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Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

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Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

It still seems that PTC still does not offer a good replacement for Intralink 3.x for very small companies. If they do, they are not marketing it well. Is PDMLink the answer? If so, it's hard to find comprehensive information about it on the web.

It seems as though PTC is marginalizing their very small customers and focusing on multi-million/billion dollar companies who can afford full time CAD Administrators and full time IT staff.

I think this is very a very poor long-term strategy for PTC, since many very small companies of today will grow into very large companies in years to come. Many very small companies feel drawn to CAD products like SolidWorks that are more hospitable to them (than PTC), and they will be ensconced in these other CAD products as they grow, and PTC will have lost the opportunity.

As a mechanical engineering consultant to many small, start-up companies, I have introduced several of them to Pro/Engineer/Wildfire, and they have purchased seats. I still feel it is the best CAD software on the market. Unfortunatley, as these companies grow and PDM becomes more of an issue, some are feeling drawn to other CAD tools that offer more affordable CAD data management tools, and I can't blame them.

This is a pivotal time for PTC. Just like Microsoft is playing catch-up to Apple & Google by introducing Windows 8, PTC needs to get serious about their small customers and introduce products that are functional and convenient for them. It's not too late, but it probably will be soon.

I would like to hear other people thoughts on this subject, and suggestions for good CAD data management without having to abandon Pro/E, Wildfire, Creo. Especially from PTC employees.

Thanks.

25 REPLIES 25
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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hi Mark,

Thanks for reaching out. We hear you and I want you to know that SMB customers are important to PTC. After all, it is the small companies of today that are growing most quickly and will become the big companies of tomorrow. My primary role at PTC is to represent the PLM interests of smaller customers. This is a new role that PTC recently added so that we have a full-time advocate for small customer needs.

PTC made a strategic decision to focus on a single PLM platform that scales to support small to very large customers. We believe this approach is in the best interests of our customers and partners.

Why do we believe that? Well because with a single, scalable platform, customers can begin using the minimum functionality made available and easily adopt more advanced capabilities as they grow. Why install a new PLM platform, migrate data and retrain users when your needs exceed the capabilities of an entry-level application? Furthermore, PTC’s partners need only understand how to sell, deploy and support one PLM platform. Our customers don’t have to research multiple platforms to determine which they think is best for their needs. There is only one platform to choose and our customers can have confidence that the platform will support their needs as their business grows.

We’re in the process of enhancing the Windchill platform to make it more accessible by small to midsize customers. We are making it dramatically easier to deploy, manage and use, and more simple to learn (especially for those customers that are initially focused on CAD data management). I believe the coming releases will reveal these improvements.

What’s important to you? I really want to know what you think is most important for CAD data management and PLM for small customers and small deployments.

Chris

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Chris - a few things to consider on this topic:

1. OTB, content files are vaulted as BLOBS in the database. Changing the wt.fv.forceContentToVault property to true is the norm - seems that this should be the default. Regardless, it's buried pretty deep in documentation and should be brought out in something like "10 things you need change." Most small implementations will not need any vaulting rules - vaulting should be addressed in the simplest possible way.

2. One has no choice but to create Products and Libraries from template. The resulting configurations (included in the templates) are not well-documented, and can be confusing. In particular, the "Design" product template includes statebased versioning for CAD and more standard versioning for non-CAD "as an illustration of what can be done." In general, people need to invest a lot of effort in understanding the templates from which all Products and Libraries are created. There should be much better efforts at providing a) A bigger set of OTB templates b) Much more extensive explanation of what results.

OTB Product and Library templates include all needed ACL's. Wherever they are common, they should be moved one level up (at Org, PDM), to drastically reduce maintenance. This should be addressed with the templates and their explanations.

3. Setting up all the "infrastructure" to be able to quickly and easily start new Pro/E (CREO) 3d models (part, assembly) and also Drawings with appropriate formats, templates, etc. is esssential. This could be summarized and simplifed quite a lot and this would be very helpful.

cheers....

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Mike,

All good points. We are in the process of creating a pre-configured virtual Windchill image which addresses several of the points you made:

  • The system is pre-configured to use external file vaults and you need only specify the file system location through a wizard GUI
  • We provide a special product and library template with a shared team that has all ACL's pre-defined to correspond with the pre-defined team roles (defined at organization level) and lifecycle states.
  • We pre-configure a CAD worker to automatically publish 2-D and 3-D representations.

Chris

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hi Chris,

Thanks for responding. It's great to hear that PTC has taken this important initiative to reach out and better support the PDM/PLM needs of their smaller customers! I believe, if done well, it will help position PTC for significant future growth, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

As a CAD/PDM user, here is a list of what I find most valuable about Pro/INTRALINK 3.4. I hope you include most, if not all, of these capabilities in your base version of Windchill for small companies. If you can make it easy to implement, update, and manage, you will be doing a great service to your customers and the CAD/CAM/CAE community in general.

In order of importance, as they pertain to managing CAD/CAE/CAM files:

  1. From within a Workspace, the ability to “Duplicate” an entire assembly, along with all, or just some of, its sub-assemblies, parts and drawings, to new assemblies, parts, & drawings with new filenames, without losing any of the parametric relationships between the objects. This is more powerful, and saves me more work, than any other Intralink function.
  2. The ability to have parameters associated with different objects such as “TITLE,” “PART NUMBER,” “REVISION,” that show up in the Workspace next to the object’s filename, and the ability to SORT by these parameters.
  3. The ability to segregate my projects into different workspaces (in the Workspace) or folders in the Commonspace.
  4. The ability to save different versions and revisions of my objects (assemblies, parts, drawings).
  5. The ability to have object libraries for things like screws, nuts, washers, etc. Libraries that different Pro/E assemblies can refer to.
  6. The ability for multiple people to work on objects (assemblies, parts, drawings) without inadvertently overwriting each other’s work. (The Commonspace/ Workspace, Check in/Checkout concept.)
  7. The ability to create indented Bill-of-Materials of CAD assemblies.
  8. The ability to perform a WHERE USED, to see what parts and assemblies refer to or use a particular part or subassembly.
  9. The ability to “PURGE” old, accumulated saved files from within the Workspace.
  10. The ability to save backups of my databases.
  11. The ability to Export objects out of the Workspace, and IMPORT objects into the Workspace.
  12. The ability to create release schemes that conform to my company’s design process.
  13. The ability to create different levels of user access to view/change objects.

Thanks again. When will the new, friendlier version of Windchill be available for purchase?

Mark

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Great list Mark!

Much of what you have listed is already possible with Windchill PDMLink and I am confident that we can address most if not all of the items on your list within the next couple major releases.

I encourage others to comment on your list and to indicate their interest in beta-testing and/or reviewing prototypes.

I will follow up to engage you in our design and development reviews.

Chris

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Christopher,

We have an engineering staff of 7 ME's, 4 EE's, and one computer admin who manages our file servers/ptc licenses. What we DON'T have is a team of software engineers to write all of the code, edit and create xml files, etc....generally just finish your job of software design. Our department is responsible for designing products, not learning how to write PLM software. We have been attempting to roll out Winchill 10 to our engineers one at a time, and it has fought us every step of the way. This has only been exacerbated by the astounding lack of clear documentation on Windchill. The difficult to navigate help file only describes what you can do, not how to do it. I understand that PTC would prefer that we send our staff to classes and seminars, but we believe it is more important for them to stay here and work for us instead.

Even when you begin to get a handle on what is by FAR the most clumsy, slow, and unintuitive GUI I have ever seen, you start to realize that nearly every OOTB preference/configuration/setting needs to be changed. Let me be clear, we do not have a complex workflow or obscure method of product management. Yet, we have learned that Winchill will require extensive customization for us to use it at all. These changes are buried in various configuration managers, most of which require the creation of a custom configuration file, often an xml. Not one person in our company knows how to do this. I personally had to take on the task of learning about xml coding, obtaining new software to make changes, editing the files and praying that they worked. In almost a year now, the only customization we have been able to achieve is making the part number fields editable. It is a blessing that we have made it that far, as by default, Windchill generates immutable random numbers for every part you create.

At no point in the sales conversations or installation process did someone inform us that we would basically need to hire a team of computer science majors to make sense of all this. It's up and running, we can check parts in and out and give people permissions to folders, but that's about as far as we can get. PTC wants to offer a software suite which scales to different business sizes, and that's great, but it isn't Windchill. Smaller businesses have a smaller set of specialized employees. Companies like ours do not have IT departments capable of administering such a daunting system. Without a dedicated team of computer professionals, I think it is safe to say there is no hope that we will ever use this software to its potential (or even 10% of that). If customization was approachable and user-friendly to the average CAD user, this would not be the case. Every option should be accessible through a clean and simple interface, and not require the user to edit a single line of code.

The bottom line is that Windchill is an incomplete product, and a completely unrealistic solution for small business. I am not exaggerating when I say incomplete. We have run across certain portions of the software which blatantly admit that a major customization feature doesn't work yet, but "hopefully" it will soon. Again, the general feel of the software is so disjointed and confusing that it takes weeks for our designers to get used to navigating and performing simple tasks. It is almost as if hundreds of PTC software engineers collaborated on this project from separate locations without communicating with each other, then haphazardly stitched their work together. To describe this product as "integrated" or "optimized" is a joke. Windchill is essentially a massive work still very much in progress, and the customers are the beta testers. Perhaps we bit off more than we can chew, but from over here it feels a lot more like being duped.

While PTC works on the next major release of this nightmare, we will continue to struggle and watch our productivity suffer as our designers fight to stay sane.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hi Christopher,

We are also a small company (5 CAD Designers and 1 Document specialist), and I've been selected to keep PDMLink up and running.

Not a very easy task and definitely not in the light of customization!
We've been spending an incredible amount of money for courses and to a consultant from a reseller for something that should have been OOTB.
Numbers for files, Revisions, Iterations (Nightmares!), Vizualisations and basically all of Marks list.

I'm a mechanical engineer, not a software designer/ guru.

Right now we have issues in several fields and family tables are a horrible nightmare regarding regeneration and locally modified files.

I like the UI and some of the functionality, but that is also to a certain point.
I hope PTC comes with the mentioned pre-configured virtual Windchill image very soon.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hi Preben,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. We'd like to understand in detail where you had difficulties so that we can make the proper improvements in the product and/or documentation. I will contact you directly to set up a meeting.

Chris

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

I usually submit Ideas to the Windchill product, but like the enhancement requests before, it seems that these get very little attention at PTC.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

My pet-peeve is the Where-Used report in PDMLink. I have submitted an enhancement request but don't know if it will be implemented.

The Where-Used report lists the latest Version an objects is used on. NOT if it's used on the latest Version of an assembly. It shold allow you to select either way.

I.e.:

a1.asm Version A.3 uses part p1.prt.

p1.prt is replaced with p2.prt in a1.asm. a1.asm is now at Version B.2.

A Where-Used report of p1.prt will show it used on a1.asm Version A.3.

I want to know if p1.prt is used on B.2 of a1.asm. If not then do not list it in the report. Most of the time, if not all, I only care if I have to change the latest Version of the assembly. Right now in PDMLink 9.1 I have to go into the details page of the assembly to see if it's the latest.

I can see the great potential of PDMLink. But so far I agree with Mark. Frustrating.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

steve the WTpart where used table will only show latest use in latest configuration which I take it is what you want. relys on having correctly associated EPMdocument to WTpart

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Frustrated and well challenged user!

Hi there,

You are probably that right person to ask, are you think of producing an App Creo Designer Express?

This would produce the air so I can breath. 12 -14 hour days are not healthy long term!

This would make a huge difference in understaing customer needs at the bottom end of the market. If I had the support i could grow a small business into a larger company and would most definately purchase the upper range products.

Thanks

Ben

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Stick with Intralink and you'll be much happier. That's th ebest system I've ever used. Windchill/PDMLink has been nothing but a nightmare for each of the 3 companies I've worked for that went to it. And don't even get me started on the Creo interface....

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Frank,

Was the instance of Windchill set up PTC Implementation Consultants? Did the companies you work for contract PTC for learning and adoption?

These two things will be important to a successful implementation of WC.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

The first company's install and training was done by PTC. Though it worked better than the last 2 companies versions, the training was very sub-par, and the laptops they brought for us to use were even worse. None of this negates the horrible and frustrating interface, and the fact that it takes a LOT more effort and time to do the same task as was easily done in Intralink. I've seen productivity drastically decrease at 3 different companies now who switched. AND, the IT guys having to deal with it have been swamped with extra work maintaining it and fixing all it's problems.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Agreed, one of the things at which PTC excells is failing to quantify the amount of configuration and customization that needs to be done just to get Windchill to operate the way it is advertised.

We have a team of 6 engineers (me included) and one IT manager who have been re-tasked to get Windchill to work properly and more than $300,000 into implementation, can't even get it to spit out a comprehensive BOM yet.

This is all with PTC's "help" and the help of FOUR 3rd party integrators.

I know, from my experiences, the main issue is that no one person at PTC knows how to use the software and so you can't find anyone in the company who can give you a straight answer. Even Creo 2.0 does not work fully with Windchill utilizing the new modular modelling architechture. Our company has formally identified many shortcomings and PTC just hems and haws but offers no resolution.

We're now working with Datfrond/TJ Solutions who seems to be the one company in the world who fully understands both how Windchill works and has an excellent view of how companies need to use it. Many of their customizations have been incorporated into the source code of Windchill.

For very small companies who, unlike us, don't have a billionaire funding them directly, the switch to Windchill should not be taken lightly. If you just want PDM functionality, stick with Intralink. If you TRULY need PLM functionality, and have VERY WELL defined processes throught the company, then you are ready to move to Windchill.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hey Domingo, do you have any contact information for Datfrond/TJ Solutions?

Thanks!

W've been usung Windburn for many months now, and it's STILL more trouble and less functional than Intralink. If I had anything to do wth it, I would never have had our company switch. We've lost far too much time, and data.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hemant Jatla | Datafrond LLC - http://www.datafrond.com | Mobile: +1 513.290.8664 | Email: hjatla@datafrond.com

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Hi Mark,

This is an interesting thread.

We are based in South Africa and your points are relevant for our market as the exchange rate is not in our favor.

As resellers we run into these Questions all the time and have had to come up with some work around's / add-ons.

I agree with Chris with the improvements that PTC has been making to WC.

From the install and configuration point of view there has been major improvements to the point where we are able to offer the small (3 to 10 users) clients a one week engagement. This covers Install, configure, Training and handholding.

You mentioned that there should a list of '10 things to do" We have also created a "program" that allows us to set those '10' options in about 10 minutes.

I am willing to expand on any of these areas i have mentioned if you are interested.

Regards

Bryan

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

I would like to add that we are a small company that uses Windchill 8.0 and PRO-E 4.0. Our management is looking for a way out of using PTC products. Not a good idea as far as I am concerned but last time I checked last year to bring us current on releases would be around $30K for 4 CAD users and another 4 for Windchill. Good bad or indifferent the reason we are in a pickle is because of the bad implementation of windchill (PTC VAR issues) and its complexity to manage. I hope the SMB Windchill release comes soon and can be very cost effective and modular when implemented.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

With WF4 you can stay on Intralink. I'd migrate back if I were you. I HATE Windchill, and HATE creo. I wouldn't recommend going to either, let alone both. I, unfortunately, am stuck with W/C and sort of with creo. I'm using WF4 now because I refuse to work in creo unless I have to work on someone else's stuff.

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I wonder if PTC has figured out that the cost to send some one to one of their training classes is prohibitive. Lets see $2000/person/course, then transportation, lodging and meals, not to mention lost productivity while at training, then more lost productivity while implementing the software. This stuff is expensive it is very difficult to get ROI (reliable ROI) estimates, is it possible to get a guarantee for pay back.

The last training book that I recieved did not have an index. What a waste.

I really hope the SMB package is something that can be purchased, implemented, and have people trained and productive in under a month. For a small company a stripped down version of Windchill that does only the basics of a PLM system should be in the range of $800 to $1500 per seat to start and 15 % per year for maintenance. If a small part of the system can be implemented and show significant improvement in efficiency then in a modular systen features or modules could be added later. A small businessman is going to balk at software that is going to cost $30,000 to implement, especially if there is not a proven record of improved performance

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Mark,

You have created a very interesting thread. I agree with your original premise, "PTC does not have a good replacement for Intralink 3.0", and what is perhaps even more frustrating, "PTC does not know how to help small companies effectively use the products they do offer".

To be honest, what we expect PTC to do is an enormous task. Most companies (ours is no exception) have put little or no logical thought into the system they currently use. The current system is just the result of haphazard decisions or lack of decisions over the course of many years. To successfully try and implement a comprehensive solution such as Windchill requires a company to review all the basic premises of design, collaboration, and data management and converge them all into one efficient, well understood, and coherent process (this is not an easy task).

YOU MUST UNDERSTAND NOT ONLY WHAT THE COMPANY WANTS TO DO, BUT UNDERSTAND WHAT EVERYONE IS ACTUALLY DOING, AND IF THERE IS SUFFICIENT MOTIVATION TO CHANGE THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE TO THE WAY THE COMPANY WANTS THEM TO BE DONE.

AND OF COURSE, YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW PTC SETUP THEIR SOFTWARE SO YOU CAN DECIDE EITHER TO ADAPT COMPANY PROCESSES TO FIT THE PTC VISION, OR CONFIGURE THE SOFTWARE TO FIT THE COMPANY VISION (if you do not completely understand both your company's vision or PTC's vision, you will fail).

AND DON'T FORGET, YOU NEED TO DOCUMENT EVERY DECISION YOU MAKE, EVERY CONFIGURABLE OPTION OF THE SOFTWARE (WHETHER YOU CHANGE IT OR NOT), AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO SHARE THAT KNOWLEDGE WITH EVERY PRESENT AND FUTURE USER.

AFTER CRITICIZING PTC FOR DOING SUCH A POOR JOB, I HAVE FOUND MY DOCUMENTATION, IMPLEMENTATION, AND TRAINING IS WORSE THEN THEIRS. BUT THAT IS NO EXCUSE, EITHER FOR ME OR FOR PTC!

I work for a National Lab (we have a small ProE user group sharing just under 30 licences), and after fighting the Windchill 9.1 beast for three years, we are going to try and go to Intralink 10. The hope is, it will have the appearance of being easier to use and administer, and thus convince management to keep the ProE environment instead of throwing it out the door. Management does not want to directly pay for a full time IT administrator (they really don't want to directly pay for any administration at all) to keep the system up and running. Our management wants to be sold a system with no direct administration costs (the unsaid expectation is that these costs are indirectly covered, like the time we all take to handle our emails. Time spent on such tasks never show up on a time sheet, so management thinks it is done for free. I am not sure if I can make Intralink 10 appear as free to operate, but that is the reality, if I want to keep it around.)

Intralink 10 is mostly just Windchill 10 with a dumbed down interface so you don't see and hopefully don't need to pay attention to all the options most small implementations don't use anyway. So far, my biggest complaint is PTC has not really written a good guide to installing and using Intralink 10. As usual, PTC has produced more documentation than I have time to read and understand (I need quality, not quantity). Much of it is generic for both Windchill and Intralink, so I have a hard time understanding the specific differences. Most of the documentation is conceptual and assumes I know how to do all the detailed mechanics of an operation. Of course, if I already knew how to do it all, I would not need their documentation and I would not be trying to replace Windchill 9.1 with an 'easier' Intralink 10.

THERE IS A BIG NEED FOR SMART DOCUMENTATION.

DOCUMENTATION THAT INTELLIGENTLY SUMMARIZES IMPORTANT AND CRITICAL CONCEPTS.

DOCUMENTATION THAT IS THE RESULT OF ACTUAL IMPLEMENTATION AND OPERATION OF SYSTEMS (not just how the software developers think the system should run).

DOCUMENTATION THAT NOT ONLY CONCEPTUALLY EXPLAINS WHAT IS GOING ON, BUT CAN WALK YOU THROUGH THE DETAILS TO ACTUALLY COMPLETE TASKS.

DOCUMENTATION THAT CAN TAKE A DUMMY LIKE ME (I AM NOT A COMPUTER ADMINISTRATOR) AND TEACH ME HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY ADMINISTER THE SYSTEM SO MANAGEMENT THINKS IT IS DONE FOR FREE!!!!!!!!

Maybe I should just hope for an unexpected, very big raise.

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Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Kim, you hit the nail on the head with that last paragraph.

The Winchill/Intralink documentation is just plain horrid. There is a MASSIVE knowledge gap which they do not account for. Every help article describes the final steps in a task, skipping all of the details on how to get there. Like you, we want to be able to administer the system ourselves....an impossible challenge without clear and proper documentation. Currently, it would take months of daily training (and exorbitant costs) to learn everything necessary to administer.

I could get over the quiltwork and band-aid style of software design if PTC would just TELL US HOW TO USE IT! If you are going to sell a product which requires such an insane level of configuration, you MUST explain how to do so, and explain it in a way that any person can understand it. Even if it takes a 100,000 page user manual to clearly describe each step, so be it....just make an index.

Re: Frustrating CAD Data Management for Small Companies!

Migrating back from Windburn to Intralink huh? Hmmmm, I WISH we could...... I've been with 3 companies that were heavily pressured to switch by PTC, and every one of them HATES windburn vs. Intralink, especially the admins. I know us users hate it.

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