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SOLIDWORKS PDM Workflows: Tips & Traps

In over 13 years of working with SOLIDWORKS PDM I have created or modified dozens of workflows. Having spent so much time doing this I have found several tips that can save you time and enhance your workflows. I have also discovered a few traps to avoid. My goal with this article is to help you as a PDM Administrator configure workflows more efficiently.

I want to begin with the traps. Whenever you add a new State to a workflow by default it allows permissions to be inherited from the previous State. Let’s look at the effect of this setting using the example Workflow below.

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It is likely that a Group will have rights to check out a file in the Work in Process state, but not in the Under Review or Approved ones. However, the permissions are inherited from the previous States meaning that a file could be checked out in all of them!

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As an administrator, I always wanted to specifically set the permissions for each State. Therefore, I always check the “Ignore permission in previous States” option which will add a green flag icon to the State.

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So, if you have Workflow States where users can do things you thought you had prevented, be sure to see if this option is set.

Another trap that may seem a little silly but has happened to me enough that I want to mention, it is forgetting to save your Workflow changes. I would modify a workflow and immediately attempt to verify my changes in the vault only to be surprised that it was not working as expected. While some changes in the Administration tool are saved automatically, workflow changes are not. Invariably, if I did everything else right the problem turned out to be that I forgot to save my changes. Get in the habit of checking if the Save icon in the Administration tool is enabled as a reminder to save before verifying your changes.

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How about some tips? First, you can save yourself time and effort by taking advantage of copy and paste in the workflow editor. This is extremely beneficial for transitions that have several actions that need to be performed at different stages of the workflow. Transition actions tend to take longer to configure. Save time by copying the transition once you have determined that the actions are performing as desired.

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When you copy and paste a transition you will be prompted for the source State and then the destination State.

SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional allows you to have more than one transition between Workflow States. I used to call these parallel transitions until SOLIDWORKS added their own parallel transitions. Therefore, I will call these coincident transitions. Unlike States which must be uniquely named transitions can have the same name. Users will only see one entry for the Change State command. So why would one do this? You can use conditions to determine which files use a transition to trigger different actions. For example, prior to conditional notifications I was forced to create a transition to send a notification to an individual user.

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For the example above I would have a Send mail action for the user associated with those initials so that only that user receives the notification.

Another way to use transitions with the same name is to direct files to different States in a workflow. In the following example, the file path would determine whether the document moves into the Engineering or Purchasing Review state. The user only needs to change the state and the system takes care of the routing.

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Hopefully, these tips and traps will benefit you when configuring your PDM Workflows. Need help implementing SOLIDWORKS PDM or any of the products in the SOLIDWORKS or 3DEXPERIENCE platform? Contact our Sales team or Technical Solutions Consultants.

Until next time, Mike D.

Mike DeKoning, Technical Solutions Consultant