TriStar Senior Solution Architect, Christopher Olson, knows that PTC Windchill Workflow Automation versus OOTB is a hot topic. He is glad to share his insight on this matter…
Many companies that Tristar engages with that have utilized PTC Windchill for CAD and Document Management are looking to take it to the NEXT LEVEL to realize the value of their PLM system. Some of these companies have been using a paper based change process, some have a spreadsheet that gets emailed around, and some have started utilizing the Out of the Box Change Process. This process is a great starting point but has some significant weaknesses when it comes to truly harnessing the power of Windchill’s workflow engine.
In fact, Workflow Automation is one of the most requested features for Tristar from our customers looking to move into a better, more efficient Windchill Implementation. And one thing is for certain; Simple Change Management is not that Simple. Let’s explore this a bit deeper…
The Out of the Box (OOTB) workflow process contains very little automation as it is meant to be a starting point for companies to get the feel of how change management works within Windchill. The Process begins with Problem Reports:
The Process is flexible, yet does not give many options for additional routings or reviews. Some of the improvements typical of Problem Reports are additional States for the Problem Report to go into – such as under investigation, Duplicate, or Rejected. It also does not allow a user to send any information back up to the main Problem report so other users can see it. Something that is common is root cause determination. This helps further define the problem at the Problem Report phase in order to gain more information up front for determination if a Change Request should be initiated.
The Change Request Out of the Box workflow is the next portion of the close loop change process. Here is where the Problems determined to need addressing are submitting for Change Review. The Process First goes to the Change Admin 1 to update the team and make a decision for the Change Request. Is it Fast Track or Full Track? Should it be Reassigned, Clarified, or Rejected? These are several pivotal decisions relied on by 1 person. Many of the updates companies are looking for start at the Change Request Level. Typically I see requests for Cost rollups from different departments, information to be propagated to the Change Request main Object, Change Review Board updates to single user rework or rejection, with unanimous approval. These are options that are typically handled within the transitions section of a workflow assignment.
Users also would like to see Change levels; companies often have different levels of approval and would like to be able to see the state of the Change in more granular terms. Sometimes a Change Level 1 – Review or on Hold makes perfect sense to a company and they need to know how to not only update the workflow (using a simple state change robot) to updating the actual objects on the Change.
In order to accomplish this you must sometimes use expression robots, or routing options, or both and then some.
The Change Notice Out of the Box is really where we see the most configuration and workflow building take place.
This process is where most of our client’s find they have the least in common with the out of the box process. Every company has different notifications that need to go out, activities that need to occur, ERP Updates, and other miscellaneous tasks. This process is one of the most important to any company and to leave any portion of the process overlooked could spell disaster for the manufacturing floor, ordering, or sales. This usually ends up with the company taking a loss and working quickly to repair the mistake.
Automation at this level can include automated update of ERP, automatic notification of pertinent parties, automated release of newly created objects, republishing of released drawings, automated notification of obsoleted objects, and many others. Most of the time, a company will use this process to get started in Change management, realize its shortcomings and make up for those with manual processes. This limits not only the benefits that could be automated, but also the information that could be captured and audited within the system.
Finally, at the lowest level is the implementation plan or Change Activity (task). This is where the user put the affected (objects being changed) and resulting (objects being updated) objects.
This is where many companies will rely on their change managers to manually create all the tasks that need to occur for a change to complete. Using this method of creating all of the activities you are very limited to the instructions within the Complete Change Notice Task, as well as within the Review. You also are not updating the states of the objects within this process and must manually set them to a modifiable state for any user needing to update the objects on the change. There are many other options as well at this level including automatic notifications of overdue tasks and selecting peer level reviewers.
The Change and Release Process is one of the most influential portions of an Engineering and Manufacturing collaborating with the rest of the company on changes to product data. If done properly it can save time, money, and mistakes. Now you can see why Workflow Automation is one of the most requested features for Tristar from our customer’s looking to move into a better, more efficient Windchill Implementation.
Hopefully this clears up the difference between PTC Windchill Workflow Automation versus OOTB.
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Christopher J Olson: Senior Solution Architect for TriStar residing in Orlando, Florida. His main area of expertise resides in Business Solutions as a PLM Solution Architect specializing in Windchill PLM and CAD integration. Project manager, Presales Specialist, and Adoption Consultant for many deployments of PTC’s Windchill PLM, Christopher focuses on newer products and helps clients realize the ample benefits of adopting different solutions. His specialties include bridging the technical and non-technical gap in large scale deployments of software, allowing broader deployments of highly technical software while maintaining a level of understanding with the customer. Past companies where he has implemented Windchill include: Bose Corporation, Kohler, Mabe, BAE, Optovue, Capital Safety, Chromalloy, and Lakehurst Naval Base. Chris received his education from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Management of Information Systems. He is currently attaining his Masters of Management in Business Analytics from the University of Central Florida.