When access to CAD data is limited to CAD designers, the only users that can realize the value of visualization, collaboration, and coordinated change based on a highly intuitive, graphical representation of the product are the users who created those representations in the first place. Getting visual data to users throughout the enterprise helps companies to extend the value of Multi-CAD data to more teams with more roles and responsibilities throughout the product’s lifecycle, even if they can’t access or use CAD tools. It also creates a single source of truth for Part information that can be connected to various other domains throughout the product’s lifecycle and governed by formal change processes.

But all this functionality still depends on the CAD data, and how companies manage it. Aras Innovator can manage Multi-CAD data created in external tools like SOLIDWORKS PDM, shown here. It also offers similar connectors to mechanical, electrical, and architectural CAD and product data management tools, all with similar, bi-directional synchronization to PLM data on the Aras platform. Check out how this works in the short video below. Or, explore it further in the full-length Webinar, Leveraging Aras PLM inside Your SOLIDWORKS Environment.




Introduction: Why Leverage SOLIDWORKS Data in Aras PLM?

Aras PLM ensures that CAD designs, parts, and assemblies are maintained in a single source of truth as they change and evolve, with all parties across the lifecycle notified of—and collaborating in—those changes. And, it helps teams communicate within and across disciplines in clear, visual, and intuitive ways as designs evolve. Aras PLM offers both governance for formal change processes, like release management, change orders, requests, and notifications; along with capabilities for collaboration, allowing for the review, markup, and informal change requests by any team involved in the product’s lifecycle.

It can associate key documents, projects, and change processes or workflows with those parts, to keep all of the data that’s ancillary to the Part items organized and consistent as that data changes and evolves throughout the product’s lifecycle as well, alongside changes made to their parts. Finally, Aras PLM allows the part and assembly data to be connected with data generated by upstream and downstream functions throughout the product lifecycle, like information about their requirements, system models, simulation processes and results, quality planning and quality management, manufacturing processes, maintenance procedures, and so much more.

So how is it done?


Step 1: Register to Synchronize CAD and PLM Data

To prepare SOLIDWORKS data for management in PLM, the “Register” feature in the Aras Innovator SOLIDWORKS PDM connector provides for the bi-directional mapping of properties, part numbers, and configurations between the Aras PLM platform and SOLIDWORKS PDM.

Upon Registering, Parts and CAD documents are generated in Aras Innovator, along with part numbers—if the user chooses. But no CAD documents are attached until the user specifies. This creates “placeholders” in Aras where documents and related data can be connected, even if there are no CAD designs yet to represent each part. This helps design processes managed in PLM to happen concurrently with those managed in PDM, rather than sequentially, until they’re brought together at the right time based on the company’s business processes.


Step 2: Submit to PLM Creates the BOM Structure and Viewables for Collaboration and Markup

CAD documents are not attached to their Parts in Aras Innovator until this step. “Submit to PLM” generates a full BOM structure in Aras Innovator automatically, matching 1:1 with the CAD data structure from SOLIDWORKS PDM. This step also generates viewables. In the demonstration above, we’ve used the Aras Conversion Server—included with the platform—to complete this task, but the way these are created is configurable by your administrator.

With the viewables created, any user with permissions can leverage the Visual Collaboration feature in Aras Innovator. Here, with just an internet browser, users can view and rotate the CAD data; explode, measure, cross-section, and select and hide/show parts in the structure; and mark up the 3D model to smoothly and visually collaborate with other users across the enterprise. Visual Collaboration takes a snapshot of the markup state, which can be included in a discussion thread-style user experience where members collaborate with one another by subscribing to notifications and tagging other users in their comments. Together, this powerful visualization plus social collaboration feature lets Aras PLM users throughout the product lifecycle participate in  review and communication of the CAD designs even if they’re not CAD users.


Step 3: Change State Governs Changes to CAD

With a request from a team member to change the design, this selection in SOLIDWORKS PDM ensures that the parts’ state in both SOLIDWORKS and Aras Innovator indicates “In Change”, so as not to allow for other changes across either system. And with the change made, the Submit to PLM function can now ensure that only the changed CAD documents and parts are returned to PLM.


Step 4: Add to Change Drives PLM Changes from the PDM User Interface

Users can initiate a formal Change Management process in Aras Innovator from the SOLIDWORKS PDM user interface by choosing “Add to Change”. This places all items from the CAD structure—both CAD and Part items—as affected items on the new change; or, the user can select from a list to identify items to add or remove from the change before creating it in PLM. Any type of change item available in Aras Innovator can be generated here, and its unique item number can be automatically assigned during this step.

With the change generated out of SOLIDWORKS PDM, a fully-featured change management process in Aras Innovator is available to the user: including workflows with review, approval, and signoff to create a traceable record of the change, plus other processes across the platform that can leverage change items, like Quality processes including Problem Reports and CAPAs.


Conclusion: Parts with Connections Across the Platform

Of course, parts generated quickly and automatically from SOLIDWORKS PDM and CAD data are available to functions and applications well beyond Change Management and Visual Collaboration on the Aras PLM platform.

Parts can be connected with Requirements and System Architecture data, to demonstrate how early requirements and system designs are fulfilled by physical designs. They can be connected with the Simulation instructions, variables, and results used in external authoring tools, to create a traceable record of their use in simulation processes for the enterprise.

They can be connected with their Quality Planning (Design Quality) and Quality Management (QMS / CAPA) processes to demonstrate a fully auditable trail of how quality was built-in and managed throughout a product’s design. And, they can be used downstream in Manufacturing Processes, connecting process, quality, and engineering functions into a single thread of information.

Released parts even can be transformed into a Physical Parts Bill of Materials, creating a digital record of the physical product in the field that includes its operational lifecycle, configurations, and any changes driven by service or maintenance activities.

Parts and assemblies that originate in CAD can take on a life of their own when they are made accessible to the enterprise on a comprehensive, end-to-end PLM platform throughout their lifecycles: starting as they embark on their design, manufacturing, and operational journeys.