For each activity in the product life cycle, the product information structure and the workflow structure are defined using the Information structure definition module and the Workflow structure definition module. Working with these definitions, the Workflow control module manages the workflow of the various activities in progress in the engineering environment, controlling the progress of projects in an event-driven mode. It monitors the progress of activities and the status of information, and maintains status information on ongoing projects. It manages automatic process sequences set up to handle repetitive tasks such as the provision of copies to individuals on a distribution list, and design review and approval sequences.
At the heart of the workflow control mechanism are the various events that occur in the engineering environment. The occurrence of these events, or in some cases, their non-occurrence, drives the workflow control process. The occurrence of an event causes the Workflow control module to initiate the next activity in the sequence. Examples of typical events are the completion of a design, the initiation of a periodic maintenance activity, and the receipt of a change request. An event marks the end of one activity and the beginning of another. Events have to be identified and included in the workflow definition. The activities that lead to and follow each event have to be specified. Any messages that should be communicated when an event occurs, or if it does not occur within a specified time, have to be specified in the workflow structure definition.
When an event occurs, the Workflow control module, in accordance with the previously defined structures, sends the appropriate messages, launches the corresponding tasks, and transmits information as required. It makes sure the right information gets to the right person at the right time.
Once initiated for a particular workflow/product pair, the Workflow control module has complete control of the process. It assigns tasks to individuals, informs them of the resources to be used and the procedures to be followed, initiates the associated actions, and maintains status information. When necessary, it reminds users of standard operating procedures, and checks that standards information is accessed. It distributes data and documents to individuals as needed. When the task is finished it can request a review, or promote the design and initiate the next step of the process. It can enforce promotion rules. If the person responsible for the next step is absent, it can automatically pass the work to the most suitable replacement or the next highest authority. It manages the review, approval, communication and archival of information.
The Workflow control module will keep status information up-to-date, and ensure that design information is handled as planned. It tracks product information moving through the various tasks. At any time, the Workflow control module will be able to display the exact status of each task it is managing. It will track, and be able to report, the status of all tasks in process. It can produce progress reports at specified times, showing for example, how much lead-time has been used up, if bottlenecks are developing, and which resources are available.
Following the rules specified during the definition of the workflow and information structures, the Workflow control module controls versions and manages the engineering change process. Engineering change requests and change orders can be rapidly transmitted to inform all interested parties of impending and actual changes.
The Workflow control module, on the basis of the workflow and information structures, ensures that the correct release management sequence is followed, thus guaranteeing all necessary information is available before release to Manufacturing.
The Workflow control module allows performance analysis of engineering activities and information access. The impact of proposed changes can be analyzed and assessed. Resource loading can be coordinated, and schedule visibility can be maintained for all related tasks. Once set up for all projects in the organization, the Workflow control module should be able to promote parallel rather than serial workflow, thus reducing lead times. Increasingly, the Workflow control module will take on an 'expert' role, checking that input is legal and consistent, that correct procedures are being followed, and automatically organizing activities so as to minimize lead time.
The System Administration module of the EDM/PDM system is the module that allows the initial configuration and environment of the system to be described, and the system to be set up, installed and put into use. This module will also be used to handle the changes that will occur as the environment evolves, and as the use of EDM/PDM becomes more extensive. The specifications of the initial configuration will cover the computers, storage devices, databases, networks, electronic messaging systems, applications, workstations, plotters, printers and other terminals within the EDM/PDM environment.
The System Administrator is the person who will use the System Administration module to set up, install and administer the system. This person needs a good knowledge of operating systems, database management systems, EDM/PDM, and the workings of the company.
The System Administration module helps the System Administrator identify, create, select and manage the data storage areas. Data may be stored on different devices such as magnetic tape, magnetic disk, and optical disk. The System Administrator defines the rules describing where and how different types of data will be stored. The System Administration module will be used by the System Administrator to select the most suitable automatic back-up and recovery features. The module also allows the System Administrator to choose between different options of archive management. The module will provide step by step instructions for data recovery that may be needed because of problems due to hardware, power, network, media or user error.
The System Administration module will be used to define users to the system, identify applications in the environment, and initialize project creation rights. It will be used to define the access rights to particular data files. The module will also be used to define and modify the access rights of individual users to specific data and commands.
At installation time, the module will propose default values that, if accepted, will provide a basic, running system very quickly. The System Administrator may, of course, modify these values to develop a tailored environment. The module provides a self-audit trail, showing the history of the EDM/PDM system set-up process, and the options and values that were selected. Once the system is in use, the module can provide information on system performance metrics.