Posts Tagged ‘Integration’

Federation with ERP, PDM, Legacy Systems and Cloud-based data using Aras

June 20, 2012

MarcL: PLM solution must be capable of integrating with the ERP system so that data is available in PLM such as material costing, inventory on-hand, etc. Please describe how this is possible.

Peter Schroer:

Aras Innovator includes a standard service called Federation. This Web service can be used for integrations with legacy applications (called Federations) that expose attributes from the legacy system, such as Cost attributes in SAP, with the materials data stored in PLM.

For the end-users, they will see a single form, with data in the correct context that has all the information they need to perform a task (or workflow or report) without knowing the actual data storage location of those data.

This data does not need to be view-only, but can be editable as well. It is managed by the same need-to-know security permissions in Aras so the users have access to only the data they are authorized to see, add, update, etc.

Secure Federation capabilities in Aras are not limited to on-premise systems, and can include Cloud-based data sets as well like component databases, compliance validation and other data sets of authority in the Cloud.

The flexibility of the Aras Innovator PLM system even allows federation configurations in which all Part, Material and BOM data are authored in ERP, and PLM is just a viewing portal.

However, most companies prefer to develop parts, materials, cost models and other product data within the PLM solution, and after workflow review & approval, drive this cost data to the ERP once it becomes “Released”.

The same type of system Federation can be performed with legacy PDM / PLM systems in use in your company as well. This can be useful if existing PDM systems are in place at various sites for CAD management, although more robust PLM capabilities are needed for complicated processes like NPDI, enterprise change, supply chain, quality or outsourced manufacturing.

The “right” configuration depends on your organization, business practices, and the level of complexity of your products and development process.

Aras architects and certified partners can help you evaluate your company’s requirements during the initial phase of your deployment and recommend a configuration that is optimized for your company’s specific competitive practices.

We provide training on how to do federated integrations with other systems like ERP as well as how to administer these capabilities.

For more info on these capabilities see ‘Integration and Federation in the Enterprise with Aras’ and ‘ERP, Item Masters and Data Attribute Federation Between ERP-PLM in Aras‘ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Integration’.

BPM Workflow Library and Custom Workflows in Aras

June 7, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions should enable a library of workflows from which administrators and authorized users can select and apply workflows appropriate to the process, product, project or other requirement. This library should contain both process flow and business rules.

Peter Schroer:

The standard out-of-the-box Aras Innovator PLM solutions include this capability.

Workflow Maps is the Aras term for the library of processes that are maintained by the administrator or power users that have the appropriate permissions.

Your company will have dozens of Workflow Maps in the library.

You can easily modify, extend and integrate your Workflows using the graphical drag-and-drop editor in Aras Innovator’s Solutions Studio.

You can even create entirely new Workflows from scratch in minutes instead of months.   These can be for your global PLM environment or even non-PLM business processes.

We provide training on how to manage and customize Aras Innovator’s workflows.

For additional information see ‘Electronic Signatures, Workflows, Lifecycles and Security in Aras’ and ‘Change Process Definition, SOA Workflow Service and Integration in Aras‘ or check out the Posts Tagged ‘Workflow’.

Aras Workflow Process Map Library

Screenshot example of Workflow Map library in Aras and the initiation of a New Workflow (Create New)

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‘.

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’.

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

Change Process Definition, SOA Workflow Service and Integration in Aras

May 9, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions must support the ability to define multiple change procedures with different flows, timing constraints and voting rules, and the same process(es) should be able to be used for both part-centric and document-centric change processes. PLM solutions should also be able to model and execute multiple-step work processes at multiple levels (parent-child processes).

Peter Schroer:

This requirement is exactly the reason that Aras has created a general-purpose BPM (business process management) service instead of a hard-coded engineering change workflow module.

It is also the reason why Aras has a separation between Lifecycle and Workflow       where Lifecycle is about “State” management (i.e. a Part is In Draft, In Review, Released, etc) and Workflow is about “Process” management (i.e. routing a Form with attached Items & Files around for activities).

It is quite typical for companies to have common Lifecycles for Parts. These can be a single standard Lifecycle or different Lifecycles based on Classification, such as Mechanical having a different Lifecycle than Electrical which is different than Software/Firmware, etc.

The Workflow process map for any specific Part might be completely different.  These differences can be driven by the different business units, the Classification of the Parts, the complexity or risk level of the Change, etc.

A typical large company running Aras will have a dozen Lifecycle definitions (parts, documents, tools, specifications, etc.), and then many dozens of Workflow Process definitions for controlling those Lifecycles.   In this way, Aras is able to model the real-world business practices without compromise.

Aras Workflow Process Studio

Aras Workflow Process Studio Provides Customization through Modeling and Powerful Web Services Integration Capabilities

The Aras Workflow service supports multi-step processes, with combinations of serial and parallel activities, branching based on business rules, and automatic escalation to ensure that every workflow instance that is started will be closed-loop.

Workflows are inherently hierarchical, and can be organized into libraries of Sub-Workflows that are initiated at a certain step in the Parent workflow.  This also means they can easily be re-used.

Workflows can be executed by people and other systems as well as a combination of both.

The Aras Workflow service can be used in conjunction with other systems that have BPM or Workflow capabilities like SAP, Oracle, Teamcenter, Windchill, etc or any of the BPM-specific systems         and can be either Parent or Sub-Workflow in conjunction with the other system’s Workflow. It’s a Web service.

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

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

Item Number Generation and Cross Referencing in Aras

April 6, 2012

MarcL: PLM solutions must support the assignment of new numbers, and it should be possible to have the system assign automatically the next available number based on rules. Many companies also need multiple numbering of the same information such as part #s, doc #s, spec #s, equipment #s and other identifying numbers, as well as, provide cross-references and allow data to be retrieved by any number that is applicable to it. For example, users should be able to enter a supplier part number and find the internal id number and access the record/document itself.

Peter Schroer:

PLM Software Item Numbering

Item Numbering in PLM

You are able to modify the business object definitions to create multiple searchable identifiers (internal part number, supplier part number, SKU, old legacy number, etc) and all of these numbers are available for searching and cross reference.

The Aras Innovator platform includes a rules-based identifier creation service (we call Sequences).   Sequences are used for unique identifiers on any object such as part numbers, document numbers, supplier IDs, corrective action IDs, ECR #s, etc.

You can combine the automatic Sequence generator with business object-specific attributes such as classification, part family, lifecycle state, etc. to create intelligent numbering schemes.

A typical example would be a prefix based on classification followed by 6 digits from a sequence, followed by a Suffix based on part family.

You can also pull numbers from other systems, such as getting new part numbers from the ERP environment like SAP or generating document numbers from an existing PDM system like Teamcenter or Windchill.

And of course you can do manual entry of numbering as well.

With Aras Innovator you can combine all of these approaches for different aspects of the system and different processes.

You might have Part numbers come from different sources depending on the Part’s classification, organization, etc.

Mechanical part numbers at the Aerospace division come from Teamcenter, whereas mech part #s in the Oil & Gas division are pulled from Windchill and the Industrial group uses the Aras Sequences services with specific dash (-) designations. And then maybe all Supplier IDs are generated in SAP.

Or you could just use our OOTB numbering for all of these different Items.    It’s up to you and it’s not hard.  We provide training on how to set-up, administer and modify these capabilities yourself.

Image from Banner

Aras Innovator, High Level Architecture Diagrams

February 29, 2012
Here are a couple architectural diagrams for Aras Innovator that we use to describe the platform.
 
 
Aras Model-based SOA

High Level Architecture Diagram for Aras Innovator

 
Aras Model-based SOA Platform

Architectural Diagram Detail for Aras Innovator

Aras Innovator, High Level Architecture Description

February 27, 2012

 

MarcL: Can you give a basic high-level architecture overview of Aras Innovator covering networking, deployment, security, vaulting, customizing, integrations and other basic info to help understand the technology at a conceptual level?

Aras PLM Solution Studio

Aras Innovator Solution Studio

Peter Schroer:

Aras Innovator is a 100% web services architecture based on open web standards.

The architecture is naturally distributed, and supports implementations ranging from a single server to hundreds of distributed servers.

 

Aras on the Network

Aras Innovator is a 100% Web application tuned to minimize web traffic and network bandwidth requirements for global WAN deployments.

Aras Innovator is tested and certified for acceptable user performance in WAN’s with less than 250ms latency.

In networks with unreliable connectivity or latency > 250ms,       the architecture can be partitioned into multiple separate instances of meta-data and file vaults, with robust logic for moving product data between instances on an as-needed or scheduled rate.

Aras is committed to an open architecture and open standards.      All connections from client-to-server are XML / SOAP and HTTP on Port 80 and HTTPS on Port 443 so the system is ideally suited for secure collaboration across corporate firewalls.

 

Aras Client Approach

Aras Innovator’s out-of-the-box client is a browser application.  This can be used within the firewall or from outside the firewall (Aras customers include the US Army, US Air Force, Lockheed Martin, etc    all connections and data access controls meet the military-grade security requirements of these customers).

As a 100% web-based application there are no client software installations required, and to be clear, all of the PLM system functionality for end-users, administrators and developers is available through the graphical web browser client out-of-the-box.

All connections to the core Aras Innovator web services (either through the client or integrations) are authenticated against internal controls or your company’s Active-Directory / LDAP authentication.

This results in a secure connection for employees inside the building, employees while traveling, and suppliers, customers and business partners.

All user and programmatic access is authenticated, and the user account is mapped to the roles, groups, and data access rights that are appropriate.

Every class of user that logs on to the PLM will see different data, different forms, and different processes appropriate to their roles and permissions.

As a 100% web-based application it is very easy to extend the PLM system to include external users, so that they are participating directly in business workflows, and interacting directly with product structure data with need-to-know level access and visibility.

 

Distributed & Replicated File Vaulting with Aras

Aras Innovator has a single logical vault abstraction so that all files appeared to be stored in a single vault to end-users.

The physical implementation of the vault server supports both distributed and replicated vaulting of any file-based data.

Aras has many customers with global deployments, and the use of Replicated vaulting ensures that files are located as close to the correct end-users as possible.

 

Customizing in Aras

Aras PLM Life Cycle Map

Aras Innovator Life Cycle "State Model" Map

The Aras Innovator architecture is object oriented, with a simple abstraction that allows non-Ph D IT personnel to be efficient in modifying the system.

We call this process Modeling, and it uses a very simple drag-and-drop graphical metaphor for describing the forms, data, rules and processes that are desired in the production system.

The modeling engine executes directly from this model, meaning that on-going changes over time can be made in real-time, by people that have the appropriate level of permissions.

 

Aras Deployment Environments

While changes can be in a running production system, the Aras recommended practice is to install a minimum of 3 Aras Innovator instances:  Development, Test-Staging and Production.

The Aras modeling language is expressed 100% in XML, and tools are provided for migrating new solutions, or solution changes from one system to another.

Your company is able to develop new ideas, forms, processes, data models, etc. within a development instance of Aras Innovator (can be installed on a laptop for example).

Import those models into a Test instance for regression testing and user acceptance testing.

The same models are then imported into the production server, and the production server dynamically re-configures itself to reflect the new and modified solutions.

This technology is unique to Aras, and is one of the primary reasons that Aras Innovator gets selected for complex, large scale PLM deployments.

 

Enterprise Integrations to Legacy Systems with Aras

Most enterprise integrations to existing legacy systems are implemented as pure Web services connections, either point-to-point or with an ESB or EAI broker such as SAP XI/PI, Oracle Fusion or Microsoft BizTalk for example or using Federation.

Older legacy systems that are not Web Services enabled are integrated using any of the tools in the Microsoft .NET environment (ADO, ODBC, API’s, etc) or through old-school file exchange.


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