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Autodesk Productstream

By Jim Romeo


Jim White is director of data management for Autodesk’s manufacturing solutions division.

Autodesk Productstream software securely stores and manages engineering information, design data, and documents — shortening the designto- manufacturing process. It creates a digital pipeline that connects all the workgroups involved in the manufacturing process, enabling collaboration between ideation, engineering, and manufacturing workgroups in the digital prototyping process.

To get a better understanding of the product and its applications, we spoke with Jim White, director of data management for Autodesk’s manufacturing solutions division about its Productstream products.

Jim White has more than 20 years of experience in the CAD/PDM/PLM industry plus 15 years of experience in sales management and worldwide business development. He spent eight years with Hewlett-Packard (MDD Division) in Germany, Asia, and the U.S.; three years as worldwide channel manager, three years as field operations manager where he oversaw all direct and indirect sales of CAD/CAE and PDM/PLM products in Asia, and two years as director of worldwide strategic business development. He was the general manager of ECS Australia prior to that, the Australian representative of CoCreate and Eigner PLM products in Australasia.

Can you give us an overview of Productstrea m 2009 and what it offers to the design engineering community?
White: Productstream helps users finish design projects faster by reducing the time spent managing design data, and by automating the release process.

The Autodesk Productstream family of data management applications provides a modular and practical approach to design process automation using a rich set of standard configurations, which come with the standard product. This makes deployment faster and cost of ownership lower.

For Autodesk CAD users there is no better management tool. Many of the engineering data management commands can be accessed directly from within the CAD menu ribbon bar or by right click. This means a designer doesn’t have to break concentration to perform data management tasks as they are available directly from within the familiar design tool environment.

The Autodesk Productstream family data management applications shortens the product development process, contributes to higher quality of manufactured goods, and leverages standardized design processes while better enabling collaboration between design, manufacturing, and vendors.

Autodesk Productstream helps automate revision and release control processes resulting in faster cycle times and improved quality of engineering data.

Can you explain what the Inventor integration does and how it benefits the extended design team?
White: Autodesk uses Vault as a platform technology across Autodesk CAD authoring tools. There are currently 22 integrations between Vault and Autodesk CAD tools of which Inventor is one. The integrations are deep and complete, and to a large extent, available from within Inventor rather than a separate UI/application. There are common processes across Autodesk to ensure synchronized development. This means that UI, data format, graphics, license handling are converging over time. To a user, this means that they can expect a consistent repeatable data management experience irrespective of which Autodesk Design tool they are using.

Autodesk Inventor software is the foundation for digital prototyping, providing a comprehensive and integrated set of design tools for producing, maintaining, and documenting complete digital prototypes that validate the form, fit, and function of a design before the product is physically built.

Features such as Copy Design provide personal productivity gains to end users. Copy Design allows a user to rapidly re-use proven engineering design content for a new design, thereby massively speeding up the design process. Data Management menu options are embedded directly in the menu bar in many cases. Ten of the most common data management commands are directly available from within Inventor commands, making it easy to access without losing concentration on the design process.

The deep integration with Inventor helps users extend the value of their digital prototypes by enabling design data and information to be shared with other team members and business systems throughout the enterprise. Productstream provides the capabilities to securely share designs down the hall or around the world. With the efficient sharing of designs comes the ability to track when, why, and by whom design changes are made in the collaboration process.

With Productstream, users create an electronic audit trail that notifies decision makers, captures markups, tracks the approval flow, and maintains a complete history of design revisions. Also, when team members are working on the same design concurrently, Productstream manages access to design content to ensure that individuals are working on the latest design content always. With Productstream’s Replicator module, workgroups may be connected together to form a virtual enterprise solution. All members are connected — yet they have personal freedom to work on their own designs using their preferred Autodesk CAD tool.

How important is a search function in the design process and how does your product add ress search capabilities?
White: Approximately half of customers surveyed use a software product to Search for and Re-use design data. This is due to time and cost pressures on projects, which reduces the time a designer can spend searching for design content or duplicating original design content unnecessarily. This finding has driven the development of powerful Search and Design re-use technology in Vault and Productstream products.

The ability to quickly find and reuse design data can mean the difference between meeting project deadlines and incurring costly delays in the design process. Autodesk Productstream software delivers tools for efficient data reuse and selective copying of design data, which shortens product development time and helps avoid rework.

Search can expedite the design process by speeding up the ability to find the right documents. Large amounts of data may be searched in a short time using multiple fields and conditions. This means a designer can use what he knows about the design to rapidly find the files, then make decision about re-using them. The designer may find documents which span across multiple projects. Without a powerful search, he may have only found design documents pertaining to a single design project. Then, by reusing design documents time and cost reductions benefits are gained.

Does your product re-index data? How does this benefit the enterprise?
White: Yes, Productstream re-indexes data. The re-indexing command in the 2009 version runs as a separate process on the server that is assigned a “below normal” priority. As a result, the administrator can invoke a re-index without loading the server. The command can also be run without blocking access to the server, and it can pause for operations such as backups and server reboots, and continue later. Finally, the indexing for each document is run as a separate transaction, helping to provide that if any one document fails to index, the server will simply continue to the next instead of the entire process failing. A report of any failed documents can be generated at the end of the process. However, re-indexing is not something that users typically have to worry about as the need does not often occur. Vault (the foundation technology of Productstream) automatically extracts data from files including properties and meta data surrounding documents/drawings, and by doing so automatically provides a rich searchable set of meta data for users to easily make use of during search. The indexing process allows users to extract all this information from files without having to do any setup or configuration — it just happens automatically like any standard file indexing mechanism. The benefits to users and therefore the Enterprise, are speed and ease of use.

Since an Autodesk CAD user doesn’t need to worry about Indexing (as it is automatic) they may concentrate on their design process yet still gain the benefit of speed when it comes time to find documents.

What has been your experience in how users regard authentication & what will be the likely benefit of this?
White: Productstream 2009 offers the ability to do Windows Authentication to a Windows Active Directory. The benefits are single sign-on into Windows and Productstream as well as the ability to benefit from the management of the window’s password policies such as expiration, password lengths, and account removal. Additionally the system can be set up to automatically add new users to Productstream based on Windows Groups, significantly reducing the setup and administration.

How can Productstream 2009 be configured for multiple users?
White: Productstream 2009 features Multiuser Management allowing multiple users to safely and simultaneously interact with the same design data without worrying about overwriting each other’s data.

Productstream supports both user and group management including the security and roles associated with these users; similar to the way Windows works but tailored to the information in Productstream. Each user in the system is given a unique user ID just like a Windows login name and in turn this is used to track all interactions and changes made within the system by that user, providing a trail that leads to accountability to design change. There is no support for one-time users as this is not a common use case for the system.

More Info:
Autodesk, Inc.
San Rafael, CA


Jim Romeo is a freelance writer specializing in industrial technology topics and can be reached at jimromeo.net. To comment on this interview, send e-mail to DE-Editors@ deskeng.com.

About Jim Romeo

Jim Romeo is a freelance writer based in Chesapeake, VA. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.