Central Management of All Product-Related Documents

Thanks to the integrated functions of mySAP PLM LDM, parts master records, BOMs, routings, CAD models, specifications, recipes, and the related technical documents can be managed consistently. The functions of mySAP PLM LDM also cover classification, variant configuration, engineering change management, and configuration management. All data, from development through to production and service, is stored centrally and can be accessed by all departments. All those involved in development have access to current information, and as a result, decisions can be made more swiftly and justified more precisely, development and production can be controlled more effectively, and products are ready for market more quickly. A further important advantage is that enterprises have more room for maneuver to implement customer requests or exploit new market opportunities.

DMS for the complete product development cycle

To be able to develop, manufacture, and deliver products quickly, enterprises need a reliable basis for the effective management of their product data. This includes not only the secure storage of documents, but also the need to make them available to all the people involved in the business processes. mySAP PLM Document Management (mySAP PLM DMS) makes all of this possible. It contains the following functionalities: Central document storage, document search, integrated viewing, comment mode (redlining), document distribution, document conversion, integration in MS Windows Explorer (SAP Easy Document Management), an access option via the Web Browser (WebDocuments), status management, and status networks. The latter are used in the release process for documents and the possible statuses are “in processing,” “to be checked,” and “released.” With the help of these functions, every required document can be integrated in all product-related business processes.

Viewing and CAD integration

The display program for all conventional 2D and 3D graphic formats, known as the SAP ECL Viewer (ECL = engineering client), is integrated in the SAP interface. To enable users to revise design drawings and graphics files across several departments, mySAP PLM DMS offers the redlining function, a type of comment mode which enables comments to be made on the original without changing it.
One of mySAP PLM DMS’s most powerful functionalities is CAD integration. mySAP PLM contains interfaces for all leading CAD systems, which enable CAD models to be stored and managed centrally in mySAP PLM DMS. This ensures that no data is inconsistent or lost between one department and the next when the data from CAD systems is processed. The benefit of this is seen particularly when subsequent changes need to be managed (change management) or assemblies are to be used multiple times. The purpose of CAD integration is to avoid islands of information in development. The relevant information can be made available to all involved at a very early stage, and the much lauded simultaneous engineering becomes reality.

SAP Interfaces for CAD Systems
SAP Interfaces for CAD Systems

The integration of CAD data enables parts represented in 3D format to be put together in a digital mockup (DMU) and viewed in the SAP interface using the ECL Viewer – even by users who do not have a CAD work center. Developers from several different teams can use the digital mockup to visualize the product geometry in 3D before they manufacture a prototype. In every phase of development, users can view the CA models in the ECL Viewer without needing access to the CAD system, and if necessary can add comments using the redlining functionality. Products can be visualized as neutral 3D models or in one of the conventional 2D formats. Customers and other external partners can therefore be informed about product changes at an early stage.
WebFlow, SAP’s Internet-based Workflow system, makes it possible to automate the processes in document management. For example, a release request for a document can automatically be forwarded from the author to the checker. Once released, documents can be automatically distributed by email.

Closer cooperation between departments

A number of individual functions demonstrate how mySAP PLM DMS supports cross-department cooperation. Tools for version management help to record the processing history. Other function make it possible to classify documents. Documents can be linked with SAP business objects such as BOMs, project plans, or sales orders. Project managers and teams are able to find out the status of the project at any time. Work schedulers can record precise instructions for the production processes in mySAP PLM, quality control staff can analyze problem message documentation in critical situations and record detailed documentation for corrective measures. The search by keywords in text documents is also user-friendly. All employees access the same version of a document; shared documents no longer have to be copied and stored in different directories and databases.
The Web-based collaboration platform mySAP PLM Collaboration Folders (cFolders) enables documents or CAD models (and product structure information) to be made available to external users without giving them direct access to the SAP Document Management System. The documents are published on cFolders, where they can be edited by externals and then reimported to mySAP PLM Document Management as a new version or new document once the work has been completed. This procedure guarantees a high degree of data security. mySAP PLM LDM also has interfaces for online data transfer for documents, material masters, and BOMs in accordance with the Standard for the Exchange of Product Model Data (STEP).
mySAP PLM DMS is also integrated in the Web-based SAP NetWeaver Knowledge Management (KM). Thanks to the repository manager, an occasional user can use the KM standardized user interface to access a large proportion of the information in mySAP PLM DMS.

SAP Easy Document Management

With SAP Easy Document Management (SAP Easy DM), mySAP PLM Document Management enables users to become accessible as virtual drives in Microsoft Windows Explorer. In this way, documents stored in mySAP PLM DMS can be managed with the help of Microsoft Windows Explorer. Conversely, it is also possible to store files in mySAP PLM DMS with the help of Microsoft Windows Explorer. Documents can also be directly checked out and back in from a MS Windows-based application to mySAP PLM DMS. The solution also supports customers in the management of document structures. Here, SAP Easy DM is designed for users with no experience of the SAP interface. Just like SAP Document Management, the Easy variant can either be used as a stand-alone application or together with the complete mySAP PLM solution package.
As mySAP PLM Document Management can be implemented quickly, customers are able to solve current problems swiftly and optimize their document management. Over 1000 customers are already using mySAP PLM Document Management, and over 50 SAP customers are reference customers for mySAP PLM Document Management. More than 30 customers have decided to act as references for CAD integration.
These customers report, among other things, a significant reduction in the throughput time for document searches, the changing of documents, and document release. Thanks to automated document distribution and the use of the integrated Viewer, they have found that costs can be considerably reduced. According to customers, CAD integration reduces the costs of system integration.
The functionalities described for document management and CAD integration are available with mySAP Business Suite 2004. In the fall of 2005, an enhanced solution will be available, which will enable the display of search results with thumbnails, the assignment of object-related authorizations to individual folders and documents, and the connection of CAD models to folders containing related documentation.

Peter Szincsák