Maybe a bit off topic, but i'm sure that someone here has good experiences to share.
We feel a strong need for a product data management system handling all our engineering data.
Besides the 'embedded' related data (hardware,firmware..) we also have a lot of mechanical engineering data generated. (CAD/CAM files..)
I know that managing all engineerings data (and even more, the complete product lifetime cycle) is a very complex issue, and that there are specialised systems and software to handle all this.
But i don't see how small and medium business can effort these tools (and the implementation of it). The few last years i've even seen medium business going bankrupt caused by ERP implementations going wrong... And i definitly don't want to go that way...
Anyone a opinion on how small business (developing fairly complex products) are handeling the PDM issue ? All suggestions and pointers are welcome.
which, if you are a very small outfit, might be too pricey for you. I assisted one company by selecting the MKS "Source Integrity" and "Track Integrity" products for their globally spread-out development team. IIRC MKS used to do concurrent licencing which meant that, although many machines could have the client side software loaded, only the ones that needed access to the server held information at that moment would be allowed access to the server. We settled on a ratio of 10 users per licenced seat. There was not much waiting involved for those who lucked out the first time around.
...and you don't have to.
You didn't say how big (or small) an outfit you are. I have had an involvement in companies that are only two or three people to multi-national outfits. When some companies get larger you do need to start considering automating the management of the information. However, you can start quite simply.
A couple of things that are essential in product development are someone who is responsible, for the safe-keeping of all documentation, and a proper, but simple, development process that everyone can easily buy into (including your management). All documentation should be subject to the scheme.
I am amazed that many companies do not have a "Document Registrar" or equivalent position. In large companies he heads up the Document Registry team who are responsible for issuing documents (and recording who received them), recording all incoming information and making copies available to those who need the information. They serve the most useful function of the company in preserving one of its most valuable assets (information). In small companies this post can be combined with another (eg: IT manager or Company Secretary).
As to the process; you need to ensure that you build in plenty of opportunity for reviews of the material. My own process generates its own audit trail as a consequence of properly operating the process (there are forms used to capture the fact that a document has moved from one stage of the process to another). It is also, quite nicely, embodied electronically in the MKS packages I mentioned above (although they came by the process model their own way). Their is a flowchart on my HIDECS page that embodies the central core element. All you need to realise above that is the flow of documentation that you need to collect or generate in order that you have a full engineering development process.
Whatever process you have implemented, or will implement, you need to ensure that it is applied rigourously and consistantly. Upper management must not be allowed to compell staff to miss out any of the steps to speed-up progress (which always ends up slowing you down anyway).
Hope that helps. Any specific questions, just ask.
Paul E. Bennett ....................