An essential part of a PDM system: Version control throughout all design stages

According to market analyses of CIMdata and the British Standards Institute, 47 percent of the requested ISO certifications are rejected due to insufficient document management. Each year, 3 to 7 percent of the technical know-how is lost because of incorrectly filed engineering documents, and 20 percent of the development time is used for the search of the most recent product information.  

While competitive pressure is constantly rising, orders need to be finalized faster and faster, requiring efficient and smooth cooperation of the parties involved in order to minimize development costs. This indisputable economic fact demands perfect reliability of the available design data, especially in cases where staff members are temporarily absent due to illness or holiday.

In many companies changes or copies of documents are stored in different places in the form of individual files – both in local and shared structures. This means that engineers often create new versions of documents without their colleagues knowing. As a result, the time spent on the search for the correct version skyrockets, forcing the engineers to undertake a “paper chase” and preventing them from concentrating on their planning tasks. Moved, accidentally overwritten or deleted documents causing irritation and frustration among the staff create a negative working environment and literally cry out for a well-functioning, efficient management system.  

In such situations, the timely implementation of a PDM system eliminates the risk of a confusing, erratic or decentralised flow of information, sparing the engineers time-consuming searches for information and preventing them from accidentally using wrong document versions for the production in progress – a mistake that can blow the budget and seriously damage the reputation of a company.  
The version control of a PDM system enables the engineer to manage different versions and generate where-used lists for particular parts and assemblies. Thanks to version control it is also highlighted which products will be affected by changes to a specific part, thus preventing accidental, undesirable modifications not only of that part, but also of complete product groups containing it.   
Version control allows a tracing back of changes to product models, the staff members involved in the process, the individual design stages and the design methods that were used. The complete traceability of such information is, by the way, a prerequisite for meeting the international quality standards with regard to configuration management.

Benefits of a version management system:

• Central filing of documents – no loss of time due to unnecessary searches
• Easy finding of most recent versions  
• Involvement of several staff members in one project  
• Avoiding of unnecessary extra costs by ensuring the use of correct versions
• Positive working environment thanks to error-free data exchange  

Although the implementation of a PDM system may initially be complex, costly and time-consuming, the resulting, accurately documented and optimized design processes will later be in perfect accordance with the laws of so-called “Concurrent Engineering” that shortens design processes, avoids rework after production and harmonizes the cooperation of development and production – with noticeable, positive financial effects.

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