This is the third in a series about batch conversion of 3D files. I explained in previous articles how Adobe’s Livecycle PDF Generator 3D Enterprise Suite is helping enterprise customers automate the production of 3D PDFs. In the first entry I gave an example of a 3D PDF and described, at a high level, how it works. In the second entry discussed ways customers are using PDF G3D, from simple to the most complex options available. In this entry, I will build upon the previous two entries to discuss supplier collaboration workflows and how customers are streamlining operations with 3D PDFs. Click “more” to read on.
Manufacturers are frequently forced to choose between ineffective low end “store and forward” solutions and complex and expensive direct integration of suppliers into the originator’s PLM environment. Here is a model of the typical options:
Figure 1. Typical Supplier Data Sharing Options
Figure 1 shows the evolution of collaboration. Virtually all companies start with data exchange – the unidirectional “push” of information to partner companies. While this model solves certain short term business needs, such as enabling suppliers to manufacture parts to OEM requirements. This model has some inherent weaknesses, largely because it operates outside of the systems that were designed to manage this data. There are lots of stories about suppliers developing tooling to the wrong designs. Worse, once a design is “pushed” outside of the originators environment, there is little hope of protecting intellectual property… at least until recently – more on that later.
The next step in the evolution is data sharing, where organizations strive to “connect” suppliers to their environments. This phase solves a number of problems for the OEM originator, but it is expensive and troublesome for downstream users who are forced to adopt complex, expensive solutions. Suppliers are burdened with complying with all of their customers’ systems, protocols and formats. The tier one suppliers have it particularly hard, because they have to manage the issues both up and downstream.
Adobe’s Livecycle PDF Generator 3D and Rights Management work together to solve many of the issues inherent in both of these options. Phase three is “portable collaboration”. This phase relies upon effective use of both ad-hoc and structured workflows where each makes sense. These need to be very people-friendly and easily adopted across the supply change. The major difference here is that rather than expensive direct connection or even VPN’s, the interfaces are portable.
Figure 2. Portable Collaboration
So how would this work? Well let me show you. Here is a picture we developed to show how some companies are moving to “portable collaboration”:
Figure 3. Automated conversion for supply-chain collaboration
Here is how it can work:
- First the CAD Designer checks out a CAD file and makes changes.
- Then the designer checks the file back in and up-revs the item.
- A change is detected and the file is routed for conversion to 3D PDF using an available template for a “release” workflow.
- Additional information is added to the PDF by Livecycle PDF Generator and the PDF is extended for collaboration and analysis in the Adobe Reader.
- Next, policy is applied by Adobe’s Rights Management solution… the previous version will be automatically revoked and supplier engineers who are authorized to work with the files download the newly revisioned data. This ensures they will still working within the context of the evolving design.
- The PDM is returned to the PLM system and associated with the CAD file.
- Then the PDF is published to a shared portal for supplier access.
- The supplier engineer downloads the file.
- The engineer then opens the file.
- When the engineer opens the file using the free Reader, the PDF “calls home” to the Rights Management server (this is the same process that was used to revoke the “old” version of the data).
- The engineer now begins to work with the PDF in accordance with the policy which grants rights and privileges.
So that is one way automated conversion of CAD files is helping customers improve time to market and reduce costs of integrating their supply chain for effective product development. Portable Collaboration can help by reducing the need to directly connect many suppliers while still ensuring they are working with correct data.