People often wonder why Aras Innovator has Type classes and the best way to use them.  Let’s take some time to clear this up.

For the folks who are configuring their system, class structure is an OOTB property for all items.   It’s displayed as the attribute type which is how they are typically thought of.  To minimize confusion, I’m going to call this property a “Class”.  

A class is the ability to organize and break down items into groups or families. For our OOTB part item type, the existing classes are Assembly, Components, and Software.   The screenshot also has some classes that are related to our MPP application, such as Material, MBOM Parts, and Phantom. These three options are used to support manufacturing processes.   Of course, you can always create your own classes to meet your needs. 

You can have classes within classes as well.  An example is the classification of animals.  You start with Vertebrates and Invertebrates species.  Following the Vertebrates path, you have warm- and cold-blooded animals.  Then there are mammals and birds along the warm-blooded path and so on.

Classes also supports customization of forms; controlling the presentation of properties including their associated extended class properties. In addition, the behavior of each class can be independent of the parent or other classes.  This means that each class can have their own lifecycles, workflows, and permissions.  Think about how parts and software are developed with their very different development processes and approvals.  Yet, they can both be supported as a part class.    This is an example of enabling different behavior while keeping the benefits of the parent item.

Let’s look at a simple example of creating a “In Service” part class. We start with the part item and add a new class called “In Service”.  We also create unique class properties of Serial Number, Location, and Station.   Location represents the right, center, or left locations while station represents a position on the respective location. 

We relate these properties on the part properties tab and include the Class In-Service that are valid for these properties.  Similarly, a unique In-Service Part form can be created from scratch or by making a copy of an existing form and adding the new class specific properties. 

An In-Service lifecycle map is also created and added to the part lifecycle tab along with the class that is applicable along with its workflow.

Once this is configured, create a part to test.  Notice that the view is the standard part form.   When you pick the In-Service class, the view changes to the In-Service form.   The form includes the unique In-Service properties of serial number, location, and station.

Extending existing items such as parts and documents to organize information and tailor behavior are intuitive benefits of using classifications.  A less obvious benefit of using classifications is that the parent item relationships to the applications is already established which allows the use of the class item in other applications immediately. Imagine creating a new item type.  Besides having to create the item, you would also have to link the item to all the applications that you want to use, a time-consuming task which requires testing to make sure it works.  Just because an item is called a part or document does not limit its application.   An item is an item in Innovator.  The key is making sure the item exhibits the desired behavior.   At a minimum, creating a class item is a great way to prototype something quickly and receiving feedback to determine if the solution is directional correct.

So that’s why and how you should use Classes (aka Attribute Type) in Innovator.  It’s well documented, helps to organize items and controls behavior and can help enable faster prototyping.