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Windchill Bill of Materials & System Generated Drawing Automation


Windchill Bill of Materials & System Generated Drawing Automation

Hello to all;

I wanted to start this blog to share the success we have had over the last year leveraging Windchill's product structures bill of materials functionality and some customizations with our drawing publishing to provide a single data set for our type design documentation that would be viewable in both the client web browser and the mobile application. December 12th we went live with WTParts, doesn't sound like a big success with just that said. Over the next weeks I will  lay out our old documentation, configuration’s and the issues that surrounded that configuration.

How did the E-BOM help us transform into a single data entry point and single drawing artifact in Windchill? Thanks to the presentation in Boston, System Generated Drawings, I was able to use their concept and apply it to our drawings. Today in our production environment when a drawing is published at the end of the release workflow we are extracting the approver task name and date from the promotion request and the WTPart E-BOM and automatically appending it to the last page of the drawing PDF.

See Attached Drawing Example

One small thing that has an impact for the mobile applications is that we are also generating a PDF with watermarks along with the auto appended  page and attaching it to the drawing object in Windchill as an attachment. Note: The mobile application does not allow you to view the Creo drawings, only 3-D Models, Microsoft files and PDFs. This was not acceptable for our use to justify the deployment of  the mobile apps. With the appended PDF of the drawings  the mobile apps become a viable piece of technology.

Hopefully the following paragraphs will keep you interested. I know there are other companies out there working on this and others that are ready to implement, hopefully people will comment, ask questions and provide lessons learned from their experiences. I am in no way the expert on this topic.

2008 implemented Windchill 8.0 as Data Warehouse for all of our CAD data; (Including: Creo, Microstation, MS Word and MS Excel). At that time our configuration management group set states of files as they were manually released with a paper copy of the ECO. This was a migration from PTC Intralink to Windchill 8.0.

Our drawing package consisted of Creo Parametric 3-D models, 2-D drawings and an Excel spreadsheet for the Parts List fully revision controlled in Windchill. One area of concern with this was anyone viewing the data, had at a minimum, 2 artifacts displaying in the search results that had to be opened and viewed in Creo View to see the whole drawing packet and then had to navigate to the promotion request process tab to view the release information. Also any time a drawing packet was delivered to a supplier multiple artifacts were required to be exported from Windchill for each drawing. In addition when the engineering staff  Revised or Re-Numbered items, multiple artifacts needed to be updated and revisions keep in sync. This created an environment with multiple manual data entry of the same data into different software applications and Windchill UI's.

April of 2013 we worked jointly with the FAA to transition our CM manual paper ECO release processes into Windchill electronic workflows. Most of the workflows were re-configured from the out of the box standard promotion request workflow.

December 12th, 2014 we worked jointly with a consulting services organization and were able to implement WTParts for our 2nd conforming for flight test article aircraft, a new product offering planned for full production in 2015.

So what does this mean and who really cares?

Our aircraft products are world class and highly configurable at the point of sales. From a product structure architecture standpoint they are complex but not overwhelming. Over the next 6 months we will transform the Windchill E-BOM (WTParts) into a configurable product leveraging Windchill’s Options and Variants functionality to generate serialized E-BOMs for sold configurations from the overloaded E-BOM and manage serialized effectivity using Windchill’s Change Objects functionality. This is no longer a dream it will be a reality in a very short time.

The surprising thing is that my implementation team consisted of 1 full time individual (myself), 1 consultant 72 hours billed), 4-5 conference calls with a few of PTC's experts and a couple part time individuals (80 hours billed to project) and a management staff that allowed me to focus on this 100% of my time over the last year.

Below are bullet points of future blog additions I will cover. I will attempt to add these by the dates shown below.

    (12-27-14)   Project Overview, Planning & Actuals

                      Dissecting the System Generated-Appended Page

    (01-06-15)   Required Windchill Re-Configuration to implement WTParts (changes to existing Windchill configurations)

                      Windchill Customizations

    (01-06-15)    Handling Standard Parts, Material Specifications and Reference Specifications

                      Bill of Materials Expectations - how do you get consistency in your data?

    (01-09-15)    Decisions and Why

                      How did we enter 10,000 object line for top level structure

    (01-23-15)   Options and Variant

                      Prodcut Structure Architecture

    (02-13-15)   Configuration Management, Change Objects & Serialized Effectivity

    (03-06-15)   Enterprise System (MES, ERP, CRM) Integration Expectations

I encourage you to interact and ask questions, this is just one method we used and I am sure there are many ways to accomplish this.


Project Overview, Planning & Actuals; the initial project began with a current state review with our consulting partners. During this review we asked ourselves the following questions:

  1. What should our Terms and definitions be defined as? We found early on that individuals from other groups of our organization and consulting partners used similar terms but their definitions were all over the map. How will we stabilize our terms and definitions to be as close to industry standard as possible?
  2. Is it our intention to eliminate the Excel Spreadsheet or Parts Lists documented on the face of the drawing and convert to Windchill WTPart Bill of Materials?
    1. Yes, eliminate the additional objects and leverage a single data entry point.
  3. How will Windchill handle each row and column of information currently documented on the Excel Parts List?
    1. Our parts lists were configured in a column format for tabulated drawings that could include one or more different configurations, Dash Numbers. In addition each item number could be expanded for multiple parts call outs for non-interchangeable replacements that were then defined by effectivity that specified aircraft serial numbers for start use and stop use of the discontinued/new component. Some parts list became a complex matrix that few individuals understood.
    2. Information such as; item #, quantity, part number description are common item on a parts list. The remaining information stock material usage, alternate parts, reference designators and effectivity start stop serial numbers became the difficult items to account for with our user base. (See Attached Excel spreadsheet Parts List)
      1. Windchill orders the parts numerically, not by item number unless you use Line Numbers
  4. Will the WTParts be released with WTDocs and EPMDocs? (WTDoc = 2-D CAD applications)
    1. Yes, revisions must stay in sync. 3-D CAD, 2-D Drawing and WTParts are all keep at the same revision, revised and released together.
    2. Life Cycle States should match between WTParts, WTDoc and EPMDoc specific to each number.
      1. All items in a Promotion Request or Change Object must be part of the same LCS Template, you can promote to different states within a LCS template items on a change objects.
  5. Will we auto associate the CAD data to the WTParts?
    1. Originally the answer was Yes, later we backed off of this requirement due to CAD structure and naming convention issues.
    2. The only items linked at this time are the WTPart to the drawing as a content link which is required to automate the appended page.
  6. What types of data will be indented on the BOM?
    1. Top Level Assembly
      1. Main Module Assembly Nodes
        1. Components
          1. Materials
    2. Internal material specifications or Industry Standard material specifications are added to the objects as an attribute. Some of these files are stored in Windchill, some are in our hard copy library and others may be references to a cloud solution, I.E. Quick Search Assist ( free online specifications.
  7. What information will be supporting reference documents?
    1. On certain drawings process specifications were referenced in the drawing Notes or on the separate Excel Parts List reference documents section. These will be entered into the References Documents on the WTParts.
  8. Will we transition from our current customized Promotion Request process to Windchill Change Objects?
    1. Originally we were not sure, after further investigation we determine it was requirement to implement the Change Objects for ECN’s to propagate effectivity.
  9. Will we utilize Effectivity Management for non-interchangeable change (Part Number changes) in Windchill?
    1. Yes, effectivity was currently defined on our separate Excel spreadsheet Parts List. Utilizing Windchill’s Change Objects was the best standardized method for us to transition too.
  10. Is our product configurable/customizable at the point of sales so we need to utilize Options and Variants?
    1. Yes, I would highly recommend a deep dive into product structure architecting at USC or MIT. The documentation for O & V from PTC is good but only scratches the surface.
    2. Suggested reading:
      1. Ed Crawley; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lectures (
      2. Maier & Rechtin’s second edition of “The Art of Systems Architecting” University or Southern California
  11. What business attributes do we need to add to the WTParts? Better stated, how do we want to search for information or how do we need to filter reports? This should help you answer what Meta data is required that is not accounted for in the Object artifact or Windchill standard functionality and needs to be added as a business attribute.
    1. Material Specifications
    2. Document Type
    3. Weight (weight was originally going to be generated from material files assigned to CAD 3-D models but after the decision that the CAD models would not be associated, 3-D CAD weight association was designated out of scope.)
    4. ATA Codes
  12. What other miscellaneous processes need improvement?
    1. Naming/Description convention, all of our standard hardware and industry standard hardware/materials were loosely controlled when it came to a naming convention. We renamed all hardware and materials with a distinct naming syntax.
      1. This was completed to improve search and reporting Windchill function
    2. How will replacement parts and service parts be designated in Windchill?
    3. Windchill Mobile Application allows you to view 3-D CAD models, WTPart Structures and WTDocuments but it does not allow you to view EPMDocument Drawings. Since this was being researched on a parallel project we added the additional requirement to the customization for the system generated page to include the creation of a PDF and attach it to the drawing in Windchill as an attachment. This solved the issue of not being able to view the drawing on the mobile app.
  13. Also part of this planning stage, it provided an opportunity to evaluate how the system was working to date under the current configuration. The following are areas we found needing adjustment:
  14. Too many different object types’ end users had to select from when creating new object types.
  15. To many different Life Cycle Templates
  16. Objects created in 2007 during original implementation never used, no longer used or minimally used.

Defining an implementation strategy, after evaluating our current systems configuration and understand where we wanted to be, we defined the following as phases or major milestone to reduce the impact on the end user and divide into manageable implementations and training sessions.

It was very interesting to see how complex of a change, a simple Excel spreadsheet defined Parts List that was manually labor intensive, and no one liked……………………..

  1. Windchill Simplifications
    1. Main objective: eliminate some object types by migrating them into higher level object groups using ChangeTypeSql Windchill shell query and sqlplus update documents commands.
    2. Update OIRs and Update all LCS templates using ext.generic.util.ReAssignLifeCycle
    3. Deploy Template use and Desk Top Integration to differentiate between object types by use of the templates and not different object types. These are simpler to correct in the future.
    4. Add two states to a single Life Cycle Template to reduce 3 LCS to a single template.
      1. This was required for releasing multiple objects in the same Promotion Request or Change Object. All of our Standard Hardware followed a LCS In Work-Approved-Under Review. All design objects followed a different template. Meaning we would not be able to release everything together. This was corrected during this phase
  2. Windchill WTPart Deployment
    1. Main Objective: to create WTPart sub-type for BOM Objects with the correct business attributes for future report filter and system generated appended information page to drawing.
    2. Create all Standard Hardware as WTParts, this was a time consuming step. But the most rewarding once completed. Now that the hardware is all created we have a library that will be re-used on all of our products with little maintenance and fewer new parts created.
    3. Create WTParts master items and Structure WTParts Bill of Materials. For this step we purchased an upload tool that created the WTParts from a construct tab delimited file and structures all of the parts from a structures tab delimited file. One additional step was required to for the system generated drawings auto appended page was to relate the WTPart to the Drawing or PDF file using the content link on the WTPart. The tool we purchased also provided this functionality.
  3. Windchill Reports
  4. OOTB Change Objects
  5. Options & Variants

Dissecting the System Generated-Appended Page (See Attached Drawing.jpg), The appended page is automatically created from 3 sources of Windchill data

  • Promotion Request or Change Objects attributes and approvers
    • Past process required end users to open the drawing, select the History Tab, Select the Authorization’s PR link, Select the Process tab and scroll down to the workflow task role approvers to find out who and when data was approved. By auto appending this information to the back page it acts as a single source of all required information mined from the system.
    • WTPart Structure
      • As seen in the attached drawing the Bill of Materials shows items 1, 2 & 3. In addition there is an undesignated line item. This is the material consumed to produce the subordinate part on this drawing. To account for the material which we wanted as part of the BOM for all subordinate part numbers but is structured one level deeper, and without showing multilevel deep BOM’s for other drawings that were not defined with a subordinate number we created a new Assembly Mode type called Material using the enumcustomize tool. Once this was designated we were able to script the auto BOM population on the system generated drawing to show only materials designated at a secondary indentation level.
      • Material Specification, Reference Designators and Alternates are also gathered with the same script and populated in a report view for the BOM that makes sense to most of our end users.
    • WTPart References Documents
      • Not shown on the attached drawing is a third table for all references documents. Any document associated to the WTPart in the Ref Docs area are gathered and reported in this table. This provides additional levels of where used and reporting functionality for supporting documents. We originally thought we would indent to the specification level but later determined this was not a good idea. BOM are only indented to the consumed item.
      • See Attached WTPart Structure compared to the Auto Appended System Generated Page.
      • In the future the Creo View Dynamic Watermarking can be reduced to only stamp the release state since all other information is redundant now that it is populating in the attribute table.

In summary we had to think out the full extent of the project top down, then start dissecting each phase from the bottom up and test in our development environment to verify what we configured is what the end product would look like. This full dive included thinking through, researching and defining how Reporting, O&V and Change Objects would account for information that was originally shown on the Excel Spreadsheet Parts Lists. In future blog additions I will address the Reporting, O & V and Change Objects.

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