A Repost

Posted on December 2nd, 2012. Posted In Rant

I posted this almost 4 years ago, but a post on Eng-Tips.com riled me up again. It deals with “smart” part numbers, so if you don’t care you can stop reading now. For those of you who are still reading, and have read the original post, I’ve added on a bit more.

OFF-TOPIC SOAPBOX RANT

A warning: This post will have absolutely nothing to do with SolidWorks, or CAD for that matter.

Why do people feel that part numbers need to represent anything? Too often I’ve seen “smart” part numbers end up being so convoluted that you need a PhD in cryptography to understand anything. What’s bringing this on? I’m ashamed to admit it, but there is such a part numbering system here. It’s not as ugly as some I’ve seen, but it’s frustrating nonetheless. Naturally, I tried to get the powers-that-be to see the error of their ways but, in the end, I had to concede. (Today is only my third day, I don’t want it to be my last.)

What so many people fail to realize is that a part number is just a placeholder in the MRP system (or whatever inventory control system you’re using). The part description is the important part. Yes, I know there are those who are screaming “blasphemer” at me, I don’t care. The minute you implement a “smart” part numbering system, you’re setting up for future failure. At some point you’re going to have a new part that is really similar to an existing part so you’ll add some sort of suffix or prefix to its number so you can differentiate between the two. Next thing you know, you’ve got a third one that’s similar to the other two. Another suffix, perhaps? Oops, look, here’s a fourth one. Ok, we’ll just create another classification, slide the first three over and now we’re good. Right? Crap, what to do with the old numbers? Hey look, this part is sort of like the first four, but it’s also sort of like these ones over here…
It’s enough for me to want to pull my hair out.

Everyone, for the most part, has heard of the KISS principle, right? Keep it simple stupid. A part number should be just that, a stupid number. Whether it’s 4-, 5- or 6-digits really depends on your company’s needs. How many parts are you dealing with? Let the description take care of telling you what it is: Screw, HHC, 1/4-20 x 1, GR5; Cable, Red, 4 GA; Number, Part, Stupid.

Think about it, no more having to train newbies on how your part numbering system is deciphered. No more having to come up with new codes. Need a new part number, just take the next available one. The world is already confusing enough. Let’s not make it worse with “smart” part numbers, ok?

Update: So I re-posted this because of a question that was posted in the SolidWorks forum on Eng-tips.com. Here’s the link, but I’ll try to sum it up. The poster was asking about “non-significant” part numbers, then had a list of part numbers and what types of parts/assemblies they were assigned to which made them significant. On top that, he was asking what he should do if he ran out of numbers. He had things set up so that he had upwards of 200,000 numbers per type! Perhaps I’m naive, but I can’t think of a company where they have 200,000 unique upper level assemblies. Hell, I’m thinking 200,000 unique part numbers would be hard to reach for the vast majority of companies but I’m not about to say it’s impossible. However, were he not trying to set up his system in 5 groups, he’d have a pool of 1,000,000 unique numbers that I seriously doubt would be exhausted. This goes to strengthen my point. If you used part numbers as strictly place holders, your life will be much more simple.

</end rant>

Configuration Abuse

Posted on September 28th, 2012. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community

This has been a dark secret that now needs to be brought to the forefront. We’ve all seen it, many of us have dabbled in it, some still do it. Configuration abuse. There, I said it. I know it’s not pretty and something some would rather not discuss, but I just can’t stand by idly without at least trying to help to eradicate this blight upon the CAD landscape.

The following picture is not for the faint of heart.

 Your eyes aren’t playing tricks. I couldn’t actually get the whole string to fit. Each of those numbers is a part number, each of which is a configuration within the part. This isn’t just at the part level either, it’s at the assembly level as well but, thankfully, it’s usually no more than 3 configurations. I can’t even tell you how thoroughly confused I was when I first saw these files. After the confusion came the pain as I banged my head off my desk.

I get configurations, I use them. I don’t abuse them, and that’s clearly what went on here. (I’m avoiding the whole part naming thing because, well, I just don’t know what to say to it other than WTH?) I really have no idea what the thought process was to dump all of these parts into one file and to then use all of them to name it. I’m usually not at a loss for words…

Look, use configurations wisely. If you use different lengths of 2×2 where it’s tabulated (partnumber-length), use configurations all day long. Screws? Go for it. Need to show dimensional differences between machined and coated? Yes! But, please, moderate yourself. You need to moderate yourself. Configuration abuse needs to end.

Colorblind People Unite!

Posted on August 31st, 2010. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community

I’ve had it. I’m tired of being an afterthought. Just because I’m only colorblind doesn’t mean you can ignore it, SolidWorks. Actually, it’s not just SolidWorks, it’s any software that uses color coding. It would be nice if you’d think about me, and my brothers and sisters out there, when it comes to identification. Why is it so hard to come up with some symbols instead?
As I sat watching Jeremy and Mark preview 2011, I finally asked, for the umpteenth time, when SolidWorks was going to stop discriminating against us, the colorblind. They didn’t have an answer, but spent the rest of the demo hesitating every time they mentioned coloring.
So my question is this, who else is tired of those insensitive color-seeing people making all the decisions? If you’re as tired as I am, submit an enhancement request. Let SolidWorks know that we have feelings and we’re not going to stand by and be ignored.

Toolbars: Yes or No?

Posted on May 12th, 2010. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community,SolidWorks Tips

Warning: this is going to be another of my opinionated posts. I welcome any, and all, well thought out comments. However, should you make things personal, I’ll be forced to call for the immediate removal of all your body hair so that you end up looking like this (yes, it’s safe for work). You have been warned.

A couple of months ago I was training some engineers on SolidWorks. Their company had been using SolidWorks for a bit and a couple of them had brought their laptops to the session. After going through one lesson, and having them start the examples, I was walking around and saw a screen similar to this:

I say similar because I’m pretty sure he had every possible toolbar turned on and I got tired going that far. I stood behind him for a moment, slack-jawed. Bear in mind, this was on a laptop with a 17″ screen. I’m not sure how he was ever able to design anything in the 6 square inches of usable graphics area , but I digress. So I asked him why he still had his setup looking like something from 2006. He gave me that look. You know, the look that says “why are you such an ass?”. Anyway, he went on to explain that it’s what he was comfortable with, that he didn’t have to search the command manager, he knew where everything was, yada-yada-yada. That was when I noticed that he didn’t have the command manager turned on either. I’m thankful that I didn’t hit anything when I fell over…

I took a deep breath and asked him about the ‘S’ key. He asked, a bit arrogantly, what I meant (thankfully, I was sitting down at this point). I then went on to explain to him the wonder that is the ‘S’ key and how it was customizable. How it was there only when you needed it. How, in his case, it could provide ten times the available graphic area, which garnered me “that look”, again. How his mouse travel would be greatly lessened. How all the cool kids were doing it. How, had the technology been around, there’d be 11 commandments instead of 10.

What it all boiled down to was this: it was outside his ‘comfort’ area. Now I don’t want to go and start belittling people who are uncomfortable with change. I’ve been there, I get it. However, there are times when not changing really isn’t the best course of action. I believe this is one of those times.

I know there are those of you out there who have a macro mapped to every single key. That’s awesome. Honestly, I’m jealous of you; I don’t have the brain capacity to remember what macro was mapped where. The ‘S’ key, though, I can handle. With one keystroke I have 95% of the tools I need at that particular moment. That, in my not so humble opinion, rocks! As I explained to him how versatile the ‘S’ key was, I could see that his mind was beginning to engage, that he was beginning to see the possibilities. That totally made it all worth it for me. I love teaching SolidWorks, especially when I see the light come on.

Here’s the thing, I know that there are still a number of people out there who still have toolbars active. There are those who don’t use the Command Manager much less the ‘S’ key. I want to know why. I want to understand what it is about toolbars that makes you stay with them.

External References – Why I hate them.

Posted on March 31st, 2010. Posted In Personal,Rant

I know, this subject has probably been discussed adnaseum but I don’t care. This is my blog and I write what I want. Today I want to write about why I hate external references. Specifically, why I hate it when someone creates an entire assembly that is so intertwined with external references that it’s next to impossible to change anything without blowing up everything else. Hold on, I need to take a deep breath here.

I took on a side job where I’m managing an assembly for a small company. 99.99% of the time this wouldn’t be a big deal, right? This particular assembly has a skeleton sketch, though. Again, not normally a big deal as skeleton sketches often only control the assembly and the placement of parts/sub-assemblies. Uh-uh, not this one. This sketch not only controls part placement but part geometry as well. I can’t even begin to describe how frustrating it is to try to fix a sketch only to see that, while it is fully defined, it doesn’t have a single dimension on it *and* it’s miles away from the origin. Perhaps this wouldn’t really matter in the big scheme of things, but every single external reference is broken. All of them. There’s only 54 unique parts in this assembly, but when every sketch entity is defined by at least one external reference…I’ll let you do the math on it, my head is starting to hurt just thinking about it. Again.

Look, I totally understand the need to occasionally create parts in context. I do, I’ve done it. However, I don’t leave those relationships after the part is created. Sure, it’s nice when hole A drives the size of hole B, but just at what point does enough become enough? Seriously, everything is driven by the assembly sketch. Can you imagine the carnage that would ensue should someone accidentally modify that sketch? The collateral damage (keyboards, mice, monitors) alone would be staggering.

The assembly I’m talking about, in the end, has 666 parts (a bad sign to begin with?) with only two sub-assemblies and it takes forever to open. Aside from the fasteners, and their patterns, almost every part has an “in-place” mate. This I find especially annoying as it goes against how I believe an assembly is created, and you all know that I am always correct. I’ll pause here for laughter. I’m sure that the originator of this assembly had only the best intentions when they created the original file; then again, so did Dr. Frankenstein. However, in creating such a monster, the mad scientist neglected to leave any information regarding the proper care and feeding for said monster. This, my friend, just exacerbates the situation. If you’re going to leave such an abomination for future generations, at least have the common decency to provide some notes regarding your thought process so that we, the unfortunate heirs, can have a chance at understanding what’s going on. It makes me thankful that I don’t drink to drown my sorrow, otherwise I’d probably have drunk myself to death.

I think though, the worst part of it all is that the overall assembly is so incestuous, that I can’t move the part sketches to their corresponding origins without wreaking all sorts of other havoc. I’m hopeful that once I’ve gone through everything and removed all the in-context bs that I’ll be able to have more control over the assembly. I’m not overly optimistic, though. It wouldn’t surprise me if the mad scientist has some other diabolically created mates or relations that will continue to aggravate me.

Thank you, dear reader, for allowing me to rant. I’m not 100% sure how much sense this post will make, but I certainly feel better at this very moment.

The CSWP Debate

Posted on January 28th, 2010. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community

Every so often the “is getting my CSWP worth it?” question crops up in one forum or another. Granted, should a potential employer gloss over the fact that a candidate has earned their CSWP, or not understand what the CSWP certification means, the whole question becomes moot, but let’s make a couple of assumptions so that I can continue with this post, ok? Good. The assumptions are that the employer knows, or finds out, what the CSWP is and the employer puts some stock into the CSWP. Yes, I realize that my conclusions will end up being lopsided, but if a potential employer doesn’t know anything about the certification or, worse yet, doesn’t put any stock in it, then there’s no point in going any further with this post. Right? (Then again, the CSWP only costs you time for the most part. At least that’s the case now. Back when I took it, it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 and 8 hours of your time. That’s when the whole “is it worth it” question really had merit. At the most, you may end up having to pay $99 if you flunk it the first time around. Chump change, but I digress. )

The more I think about it, the more I question whether there’s actually an answer. I know that for me, having the CSWP has opened doors, especially where I don’t have a degree. I realize that all it says is “this guy is a CAD jockey”, but when it’s coupled with my other experience it helps me to rise up.

Rodney Hall, the celeb du jour of last year’s SolidWorks World, had this to say about the CSWP:

“I now work for a very large company as their CAD Administrator and manage over 100 seats of SolidWorks and would almost certainly not have been offered the position without CSWP Certification. My management now only prefers to consider CSWP as first choice when booking interviews with job candidates. I also teach SolidWorks at a local community college and being a CSWP again iced the cake when they considered me for the position.

I would recommend certification to anyone who is serious about keeping or advancing any career that involves using SolidWorks to bring home the groceries.”

Ok, so Rodney is only one person. Add me to the mix, and you get two people who wouldn’t be doing what they’re doing without the certification. I’m willing to bet that there’s more of us, too.

That all being said, I don’t think it’s possible to make a definitive statement one way or the other. It’s strictly related to people’s perception of it. Nothing more, nothing less. If you ask me or Rodney, we’d say it’s very worth it.

What say you?

Whaddya mean it’s not supported?

Posted on January 12th, 2010. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community

I feel a rant coming on, but I’m going to try to control it as best I can…

I read a forum post earlier where a person was upset that their hardware wasn’t supported by the newest version of SolidWorks. Said hardware is about 10 years old and no longer made. They felt that SolidWorks had kicked “a whole bunch of users and their computers to the curb”. First, I’m compelled to question the validity of that statement. A whole bunch of users? Really? It was my understanding that the average engineering computer was upgraded about every 3 years (+/- 1 year). Is this wrong? Even if I’m off by two years, doesn’t it stand to reason that the vast majority of engineering computers have hardware that is less than 8 years old?

None of that is the point I was trying to make, though. My point is this, does it not seem asinine to expected software to not progress at a rate that almost equals that of hardware? Why would any software manufacturer decide it’s better to hinder their software’s potential performance so they can continue to support out-of-date hardware? This makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I can’t think of a single software company that doesn’t want to be cutting edge. To do this, they need to take advantage of all that a computer’s hardware offers, old hardware be damned.

How about we go a little further? If your company is still using 10 year old systems for their engineering needs, what does that say about the company, and their want to stay current and competitive? Prior to coming back to work here, I had a couple of interviews. At both of them, one of the questions I asked was about their PCs. My mentality was that if their systems were up to snuff, then they, the company, wanted to be competitive and were willing to make the necessary investments to do so. If I’d have been told that they were PIII with 1Gb RAM, I’d have just said thanks but no thanks.

Outside of easy file sharing, no one forces you to move up to the newest version of SolidWorks, it’s your choice. In making that choice, it’s your responsibility to make sure that your system is still within spec. Don’t go blaming SolidWorks, or any other software manufacturer, if you’re behind the times. That, too, was your choice.

</rant>

Perhaps having “it’s your fault” in the title of the series wasn’t the way to go. I’ve, apparently, rubbed some people the wrong way. The point I was trying to make was that every crash or slowdown isn’t SolidWorks’ fault. There are numerous system or environmental variables that can also cause problems. Throughout the years, I’ve heard people piss and moan about their install not working properly only to find out it was a wrong driver, or a hardware conflict, or they were using a Commodore 64. People are quick to blame, less quick to take ownership of said blame.

I am not trying to say that SolidWorks is perfect; it’s not. And they (SolidWorks Corp) know it. By pure chance and luck, I have friends on the “inside” and talk to them about various issues whether they be mine or ones I come across in the various fora out there. These friends know that I prefer straight talk to bs and, I believe, tell it to me like it is. They are working on stability issues, but they can’t just focus on them. Like it or not, they need to stay ahead of, or at least even with, their competition when it comes to functionality. What I believe SolidWorks is trying to do is balance stability of existing functionality while adding additional functionality. Yes, they’ve dropped the ball in some areas, letting known bugs persist version after version. I know, I know, stability is key for many out there. I get it. I’ve had my share of stability issues. Look through my older posts and you’ll see I was having all sorts of problems with PDMWorks killing SolidWorks last year. Believe me, after 11 years as a user, I’ve seen my share of problems.

Look, all I’m trying to say is this: If you’re having problems with your install, don’t immediately assume that SolidWorks has a bug or glitch. A Windows automatic update, or some software that IT pushed out, could be the culprit. If you end up calling your VAR, don’t jump all over the AE. S/he just, in most cases, wants to help you out. To do so effectively, they’ll need as much info as possible. If you took your car to get repaired, telling your mechanic it goes “clunka-clunka-clunka” isn’t going to cut it; he’s going to need more info. The same holds true for the AE.

Once again I find myself ready to take off on a full-speed rant, but I’m going to rein it in. I’ll leave you with this last thought: People are imperfect and so is what they create.

Sal Lama, of SolidWorks, put up a post on the SolidWorks forums regarding backwards compatibility. Naturally, this is going to get people buzzing. I took the survey, though I think it’s like beating a dead horse. Customers have been asking for this functionality for years.

Why am I writing this post? Because the survey aggravated me. The first question asks why do I want the functionality? Frankly, this question is dumb. Many customers of SolidWorks have been asking for this for years. The ‘why’ isn’t important, the ‘want’ is. We want it. If it’s doable, then do it. Just having the survey implies that it is a possibility. Rather than spending time creating surveys to get info you should already know, how about determining once and for all if it is something that can be done? If so, then do it. Another question that was asked in the survey had to do with editing; something along the lines of “do you want to be able to edit the new version?” Duh. Everyone already knows you can export/import neutral file formats, Sal. Then jump through the hoop(s) that is FeatureWorks. There were other questions asking for input on why and how. Seriously? One would think you guys have heard it all by now.

If you can make it so I can save my 201x part as -08, -09, etc. please do it. If you can’t, then tell us and explain, succinctly, why. Just do us all a favor, ok? Quit teasing us.

Dear SolidWorks & 3Dconnexion,

Posted on April 21st, 2009. Posted In Rant,SolidWorks Community

Can you guys please get together and fix the issue I’m having with my SpacePilots? The need to have the tool I want to map to my buttons on an active toolbar is ridiculous. One of my favorite things in SolidWorks is the fact that I don’t need to clog my graphics area with toolbars. I like having my space! When I got this SpacePilot PRO, I was beside myself with joy. I LOVE new technology and dove right in. Then I got bit. My button mappings wouldn’t work; not even the default mappings. I uninstalled/reinstalled the 3Dconnexion software to no avail. I called 3Dconnexion’s tech support and was told about the whole toolbar thing. I’d forgotten about that tidbit of information when I was having problems with my SpacePilot last fall. The “solution” I was given was to populate a macro toolbar with the commands I wanted to map to my buttons. Seriously? What is it about the coding in SolidWorks that’s preventing me from being able to use the buttons as designed? Where is the disclaimer telling SolidWorks users about this shortcoming? Are any other CAD packages effected this way? Another thing is the whole ‘S’ key thing. That I can get to map to a button, but it won’t stay mapped. Why is that?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the SpacePilot PRO is great. It’d be even better if it worked like it should. With all the software gurus at SolidWorks and 3Dconnexion, you think they’d be able to solve this issue. While I’m at it, can we talk about the default drivers? Is it absolutely necessary to load drivers for every CAD software under the sun by default? I don’t use AutoCAD, Maya or any of the other offerings. It seems to me that, when installing the drivers, you should be given the choice of what to load versus having to go through the custom setup. It just doesn’t make sense, in my humble opinion.

Signed,

A frustrate, yet hopeful user.

</rant>

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