A common problem I hear about is that, even after all the setup to use the built-in data management tools with Solid Edge, the draft files don’t automatically revise when I revise a part or assembly file. Why not?
Like many things with Solid Edge, there is a text file controlling that. If you don’t have the text file configured properly, and Solid Edge pointing to the location of the text file, the draft file won’t automatically revise.
File Management Options
Before we even need to worry about the text file, though, we need to check the simple solution first. In the Solid Edge Options -> File Management tab, there is a checkbox to “Automatically revise drawings that use the selected 3D document.” If this isn’t checked, that’s your problem.
By default, the location of this file is
C:\Program Files\Solid Edge ST9\Preferences
At this time, I can’t seem to find a way to point to this file in a network/shared location, so each Solid Edge client may have to update this file individually.
The instructions are defined in the file itself, and are easy. Essentially, type in the URL of your CAD vault.
\\The FastSearchScope.txt tells Solid Edge where tolook forrelated drawings when the
By now you should have noticed that your data management is improving. If you were keenly aware, you may even have surmised that the built-in data management tools of Solid Edge ST9 are heavily weighted to server settings. In other words, Congratulations! You’ve been doing data management. But, there are client settings that will improve consistency and automate some of the processes making your design process more efficient and less of a belly ache.
Unique File Names
While having a detailed folder structure may make for convenient grouping of files, we learned that it also allows for duplicate file names. Solid Edge, on the other hand, resolves links between filenames only. This can lead to conflicts. By limiting the number of folders and subfolders, Windows will prevent you from creating 100 “brackets” because a bracket.par will already exist in the folder. We’ve eliminated one of the biggest headaches in data management simply by streamlining folder hierarchies.
Unless you have created a single folder, though, duplicate filenames are still possible. Therefore, a better way to prevent duplicate filenames is to use the part number as the filename. (This assumes you have a part number log and a system to assign unique part numbers. Setting up this business process is outside the scope of these articles, but feel free to contact the Services Group at the Institute of Configuration Management. Tell them I sent you.) To prevent duplicates between different revisions of the part, include the revision as part of the filename also. Solid Edge has settings that can automate file naming for you.
I know quite a few users that include a long description in their filenames because that’s what displays in the assembly Pathfinder. The description makes locating components easier. Since filenames are now only part number and revision, the unique description is lost. Not necessarily! Using the Helpers within Solid Edge options, the Pathfinder display can be changed to show any data the user would like based on the formula entered into the option.
Remember when I recommended you create the folder hierarchy of your CAD vault to match the life cycle stages of your design? Not only should you have experienced easier manual data management with that structure, but by setting a few more options in the Solid Edge client, moving files can be automated.
Back in the Solid Edge Options, there are two File Locations that must be set in order to automate file movement. (At this point, you may be wondering why moving files is even necessary. Because doing so allows you to set NTFS security permissions on a per-folder basis through Windows. This adds another level of security and access control to your CAD files.) The two file locations to set are Pre-released and Released. Go ahead and set the Obsolete folder while you’re it.
If your CAD Administrator uses the SEAdmin.exe tool, these file locations are available, but they will return an error. When set via SEAdmin, the file locations MUST be in a managed environment like Insight. To point to a local drive, shared folder, or network location, the File Locations must be set within Solid Edge.
In the File Management tab of the Solid Edge Options, check the box to Move documents to the location specified and check the statuses that you want automatically moved. I recommend all of them, but notice that not all of the statuses have corresponding file location definitions. In other words, they may not move. I expect, though, that this is something for a future version of Solid Edge’s built-in data management tools. Let’s hope.
That’s it! The client settings have been configured. Do this for every Solid Edge user in your organization and you are one step closer to trouble free data management.
This concludes the series on setting up the Built-in Data Management tools in Solid Edge ST9. There is more to explore, and I will post some tips and tricks and other helpful information to get the most from your data management. In the meantime, happy designing. These built-in tools, when setup properly, help eliminate the burden of file management and allow you to focus more on what’s important, your customer.
If you need additional help with managing your data, defining good processes, or just need a shoulder to cry on, I am a certified professional in Configuration Management / Integrated Process Excellence through the Institute of Configuration Management. Call the Services Group, tell them I sent you, and we can get started getting your data under control. Or, if it’s a quick and easy question, leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I can.
I’d also like to thank Greg Baldwin for his presentation on the built-in data management tools at Solid Edge University 2016. You can see the slides of his presentation on the Solid Edge Community website.
A couple weeks have passed since our first post in the series so by now you should be quite comfortable with the new folder hierarchy. And, since the folders have been indexed, searching for files should be a bit quicker also. That’s all well and good, but I could always find what I was looking for quickly when I already knew what to look for and where to look. So what do you do for all those times when you don’t know exactly what a file is called, or what the part number is? What then?
Solid Edge Custom Properties
If you haven’t been using them, now is a great time to start taking advantage of Solid Edge Custom properties. These are meta-data fields created by the user and can be found in the Custom tab of the File Properties dialog box. (Note: Custom properties are not unique to Solid Edge. MS Office files and other filetypes also have a Custom tab in their File Properties.) Custom properties can be used to fill out fields in title blocks and parts lists, as well as help you keep track of other informational bits about your design. And, more importantly, when added to the search index, can be used to find that part you’re looking for.
Custom properties can be anything the user desires. Therefore, there is a level of inconsistency with them. For example, the name of the property as well as the values within the field could be anything. Sometimes, even capitalization will be enough to define a different property. So how do you encourage consistency across all your users? Or, even for single users, how do you remember exactly what the name of the property was that you used on the last design? There are two places to define standard custom properties (standard for your organization, that is): templates and the propseed.txt file.
Standardized Custom Properties
The first, and easiest, method to create standardized custom properties is to define them in your template files. Open each template: assembly, part, sheet metal, and drawing; and Add a custom property. The default value needs input, so fill the field in with something that you know is a default value, or even a space or a dash. With the template saved, every new file created will have the custom properties pre-populated in the file.
The propseed.txt file is used to provide consistency to properties and values that aren’t saved to the templates. For the example figure above, notice that “finish” is the name and “nickel” is the value. These inputs are from a list of values generated by the propseed.txt file.
Defining and using Custom Properties can be a post on its own, and is out of context for this article. Solid Edge Help provides a useful source in learning more about them and I advise you to go there for more information. Just make sure that when you have them defined, each user points to the same templates and same propseed.txt file. This is done through the Solid Edge Options, File Locations tab.
Indexing Custom Properties
With the Custom Properties defined, we can add them to the search index. If your existing library of files doesn’t have the custom properties in them, this won’t help much. You will have to edit the existing files in your library or recognize that some parts aren’t going to show in the search results. But, all new files going forward will have their custom properties indexed and will show in search results for those fields.
The reason we created the Custom Properties in the templates and the propseed.txt file in the earlier step is because we can now use these to automatically add these fields to the index.
Back at the Fast Search Utility on the machine in which the CAD library is stored (the server), make sure the Custom Properties checkboxes are marked, and that both the Property Seed File and the User Templates are checked also. Verify the location of the propseed.txt and templates points to the shared location of your company.
Then, click Set Custom Properties. (Note: Due to a weird glitch, you may have to press this twice for the properties to actually set.)
Verify the custom properties are added by viewing them.
Now that more properties are available, the index must be rebuilt.
Click on Index My Files.
That’s it! The server is setup and all your Solid Edge files are indexed, including all the properties that are available within Solid Edge. In the next posts, I’ll show you some more tools to maintain a clean library as well as tools available to each user, like fast Where Used and custom property searches, so they can start realizing some efficiencies in their design process.
Now that your data has been cleaned up and organized, you should already be noticing an improvement in your processes. Even without implementing the data management tools, having improved data integrity from:
Consistent file naming,
No duplicate files,
Easier to find needed files,
Fewer broken links,
Ability to monitor file I/O performance,
Possibly tweak and improve file access,
should be realizing returns due to less time spent searching for the right document. Process improvement is the critical first step. Now that the processes are in place and working, we can start setting up the built-in data management tools in order to automate some of the steps and realize greater efficiencies in the process.
A Quick Clarification
This article focuses on the server settings. In this case, “server” is defined as the location where you created your top-level folder to store your CAD files, your “CAD_Vault.” These settings must be set on the machine that contains the files, whether it be your local drive or a network file server.
To reiterate, the reason these data management tools are referred to as built-in is because there is no additional software to install. These settings take advantage of standard Windows and Solid Edge abilities. All you must do is turn them on and get them working together, which is what this series of articles is about. So let’s get back to it.
Windows Search Index
Have you ever searched a directory structure for a specific file, and waited and waited as that progress bar on the top of Windows Explorer slowly filled to the right? Did you ever notice the hint from Windows that told you to include that directory into the index for faster searching?
From the Windows Taskbar, click the search icon and type Services.
Click the Services app to start it.
Scroll down and look for the service called Windows Search.
Make sure it is running and that it is set to automatically start.
The next step is to make sure the actual top-level folder that contains your CAD library is getting indexed.
Right-click on the top-level folder and select Properties.
On the General Tab, click Advanced.
Make sure the “Allow files in this folder to have contents indexed in addition to the file properties” option is checked.
If prompted, apply to all the subfolders. Depending on how the folder hierarchy was created, you may need to manually verify every folder.
If Solid Edge is installed on the same machine as your CAD library, indexing can be configured via Solid Edge Options. If your CAD library is on a network file server, then the Fast Search utility must be installed onto the server.
Since I’m using my local machine, I will use the Solid Edge Options to Configure Fast Search.
With Solid Edge running,
Select Settings then Options
The Fast Property Search tab is the top-most tab.
Click on Set Locations…
If the buttons are greyed out, check the box for Solid Edge File Locations (I am just starting…).
By clicking on Set Locations…, the Windows Indexing Options dialog appears. This is the same dialog used by Windows. For example, in the taskbar search for Index and you’ll see Indexing Options from the Control Panel available. It brings up the same dialog.
Most likely, there are some locations already added to the index. Now would be a good time to clean up any extraneous locations.
In the upper pane of the Indexed Locations dialog, browse to the location of your CAD library. Remember, this setup is run on the computer that stores the CAD library, not a client machine. The CAD library should be on a local drive.
Back at the Indexing Options dialog,
Then click to Rebuild the index. You can hold off on this step if you plan on adding custom properties to the index. Also, rebuilding an index can take a long time depending on the number of files and the speed of the disk. For examples, SSDs are much faster at indexing that hard disk drives.
Alternatively, you can click on the Index My Files button in the Fast Search Configurator (Solid Edge Options). This also forces a rebuild on the index.
Summing it up.
So far, all we have done is to make sure Windows indexes the CAD library. Even without Solid Edge, or the Fast Search Utility, installed, any user could have created this index with the standard Windows tools. As a matter of fact, that’s all that was done using Solid Edge. The one difference though, is that the Solid Edge file types have been added to the index. You can verify this in the Advanced dialog, under the File Types tab, and scrolling for .par, .asm, .psm, and .dft.
But since the indexing, to this point, is only the standard Windows index, only the standard Windows content is indexed, such as Title, Subject, Author, and other File Properties and any text that the index can “read” as it parses the file. But what about all your custom properties: material, gage thickness, and the like? I’ll go over those in the next post.
During Solid Edge University 2016, I spent the morning prior to the official start of the event sitting in the workshops on data management. One session that intrigued me most was the new built-in data management tools available with ST9. The reason for my interest is simple, and was even stated during Greg Baldwin’s presentation – if you do 3D modeling, you do data management.
Yet, nearly 60% of the Solid Edge customer base doesn’t have a dedicated data management system in use, based on information presented in the workshops. Why not?
The good news is, wherever you store your Solid Edge files now, you have everything you need to take advantage of the built-in data management tools available with Solid Edge ST9. But, there are a few settings that need to be configured to make it work optimally.
Set up the Vault
Whether on your local drive or a network share, your Solid Edge files are stored in a folder structure somewhere. If you are the only user, then keeping the files on the local drive is fine. But, for any workgroups of two or more, the files should be stored on a network share, preferably a dedicated file server. While shared folders will work, the performance will be less than optimal to downright frustrating. Since I’m using myself as the example for this article, I will be setting up my vault on my local folder, but the process is the same on a file server.
Your existing structure still works, but add the life cycle stage as the second level structure.
First Level Folder
The first level of your CAD file storage should be a single folder. In my example, I named it “CAD_Vault”. While there are many ways to organize your CAD files: by filetype, by project, by client, or by phase in the development-to-production process, all the files must be located within a single top-level folder within the drive.
Second Level Folders
The second level of your folder hierarchy must be the life cycle stage of the file. Even if you don’t have a formal release process, pretend that you do and name the second level folders based on the release stage. In my example, I named the folders after the stages on the Status tab of the Solid Edge File Properties: Inwork, InReview, Released, Baselined, and Archive (for the Obsolete status). Although the built-in data management tools don’t utilize all of these life cycle stages currently, it may in the future and there are other benefits in having the structure defined.
Subsequent Level Folders
The third and subsequent levels of your folder hierarchy can be anything you want, including the existing structure that you have now. Just be aware that the folder structure is going to be repeated identically below each lifecycle stage folder, as shown with the InWork and Released subfolders.
Hopefully you already have a part numbering system for your company. If you don’t, you probably have more “brackets” in your CAD library than you have products to put them in. If you don’t have a part numbering convention yet, this may be the most painful part of the setup (see footnote).
File naming cleanup, also known as data prep, can be a time-consuming venture. But, it also pays dividends, not only with being able to effectively utilize the built-in data management tools, but also because the data organization will help streamline your design process. For Solid Edge, the best file naming convention consists of three parts: the unique base number (which may or may not include a configuration number), the deliminator, and the revision.
The number is the unique identification that is defined by your part numbering system. The deliminator is a single character that separates the number from the revision. The revision is the last set of characters after the deliminator before the file extension. By default, Solid Edge sets the deliminator as a dash (-) but I like to use the caret (^). Be warned, if in the future you want to use an Oracle database, you may have issues with the caret. I avoid the dash and underscore simply because those characters are often used elsewhere in the filename.
Organize Your Data
That’s the first step in setting up the built-in data management tools, and likely will be the most labor intensive step as well, depending on how clean your data is.
Use Revision Manager (pre-ST9) or Design Manager (ST9) to move and rename files. I will hint that you can use Windows Explorer to move files if there are no duplicate filenames and the filename doesn’t change. When combined with the Link Management file and the Open/Save batch file, you can quickly move a lot of files and resolve broken links quickly.
Also, even if you aren’t using Insight, Insight SP, or Teamcenter, the data preparation tools that come with Solid Edge can still be used to prepare your files for built-in data management.
So get to work cleaning up your cad library and stay tune for the next part of the built-in data management series.
Footnote: I am certified in Configuration Management. If you need help developing and implementing a data management plan, contact the Services Group at www.icmhq.com and mention my name.
Two weeks ago today I was sitting in a conference room at the JW Marriott in Indianapolis, IN enjoying the add-on workshops for my very first Solid Edge University as a paid user.
While not my first Solid Edge University (SEU), I often wear many hats and attending as a user with no other responsibilities other than to meet other users, attend presentations, and learn as much as I possibly could was certainly a nice change. Of course, even if I was not officially representing media/press at this event, I can’t help stop myself from writing about it. Why am I waiting two weeks? Because I wanted to include the link to the presentations for those who couldn’t make SEU, and those presentation were recently posted. Look for the link at the end of this article.
Attendance and Energy
I heard through the grapevine that the approximate attendance was around 500 users. While not nearly as large as Solidworks World or Autodesk University, it’s still not a small number. (I’m curious to learn how large Inventor University or Fusion 360 University would be if separated from all of the other Autodesk products. Solidworks World, that’s just an inimitable singularity.)
And while no one was running into the main keynote session (Why would they? There is plenty of seating.), the energy level was aligned with the demographic. You see, Solid Edge users tend to be very loyal to their CAD system, so long as their CAD system improves their productivity. You’ll see a lot of very pragmatic users asking the tough question – “Sure, that’s a great feature, but how does it help me do my job better?” Thankfully, the folks at Siemens understand their customers well and year-over-year focus on providing productivity-enhancing features like: tabbed documents, improved license management, UI tweaks that work the way you expect, material table enhancements, spiral curve, sheet metal improvements, patterning, sketching, and many more that I’ll start covering on this site.
Built-in Data Management
PDM is hard, PLM is harder. PDM, quite frankly, is useless without the workflow aspect of PLM, so why bother? Might was well just use the Windows file system to store your files. And that’s exactly what Siemens has done with Solid Edge ST9!
I spent the first four hours of the conference attending the built-in data management workshop. While I would like to give all the credit to the Solid Edge development team, I feel that these enhancements are only available with ST9 thanks, in part, to changes in Windows itself. Over the past several years, I’ve been noticing base Windows getting a lot of Sharepoint-like features built into it. Now, Solid Edge ST9 comes with built-in data management tools that closely resemble some of the early features of Insight (Siemens’ PDM tool for Solid Edge built on top of Sharepoint). See the connection? But, quite frankly, I don’t care about the pedigree as much as I love the ability to better manage my data without any additional cost or requirement to manage/maintain/train on another software solution.
I spent the second half of the first day (all pre-conference start, mind you) in a workshop about the Solid Edge client for Teamcenter. The big news here is the addition of Active Workspace into the Solid Edge application. I tweeted back in June 2013 and again in Sept 2013 that I think Active Workspace should be the default UI for Teamcenter, not an additional license. It appears that Siemens has been working towards my plea and I find myself ecstatic that Solid Edge is starting to get the same tight integration with Teamcenter that NX has.
Solid Edge University Proper
Solid Edge University 2016 officially kicked off Wednesday morning with the usual keynotes and highlights of the reason everyone came, Solid Edge. During the keynotes Siemens did a fantastic job explaining their focus on education and STEM support. If you want to measure how much support, measure in the billions. I don’t think there was anyone in the room that left the keynote not wanting to get involved with Greenpower.
From there, the event split off into the usual sessions: part modeling, assembly modeling, sheet metal, synchronous technology, drafting, data management, additive manufacturing, vendor tools, simulation, rendering, etc. If there was something you wanted to learn about Solid Edge, or one of the many other tools provided by 3rd party vendors, there was a session about it. Don’t believe me? Look for yourself. You can find the presentations on the Solid Edge Community Knowledge Base. You can also see the recordings of the live stream on the Community website also.
Not a Community member? Why not? It’s free, and you will find an amazing group of users from around the world, and even a few Siemens employees, willing to answer any questions you have. And the next time you attend Solid Edge University, you’ll already have friends to meet up with. I know I’ll be back. Question is, what metaphorical hat will I be wearing?
G’day Mates! I’d like to take a moment to introduce myself and let you know of some new and exciting things happening at Design & Motion. As you know, D&M is a very Autodesk-centric blog and the owners of the site are working on diversifying the content. Therefore, they invited me to join their list… Continue Reading