The Interface module is made up of four sub-modules:
The user interface allows people to access the system from various graphics devices such as PCs, workstations, VT 100 terminals, X-terminals, and shop-floor terminals. Access will be required for purposes such as starting an application, querying data, looking at a part attribute or a project status, and transferring data to another program. The user interface should be common to all graphics devices in the infrastructure. It should be easy to understand and use. It should be suitable for casual and frequent users. It should offer an on-line help facility. It should include icon-driven, forms-driven and menu-driven approaches. Users should be able to tailor icons, forms and menus to their specific needs.
The program interface sub-module supports efficient and secure on-line interaction between the various programs in the EDM/PDM environment. The environment will include many computer programs that create, store, access or modify the various types of data managed by the system. Examples of these programs include CAD, software development, technical publication, and engineering drawing scanning systems.
The data interface sub-module provides efficient and secure data exchange and data translation functionality for data that may be either in the EDM/PDM environment or outside it. For example, the EDM/PDM system may be managing data files on a CAD system and on a structural analysis system. If the data on the two systems is compatible, the data interface sub-module may be used to transfer data from the CAD system directly to the structural analysis system. If the data is not compatible, the data interface sub-module may be used to translate the CAD data to a suitable format, and then transfer it to the structural analysis program. The data interface sub-module should provide a set of translators, some standard (e.g. IGES or STEP), and some direct.
The information presentation sub-module offers report generation facilities for screen, file and paper reports. They should be tailorable to fit user requirements, and user-programmable for special cases. Users will want reports on subjects such as products, parts, projects and workflow.
Information structure definition
The Information structure definition module is used to define the information structure and organization of a product throughout its life cycle. It defines a basic function-independent view of the product, and different functional views of the structure. For example, the basic structure for a simple product composed of nine parts (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I) could be a flat list of the nine parts. The engineering view of the structure could be a multi-level list of three functional sub-assemblies X, Y, and Z (where X is made up of A, B, C and D; Y of E and F; Z of G, H and I). The manufacturing view could be a list of the nine parts. Architectural, purchasing, sales and service views could also be defined and related to the basic structure.
The Information structure definition module is used to create the information structure of a product, and to create, by modification, the information structure of derivative product versions. It can support a hierarchy of classifications such as part, sub-assembly, assembly, component, product, and system, or segment, macro, function, and program.
The Information structure definition module is used to define which types of information are associated with each of the components of the basic structure at the various stages of the product life cycle, and to describe the relationships between information items.
The Information structure definition module is used to define the information that will be created, modified and used at each step of the life cycle. It could be used in the above example to show how a change to part A influences part H.
The information types associated to the components will depend on the stages of the life cycle, and their hierarchical level, but could include specifications, assembly drawings, interface drawings and user manuals. Each type of information will have its specific attributes.
The Information structure definition module has to be able to work in several situations. Sometimes, all the information structure will be known in detail before work starts, but in other cases, the structure will only be defined as work progresses. In some cases, work will start with part of the structure being known from an existing product, with the rest being built on as work is carried out. Information for an existing product may be in the form of a Bill of Materials, from which it will be necessary to work back, identifying at each step of the process the information items that would be required.
Information structure management
The Information structure management module is used to maintain and work with information structures created by the Information structure definition module. Throughout the product life cycle, it maintains the relationships between the information structure and the information items.
At each stage of the life cycle, the Information structure management module is aware of the exact state of the associated information items describing product information such as specifications, drawings, parts lists, test results, and field information. It maintains a complete history of the product through design, manufacture and delivery to field use. It is aware of the status of all information (e.g. in-process, in-review, released), and can distinguish between the as-specified, as-designed, as-built, as-installed, and as-maintained configurations of the product.
The Information structure management module supports multiple assembly levels, multiple hierarchies, multiple membership and multiple product versions, and takes account of engineering changes. It maintains information about the relationships between information such as the creation of one file from another.
As a design progresses, or product use evolves, the Information structure management module keeps track of modifications and of status. It tracks relationships within a particular product, among different versions of a product, and across product lines. It is aware of the relationships between the basic structure and the different views of the product structure, and allows user to work with information in any of the views. It can be used to provide structural information such as Bills of Materials, goes-into lists and belongs-to relationships.
At any time, the information structure of a product can be browsed through (or 'navigated' by paging down and across) to look for a specific part.
The Information structure management module is at the heart of the EDM/PDM system, and it is aware of the status and relationships of all information in the system.