Archive for May, 2012

BPM Workflow Serial & Parallel Paths and Modeling to Customize and Extend PLM in Aras

May 31, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions should support custom workflow processes with the steps in the flow being sequential and / or parallel in the same process. There must be tools provided to support changes and customization of the processes as well.

Peter Schroer:

Aras PLM Software Simple DCO Workflow Process

Simple Out-of-the-Box DCO Workflow Process in Aras Innovator

The Aras Innovator platform a pure Web services architecture, where everything is a service.

It includes a Workflow service which is effectively a robust, general-purpose BPM (business process management) capability instead of a hard-coded engineering change workflow module like other PLM systems.

The Aras Workflow service supports multi-step processes, with combinations of serial and parallel activities, branching, looping, dynamically assigned roles based on business rules, and is inherently integrated with all of the other functionality in our PLM solutions.

XEROX Aras Custom PLM Software Global Change Process

XEROX’s Custom Global Change Workflow Process in Aras Innovator

The BPM capabilities are very robust and scalable.   A workflow process can be really simple, like start-action-end,         or very complex with multiple parallel paths, conditional business rules, weighted voting and integrations to SAP or other legacy systems.

In fact, Aras Innovator’s workflows can be used as part of the complete PLM suite or in a federated approach to provide only the new functionality needed on top of and integrated with existing systems.  In this way, you can modernize and add secure Web capabilities to older systems like PDMs, ERPs, etc.

Workflows can be customized and extended or you can create entirely new workflow processes from scratch by Modeling them in Aras Innovator’s browser-based graphical Solution Studio (e.g. without complex programming).

Aras PLM Software Solution Studio Workflow Customize

Example of Run-Time Workflow Modification using Solution Studio in a Dev Instance of Aras

You can customize the workflow’s process steps, change the schema, add business rules and make modifications    and you are doing it in Real-Time.

When you Save, the changes are instantly propagated and the next time an instance of the process is initiated it will include the changes.

Of course we strongly recommend the best practice of having separate environments for dev, test/staging and production. Moving customizations from instance to instance only takes a couple of minutes.

Aras is unique with the technology to allow real-time process and data model changes, because of our model-based architecture. 

You will be trained to use the integrated Solution Studio for drag-and-drop designing and modifying of workflow processes (similar UI to Visio, except it’s the actual running system).

For more info on these capabilities see ‘Change Process Definition, SOA Workflow Service and Integration in Aras’ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Workflow’ or ‘Business Process‘.

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PLM Solution Tailoring and Customization by End Users in Aras

May 29, 2012

MarcL: PLM solution should support tailoring, configuring and customizing by approved users for specific forms and workflows. Any changes to standard objects should be capable of being monitored and audit trails maintained with notification of changes to designated personnel.

Peter Schroer:

In Aras Innovator’s Model-based engine, access to modify the model (data dictionary, meta-data, etc) is controlled by the same authentication and access control rights as the end-user permissions.

The Aras Innovator PLM platform uses its own security model, to control its customization and administration.

Your company can choose which components of the “Model” (i.e. your company’s PLM solutions) to allow certain groups/departments of users to edit and maintain.

IT or app dev can maintain the entire PLM system or you can choose to delegate portions out to certain end users while keeping control over other parts of the system.

Delegation of the administration for Form Layouts, Workflow Processes, Project Templates, Lifecycle States and other business items are commonly moved out of IT to the power users that are process owners or functional managers with responsibility for process definition.

While responsibility for integrations and more complex system functions is kept under IT’s control.

This division of labor makes administration of a large deployment scope more manageable and creates local “ownership” by end users which encourages adoption and simplifies IT’s help desk duties as well.

Monitoring or oversight of changes made and audit trails is standard Aras Innovator functionality.

All changes made by end users are supportable and upgradable without impacting the customizations.

We provide training for you and your end users on how to tailor, configure and customize Aras Innovator, and you Do Not need to be a programmer or in IT to learn how to do it.

For additional information see ‘Making PLM Forms Look Exactly Like Existing Paper or Legacy Forms with Aras’ and ‘Lifecycle, Workflow and Other Types of Process Management in Aras’.

Electronic Signatures, Workflows, Lifecycles and Security in Aras

May 24, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions should provide a secure way for electronic sign-off of controlled Parts, CAD documents, specifications and other objects. Please describe how access controls and permissions are combined with meta-data attributes, prevention of modification of released data objects, and other measures, to provide electronic sign-off.

Peter Schroer:

All business objects (Items) within the Aras Innovator platform are controlled by an access rights management service, that complies with the security requirements of our US Gov’t and defense industry customers for “need-to-know” level security.

The security model can be used at the object instance paired with individual user level (only Bob can see Spec#001),  or for simpler administration,  hierarchical groups and roles can be defined which are expressed as patterns that are applied to sets of business objects  (anyone on the Electronics team can see the design files created for the EX-001 new product). Digital rights management (DRM) on the actual files can also be included.

Once the Lifecycle of an Item has advanced to the designated state, the access rights to the Item automatically switch to a Read-only level (normally at Release, but can be anything you specify), that object is completely protected against modifications.

The out-of-the-box CMII compliant processes use the Aras Workflow services with electronic signatures to capture the authorization and approvals.

Once the Workflow has secured the correct votes with signatures,  it automatically promotes the Lifecycle status of the Item to Released (which in turns locks down the access rights).

Approval mechanisms, electronic signatures (passwords and 2nd level passwords or e-signatures), audit trails, and notifications are all standard out-of-the-box capabilities within Aras Innovator.

Aras has built-in capabilities to satisfy regulatory compliance requirements for e-signature such as 21 CFR Part 11 in the Medical Device industry (these settings can be turned on/off of course).

We provide training on how to set-up, administer and customize these capabilities as well.

For additional information on these capabilities see ‘Security Permissions & Access Controls in Aras’ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Lifecycle’ and ‘Security’.

Making PLM Forms Look Exactly Like Existing Paper or Legacy Forms with Aras

May 23, 2012

MarcL: Form creation and management tools should be available to design custom electronic versions of a company’s specific forms so they look & work like existing paper-based forms or legacy systems that are being replaced.

Peter Schroer:

The Aras Innovator platform is unique among enterprise PLM systems due to the powerful flexibility of the Model-based SOA framework.

A very simple, graphical, drag-and-drop user interface is included in the Aras Innovator solution studio to support the layout of Forms and other business objects.

Since the resulting forms are DHTML  (dynamic HTML),  it is possible to use any HTML features and functions in the forms,        allowing unlimited artistic freedom to re-create existing legacy screens or paper forms exactly the way they look and function today.

MOST IMPORTANT,  these changes can be made in real-time by actual users (with the right permissions) instead of a large IT exercise,  and all changes that are made are supportable and upgradeable.

Your personnel will be trained on how to create, modify and support unlimited company specific forms,  and all this customization work will be upgraded by Aras to future versions of Aras Innovator as part of a standard Aras subscription package.

For additional information on these capabilities see posts tagged ‘Customize’ and ‘Upgrade’.

Aras PLM Software Solution Studio Form Editing

Screenshot example of Form editing in drag & drop Solution Studio – can layout Aras Forms exactly like your company’s existing Forms

ERP, Item Masters and Data Attribute Federation Between ERP-PLM in Aras

May 22, 2012

MarcL: How is Object Approval capability linked to the ERP system so that specific item / material masters (e.g. parts, BOMs, components, packaging, part numbers, etc.) can be automatically setup by the PLM solution?

Peter Schroer:

The recommended best practice is to use Aras Innovator to master the definitions of Parts, Materials, BOMs, and packaging and then upon release, these data are uploaded to the corporate ERP system(s).

At the beginning of a project it is normal to use a one-time export and batchload from ERP to PLM to create the initial data set.

Links between PLM and ERP follow a “federated architecture” in which not all data is 100% replicated.

For example,  cost, inventory, kit-code data within the ERP might be useful information for a PLM user to see within the PLM screens (and use in Workflow business logic).

The Aras approach is to federate the 2 data sources so that data that is mastered in the ERP is linked to (web services) rather than copied periodically into the PLM.

In this way,  a single form within PLM may contain data from multiple data-sources,  but the end-user is not aware of IT architecture decisions.

The user sees all information they need to perform a task on one screen and can act/edit it, and Aras does not care whether IT has decided to actually store the data in PLM.

For additional information on these capabilities see posts tagged ‘Federation’.

Item Tracking, Status and Exception Reporting in Aras

May 21, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions need to provide tracking, status, and exception reports and the reports should be able to be tailored to specific needs such as selected release level and specific attributes. There should also be the ability for reporting by exceptions, in particular on missing or incomplete objects belonging to a predefined set.

Peter Schroer:

Aras Innovator out-of-the-box includes default settings and tools for the Administrator to configure the level of history and audit trails that will be tracked, by Item Type.

For example a Part may have history of every transaction (view, update, create, etc) and audit trails supporting complete traceability,    while a Product Release Plan only has tracking of edit events.

These rules can be changed and updated at any time.

The Aras Innovator platform also provides a set of standard events for the solution developer to hang business rules (tests for exceptions, etc).

The most common approach is to link the exception testing to Lifecycle State changes,  and the exception testing can result in either just a message to the user, or a forced roll-back of the lifecycle status change until the exceptions are resolved.

This is all standard OOTB functionality in Aras Innovator.

We provide training on how to set-up, administer and customize these capabilities as well.

For additional information on these capabilities see the previous post ‘Business Intelligence, Custom Reports and Secure Reporting in Aras’ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Reporting’ and ‘Administration’.

Ad-hoc Workflows Created and Executed by End Users in Aras

May 17, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions should provide ad-hoc workflow creation and execution capabilities with these capabilities accessible and controllable by the end user.

Peter Schroer:

In the out-of-the box Aras Innovator default configuration, end-users can create ad hoc signature lists / check lists which are routed by the workflow service.

Your company can expand this default behavior to allow end-users to create ad hoc workflow processes with looping, branching, parallel paths, voting schemes, serial paths, etc.

We provide training on how to implement and extend the workflow process capabilities in Aras Innovator for these types of scenarios.

For additional information on workflow see the previous post ‘New Objects, Workflows and Extensibility in Aras’ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Workflow’.

Change Management Process Alerts and Audit Trails in Aras

May 16, 2012

MarcL: An audit-trail of change history should be maintained within the PLM solution which will provide a triggering mechanism to automatically launch activities and alerts (e.g., when a new version of a specification is approved, it is automatically sent to the appropriate individuals, groups, and roles).

Peter Schroer:

All three Aras process services (workflow, lifecycle, project) include triggering events on every Activity within process flow along with secure audit trail logging of every action taken.

Your PLM administrator can assign actions / rules to any of the triggers to initiate alerts and capture the real-world process results.

Any of the States in Lifecycles, Activities in Workflows, Tasks in Projects, etc can be assigned to either a person, or a Method (a script or program/service that executes an automatic set of actions).

Workflows once defined, are started automatically, escalate automatically, and resolve themselves into closed-loop processes automatically.

The audit-trail of what actions have occurred, who voted or took action, how they voted or what action was taken and time / date stamp on every action along with other information is visible at any time as long as the person has the proper permissions.

We provide training on how to implement, customize, integrate and optimize the use of these Aras Innovator change management functions and workflow process capabilities.

For additional information on workflow see the previous post ‘Lifecycle, Workflow and Other Types of Process Management in Aras’ and ‘Change Process Definition, SOA Workflow Service and Integration in Aras’ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Workflow’.

Business Intelligence, Custom Reports and Secure Reporting in Aras

May 15, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions must provide the ability to create and manage customized reports that adhere to security requirements. Please explain how this is accomplished.

Peter Schroer:

Aras recommends Microsoft Report Services which is part of SQL Server’s business intelligence capabilities for customized reporting templates.

You can also use any of the other reporting/BI packages such as SAP’s BusinessObjects, Oracle’s Hyperion, IBM’s Cognos and even solutions like Google Charts, etc.

There are also built-in tools for searching for data, ordering the layout and exporting to Excel / Word, but these reporting tools are really for ad-hoc columnar layouts.    Microsoft Reporting Services adds the power of sophisticated layout tools, built-in charts, cubes, analytics, etc.

Reports are a managed Item within Aras Innovator subject to the same access control model that determines which users are able to run which reports.

Microsoft Reporting Services supports HTML, Excel and PDF outputs with CSV and XML supported by Microsoft as available Rendering Extensions.    Aras also has internal reporting tools which are 100% XML (XSLT and HTML).

Both the Microsoft Reporting Services reports (or those from other BI packages) and Aras reports (XML + XSLT) have batch run capabilities.

It is very simple for example to configure a report to run every Sunday night at a set time, and be distributed by emailed to certain end users.   It can be in the body of the email as text, HTML, etc or as an attachment like Excel, Word, PDF, etc.

Real-time reporting for pre-defined reports is also supported with the User access controls determining which Reports a user is allowed to run. A user must have the proper permissions to even see different report options on the pull down menu.

Those reports are available in context sensitive pull down menus throughout the user interface. For example, FMEA reports are available in the FMEA area of the solution.  This reduces menu clutter for the end user.

Users can configure any report alert emails to have URL links within the body of the report or email.   When the recipients access the link however, they must provide their own credentials to view the data.  It is not possible to provide someone a backdoor to access data within the PLM, unless the administrator has provided tools for publishing data out of the repository.

Aras PLM Report SQL Server to Microsoft Excel

Screenshot example of report output from Microsoft Reporting Services into Excel


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