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Multiple Site Collaboration in SOLIDWORKS Electrical

Sam Frew

This article discusses current limitations of multiple site collaboration in SOLIDWORKS Electrical and suggests alternatives.

 

Current Limitations

A unique feature of SOLIDWORKS Electrical is its ability to allow multiple users to collaborate on the same projects and obtain symbols, parts, etc. from the same centralized library. This is achieved with the client-server configuration, where one server machine hosts the SWE server components (collaborative server, SQL server and data directory) and all SWE client applications connect to that server over the network.

This functionality requires continuous communication between the SWE application and the server. Delays and disconnections in the network can lead to performance, stability and data integrity issues. For this reason, multiple site collaboration is not supported with SWE, as the network delays and intermediate software (such as VPNs) involved can cause such issues.

At the time of writing, there are several enhancement requests logged with SOLIDWORKS to include functionality to support multiple site collaboration in a future SWE release. These are detailed below.

 

SPR 737419- “Support Electrical SQL Server over VPN”

SPR 769070- “Ability to ensure users with multiple sites with different SQL servers have matched information in databases”

SPR 681697- “Allow the database to support multi-site replication”

 

Follow the steps below if you would like to vote for these enhancement requests and receive an e-mail notification when their statuses change. The more votes an enhancement request receives, the more likely that it will be implemented in a future release.

  1. Log into the SOLIDWORKS Customer Portal (customerportal.solidworks.com)
  2. Click Enhancement Requests under the My Support section
  3. Search the SPR number and click on the search result
  4. Complete and submit the enhancement request form.

 

Alternative Setup with PDM Professional

SWE has functionality for linking project data with an Enterprise PDM/PDM Professional Vault. There are two methods for doing this, “Update files for PDM” and Check In/Check Out”. The latter gives a way to manage SWE projects between multiple sites. An outline of how this works is given below, but for details on configuration, please refer to the document “SOLIDWORKS Enterprise PDM Best Practice Workflow” located in your SWE program files. The default path is C:\Program Files\SOLIDWORKS Corp\SOLIDWORKS Electrical\Documentation\EN\ SWE_EPDM_Workflow_EN.pdf.

Firstly, each site should have its own SWE server to which the users at that site connect over a local network. Install these servers using the SWE server installation guide for your version. Refer to the article, SOLIDWORKS Electrical Installation: Start Here.

When a user at one site has created a project that they want to put into the vault, they can use Projects Manager > Check In, to push a copy of the project data into the vault. They are offered the option “Project is in progress” or “Project is complete”. Selecting “in progress” will keep the vaulted copy of the project data checked out to the user who is checking it in. Selecting “complete” will check in the copy of the project data, and remove the local copy of the project from that site’s SWE server.

 

Once the project is checked in with the “complete” option, users at other sites will be able to use Projects Manager > Check Out, to check out the vaulted copy of the project and make a local copy of it in their site’s SWE server. At this point, they can continue working on the project. While it is checked out, no other sites will be able to check out that project.

There are a few limitations to be aware of with this functionality. Firstly, the user and machine that checks out a project must be the same as the user and machine that checks it back in. So if User A at Site A checked out the project, User B at Site A will not be able to check it back in to make it accessible to Site B; User A must do this. Secondly, the libraries (symbols, parts, etc.) at each site will not be automatically synchronized. The archive/unarchive functionality must be used to transfer this information between sites. Refer to the section below for more on these methods. Finally, this functionality is not available with PDM Standard or Workgroup PDM.

 

Alternative Setup without PDM Professional

As with the PDM Professional method, each site should have its own SWE server, installed using the SWE server installation guide for your version (refer to SOLIDWORKS Electrical Installation: Start Here).

The archive/unarchive functionality in SWE provides a method of sharing data between sites. Individual projects can be archived using the Archive button in the Projects Manager. If the resulting tewzip file is saved to a network location accessible to all sites, other sites will be able to unarchive the project (using the Unarchive button in the Projects Manager) to their SWE server and continue working on it. There are no automatic controls for managing which site is working on the latest version of a project, so this must be communicated between sites.

 

To share library information, the archive/unarchive environment functions can be used. The default options for this tool will give all SWE data (projects and libraries), but the environment archive can be customized to exclude certain items. Uncheck the items to exclude at the Selection tab of the archive environment wizard.

 

Also, the individual managers on the Library tab of SWE (e.g. Symbols Manager, Manufacturer Parts Manager) have localized archive/unarchive functionality, allowing you to select certain library items to archive.

 

Note that this same functionality can be applied when a user is working remotely from a site with a standalone SWE installation. In that case, their own machine functions as the SWE client and server. Suitable archives should be obtained and saved on their machine prior to working off site.

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