Autodesk Vault started with an acquisition and initially was just a work-in-progress engineering management tool, much as it is today with Vault Basic. Soon after came Productstream (which became Vault Manufacturing, and then Vault Professional) which introduced the Item Master with Revisions, Categories, Lifecycle Management, and ECO’s providing a system of actually managing the data. Autodesk felt that there was no middle ground, it was either you were using Vault Basic or you were “all-in” using Productstream, so they introduced what became Vault Workgroup. With Vault Workgroup you do not need to use items and the item master, you can perform revision management and track file lifecycles. More than just implementing file lifecycling, it has a completely different engine than items, making it much more flexible allowing you to define your own states, the permissions to access these states, custom categories, and even events to occur during state changes!
Here’s an article Brian Schanen wrote circa the release of Vault Workgroup 2010. He identifies the key areas of that product which focus on Release Management at the file level, which includes Lifecycles and Security, Revision Management, User Defined Properties, and Categories.
With the recent release of Vault Professional R2 the Item LIfecycle engine has a received a complete overhaul, granting it all the flexibility and abilities of the file lifecyle management toolset. With this you can configure categories with your own lifecycle states, controlling who has the permission to transition the item into the next state. In addition each Category has its own revisioning schemes and item numbering options. You can now even define actions to occur during state changes. If you want to read about all things new in R2 stroll over to our post Autodesk Vault 2015 R2 Summary.
I started writing this article with the intention of covering everything you need to implement the new Item lifecycle functionality, but quickly realized that this will require a couple posts, not just one. What is below is a high-level overview of what’s required with a touch of what’s new. For anyone who has implemented file lifecycles and the revision management tools there is nothing new here.
I delivered two classes last year at Autodesk University, which covered file lifecycles, but now applies extremely well to items. The classes are PL1714: Choosing the Right Lifestyle with Vault Lifecycles and PL1341: Whose Version Should We Believe?—Revising the Story with Vault
Item Lifecycle configuration has been removed from the Items tab of the Vault Settings dialog. Instead that is now controlled in the same places you configure file, folder, and custom objects. The first step is to configure the Revision Schemes, which remain untouched and behave the same as pre-R2. However as you can use Lifecycles to automatically bump the revision it is important to have this set to your desired scheme. In the example shown below I’ve created a “0-Based” scheme which is almost identical to the out-of-the-box Numeric except that it starts at 0 opposed to 1
You now need to create a Lifecycle or a Category, but the order doesn’t really matter as they are reliant on each other and while editing one you can jump into the other to make changes. Here I’ve created a new “Repair” Lifecycle Definition which I intend to use with customer repair proposals. We will receive the equipment into a staging area (Received), then figure out what needs to be fixed (Analysis), the proposal document will be generated and reviewed by the manager (In Review). It will be submitted to the customer (Customer Submitted) and then end up in one of three states depending on the customers decision (On Hold, Declined, and Accepted).
I’ve assigned this Lifecycle Definition to all existing Item Categories meaning that I will be able to apply it to any item, regardless of the assigned category. However I could be very specific, say only making it available on Document category items, or a mix of different ones. As a bonus you can now change the category of multiple items at one time (finally)
Now the fun part… if you want to limit who can make specific state changes, for example making it so only the manager can change the item from In Review to Customer Submitted. You will need to edit either the Transition and/or the Security.
- Security limits what an individual person (or group) can do while the item is in the state. For example granting everyone read-only access but the manager read, edit, and delete. This can extend to setting file access priviledges to the items associated with the item.
- Transitions sets who can make the state changes, meaning that I can make it so only the manager can switch it from In Review to Customer Submitted, but then have security so that no one can make changes to the item (or associated files).
Its on the Transition that you can also set Criteria which must be met before the state change can happen. As well as Actions that occur during the State Change (Transition).
Building the Transitions and Security is not fun with more complex Lifecycle schemes. I highly recommend white boarding the process flow so that 1) everyone is on the same page & 2) you can keep it straight while you are configuring. I really, really, really wish (hint, hint Autodesk) that it worked like the workflow editor in PLM 360… that is one kickass editor. PLM 360 provides a very graphical and easily modifable system for configuring states and transitions and permissions. As a compromise, we have updated a Microsoft Visio Vault Lifecycle flow chart template for you to use to plan and define your Lifecycles. We can’t take all the credit, Autodesk created it originally.
Categories control what you are allowed to do with an item. They set the available revision schemes, lifecycle definitions, and User Defined Properties (UDP) available for the item.
What to look out for
Before installing R2 it is extremely important to actually examine the readme and understand that a number of item features are disabled in R2. This includes…
- Compare Bill of Materials
- Item Import & Item Export
- Item Package Service API’s
- Purge Item, Purge, & Purge All
- Item Restore & Item Rollback Lifecycle State Change
- Item Effectivity
- Restricting Item Lifecycle State Change to Change Orders
Here is a link to the Vault R2 readme document, make sure you have read through everything so there are no surprises with installation and deployment.
A couple bugs have also been reported with R2. Chris Benner discovered quite early with R2, that the new functionality to write the item properties back to files as the item changes is broken. It’s been logged with Autodesk and will hopefully be fixed soon, so thanks for giving it a kicking for us all Chris! (Editor: Mike is being polite… It’s highly unfortunate that a new feature is broken upon release! Why wasn’t it tested properly?)
Seeing it in Action
Feature Image “change” courtesy of suez92 (Flickr)