How to get started with publishing your CAD data on to a web or cloud platform?
In this article, we present a high-level plan, on how to prepare for deployment for publishing your product data on a web platform, such as CT PUBLISHER. The plan is beneficial for your organization if you want to share relevant product data in after-sales or maintenance or plan to build interactive spare parts webshop by re-using your product data. You might be working as an IT Manager or a CAD Administrator in your organization to find the article relevant.
Here are the first five items you need, when you start preparing to use a software or a platform like CT PUBLISHER to publish product data on to the web:
- The CAD Model(s) of your product(s) in SOLIDWORKS, PTC ProE, Autodesk Inventor, or similar CAD format.
- A means of converting your CAD native data to a file format that is natively supported by a web browser, formats such as SVG, JPEG, or PNG. You can use software like SOLIDWORKS Composer, or any add-ins in CAD built for this purpose, such as CUSTOMTOOLS.
- A process and tools for publishing and authoring the metadata and visualizations of your product. With CT PUBLISHER, you use the provided Editor -software to manage data and build your website without having to write a single line of code.
- Some kind of web server to host your platform and allow access to your end-users with a web browser client. CT PUBLISHER supports both Windows Server with IIS -software, or the Microsoft Azure -cloud.
- The actual web platform software to publish your data. Usually, these are licensed software, and so is CT PUBLISHER. You need a trial license for testing or a paid license for a production environment.
ps. Regarding item number 5 on the list: At the time of writing this, we are handing out a limited number of free 1-month, fully-functional trial licenses of CT PUBLISHER. Contact me directly at Olli (at) ctpublisher.com to request your license, free of any initial charges. The free trial offer is for a limited time, on a first-come, first-served basis.
Product Model Definition
The first step in the process is understanding your existing CAD data. Which CAD environments are you utilizing? Many organizations are not only sticking to one CAD system, such as SOLIDWORKS, but might be using several ones, one for 3D and another for 2D models, for example.
Where are the CAD files stored? Am I using a PDM system or some other solution, for example, network drives to store the files? How are the product structures I want to publish? Have I defined in the CAD metadata, what is a spare part in my bill of material? What kind of additional documentation should I attach to my product structures? What kind of information do my customers need, in addition to the CAD data and engineering bills of materials?
Here is a checklist for you to help with the planning and preparation:
|I have stored my CAD data in these formats:||for example: SOLIDWORKS, Autocad, …|
|, and I am storing it in these systems:||PDM, network drive…|
|I define the products and the bills of materials in this system, along with the relevant metadata.||Typically, CAD, ERP or PLM…|
|I want to attach this documentation for specific people to use on my platform:||e.g. section drawings for engineers or manuals for service people|
|I generate the above documentation with/using these tools or systems:||e.g. add-ins in CAD|
|I have defined my spare part lists here||(if I plan to sell spare parts on the web)|
(tip: if you want to use these checklists, don’t fill in data here, but copy the whole table to your favourite rich text editor, such as MS Word or Google Docs)
Product Data visualisation
At CT PUBLISHER, we believe that visualizing your products over the web portal is vital for the success of your product data publishing solution. While your end-users enjoy a superior customer experience, they find your digital services fun to use, stick to them and resolve their issues with self-service (instead of picking up the phone or writing you an e-mail).
Looking at the CAD data you want to publish, you should consider how do you want to visualize the data? Do I want to create exploded views and interactive models with hotspots, for example, or are static images of my products enough? Think, what would be the most straightforward way your end-users understand your complex products when browsing through them in the web portal. Does my organization have the resources to use SOLIDWORKS Composer, for example, for creating beautiful visual representations of my products? How should I structure my data on the web? And, most importantly, who is responsible for the authoring and publication process, and keeping the data up to date in the future?
Here is again a checklist that might help you guide your planning efforts:
|I know how my webshop or web portal should look like to end-users, and I have the design or a mock-up available here:||(some kind of visual mockup, or a clickable prototype user interface)|
|I am using SOLIDWORKS Composer or other relevant software to prepare the visualization data for the web:||(name of software or procedure here)|
|I have appointed this person/department responsible for authoring and publishing the data:||e.g. Design Engineer, Content producer …|
|I have the files ready to be published on the web, and the files are stored here:||typically formats such as XML (metadata), SVG/PNG (visualizations), PDF (related documentation)|
By now, you should know which data to publish and how to visualize it over the web. Then you need to start thinking, who needs to access my product data on the cloud/web? And how should they access it?
When planning a deployment of CT PUBLISHER, for example, you need to decide whether your organization wants to host the webserver yourselves on your premises, or would you rather have it running in a cloud? Decide how should your end-users access the website and decide on a specific URL (such as spareparts.yourcompany.com). Find out, do you have capable IT personnel in your company, especially if you wish to install and maintain the server on your premises, or should you hire help from the outside? Remember, you need to make sure the service is available for your customers, and you are making regular backups, etc.
Below a checklist when you plan your hosting of the web solution:
|I have a web server available, accessible from this URL:||e.g. https://demo.ctpublisher.com|
|I am hosting the solution on a windows server, which is accessible to my IT personnel here:||(hostname and address of webserver)|
|I have this SMTP server available for sending e-mails from the system to the end-customer (purchase receipts, etc.):||(hostname and address of mail server)|
|I have issued this SSL certificate for my server:||(you need the SSL certificate for both for secure communication, as well as proving your identity on the internet)|
|I have defined the users and access groups in this document here, which details the user roles and what data they should the users be able to access:||e.g. as a customer, I should be able to have access to the relevant spare parts of my product only.|
The Publishing process and user Training
(such as CT PUBLISHER Editor))Lastly, when you have your product data prepared, and probably already the web platform up and running with the initial data, you need to start thinking about managing that data and operating the digital service.
Who are the persons responsible for authoring the data? If you are using CT PUBLISHER, who should you train for using the CT PUBLISHER Editor, for authoring the data and making sure the data is always up-to-date. What kind of guidance do they need? What about the end-users, when things do not work as expected, where should they ask for support? And how about your personnel involved in the data management and authoring process, who should they reach out for support?
Also, how is the process from now on to upload new data into the web platform? How is data maintained and updated in the system? Again, are the roles and responsibilities clear?
Here, I would also really like to emphasize this: you might want to start thinking about software automation early on, even before you notice that your employees are spending an increasing amount of their working time keeping the data up-to-date. You can save a lot of precious working time (and money!) by integrating your ERP system with your platform on the web, and automatically transfer relevant product structures without the need to manually fill in metadata, etc.
Here is a checklist for you to start defining the authoring and service processes:
|I have arranged, or I am planning to arrange training to my employees who are responsible for the publishing and authoring process:||(place and time of training)|
|I have set internal responsibilities for data management and authoring of content to these persons/department:||(name of software or procedure here)|
|The above persons have these relevant tools available for authoring and managing the content:||(such as CT PUBLISHER Editor)|
|I have a support channel available here for customers and internal users, too:||(link to your support channel)|
|I have the first product data imported and available on the web here:||(URL to product data on the web)|
|My customers have appropriate access to the data here:||(URL for customers, where they can access the system.Place this on your website and communication material!)
|I have measured how much time the responsible persons in my company spend in the content management tasks (uploading new or changed products to the web platform)||(when you understand this, you also understand how much time and money you could save through automation of the processes!)|
We are happy to help you get started with CT PUBLISHER!
Request a private demonstration by reserving a suitable time slot on the calendar, CLICK BELOW!
olli (@) ctpublisher.com
+358 407 784 386