data access to non-CAD users inside and outside the company.
PTC provides a simple bulk loading tool to move existing files quickly and easily into Windchill ProductPoint 1.1. You simply specify the folder or folders that contain the CAD data. Then the bulk loading tool populates an Excel spreadsheet with a proposed folder structure that is by default the same as the existing network drive file structure. You can keep the existing data structure or work within Excel to quickly create any desired new structure. When you are satisfied with the data structure, you can simply save the spreadsheet and click a button to load all of the files into Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 using the structure specified in the spreadsheet.
Pro/ENGINEER automatically appends a version number each successive time that you save a file. You can maintain all of these files after the conversion or just keep the latest version.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 consolidates product data into a repository that is easily accessed by product developers as well as non-CAD users over the network or from an Internet browser. When you open a file, instead of simply seeing a list of files, you see a 2D graphical image of each file along with its name. When you hover over a file, a 3D view of the file appears. The same 2D and 3D images are available when browsing the model structure.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 visual report
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 also offers a wide range of new social networking features. For example, when browsing files, you can see who has locked any file and who last modified it. Hover over the name and presence detection determines whether or not they are available to respond to an instant message. For example, you might have a quick change to make but see that the part has been locked by another engineer. Click on their name to send them a message asking them to please unlock the part for a few minutes so you can make a quick change. After you make the change, you can send another message to let them know that you are done and that they can relock the part.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 and Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0 mouse-over in model tree with presence detection
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 and Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0 with pop-up notification
Engineers can also create a wiki—a web page that is designed to be edited by a group—and attach it to any part or assembly. Wikis are normally used by engineers to document their design intent and methodology. They save time by enabling reviewers or future re-users of the design to easily understand why and how it was created. The wiki is automatically version controlled so you can easily trace its history to see, for example, who added or changed what part of the document.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 wiki
Another powerful social networking feature in Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 is the ability to create a Facebook-style workspace tailored to the needs of a particular product or discipline. Through this tool, you can easily create and assign tasks to team members. You can view the status of all assigned tasks. You can upload documents and other files and comment on them. This space can serve to address the issues faced by a particular development project or as a place where experts can gather to address problems submitted by users. You can also create your own profile that lists you skills and background so that they can easily be discovered by others in the extended organization.
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 collaboration space
Windchill ProductPoint 1.1 enables product development teams to work together seamlessly, regardless of their location, by accelerating the ability to share knowledge with team members and other collaborators.
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