As popular and successful as the SOLIDWORKS CAD API has been for users and software partners, the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional API offers a bigger opportunity for automation with a deeper potential impact.  While the API is quite robust and capable, this stems more from the nature and platform of SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional, than the API itself.  Whenever an application spans multiple disciplines and departments, and manages documents from multiple applications, there are personal, departmental, and corporate workflows that may not be represented by the software’s factory capabilities.  Applications developed for the commercial market need to be as broadly usable as possible.  The more niche it is the smaller your potential client base is.  But developing an architecture that allows for easy configuration and deep customization, ensures that even the most specialized industry can potentially find value in your software.

Unique business goals and rules governing data management may be attributes of a company that provide some of its competitive edge in the market.  The tools that automate and enforce those rules should take your unique requirements into account.  Leveraging an experienced and competent reseller to provide services and guidance during implementation are an essential component to success.  Best practices discourage custom development of scripts and add-ins in the early implementation phases, and we wholeheartedly agree.  Starting simple, proving out each aspect of your PDM implementation, and ensuring user buy-in are of paramount importance.  Once the core implementation is under control, then investigation of additional plug-ins, scripts and custom applications is appropriate.

Our team has written more custom code for SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional in its relatively short history in the SOLIDWORKS product portfolio that for the SOLIDWORKS CAD application.  This speaks to your wide ranging use cases and business requirements around document control.  It’s not surprising that our products include more PDM add-ins than any other application type.  And even these are often customized to meet additional requirements, not envisioned during the initial development.

One example is our Change Control Board add-in.  We developed the first version for a customer in the shipbuilding industry.  The challenge they faced revolved around the unique people who needed to be involved in the approval of various aspects of the ship.  While the parallel approval capabilities in the SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional workflow are powerful, they are process-centric, rather than document-centric, meaning that either all documents follow the same approval scenario, or multiple workflows or workflow branches are required to narrow down the scope.  In this case there were literally hundreds of potential combinations, but the overall process was the same for all.

We creating an application that leverages data card variables to assign voters, then validate the voters, tally the results, and allow the customer to use the transition condition logic to determine when and where a document should transition, based on the votes given.  This reduced the number and complexity of workflows, focusing on one common process, allowing the data cards to do the heavy lifting.  This was streamlined even further by leveraging the powerful template engine to populate the data cards with key information.

Your possible use cases for custom add-ins in SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional are limitless.  If you would like to discuss your requirements with us, we would be happy to try to find a solution for you.  It may involve us writing an add-in, or we may direct you to some existing software in the market that fits those requirements.  We are constantly finding new applications that empower our customers to focus more energy on their core business, rather than on their tools.