On the road to becoming an engineer, what they don’t tell you about is how much menial labor goes into documenting and supporting an electrical system you’ve helped design. Sourcing spec sheets, entering project data cell-by-cell into Excel, and if something changes, recalling with perfect clarity the numerous places that need to be updated. It can be very easy to spend just as much time documenting a project as drafting it!
We’ve found in many different companies we’ve worked with over the years that a pattern emerges in how organizations tend to manage an electrical project from conception to completion. At the start, you may find yourself with bits and pieces of the design’s requirements that ultimately manifest themselves into a rough set of drawings or block diagrams outlining the high-level system. These are refined as time progresses until a more comprehensive set of schematics have been developed, reviewed and approved for release.
However, somewhere along the way, supporting documentation for the system begins to come together in an often chaotic manner. Data about the project is collected and usually added to a spreadsheet with varying degrees of automation. While possibly tedious, this process can be streamlined given enough repetition and a skilled designer. But only to an extent. This is because the data is always disconnected from the source – the drawings. So when changes occur, the responsibility falls on the designer to ensure the various lists associated with a project are up to date and accurate.
SOLIDWORKS Electrical, on the other hand, approaches this from a different direction. Whenever you place a symbol, assign a part number to a device, or draw a wire in a schematic, the system automatically accounts for the item in a SQL database behind the scenes. Every bit of information you provide the software is tabulated and organized for you. Reports also provide a way of reclaiming that data and consolidating it down to only the records you need to see. Whether that’s a BOM, wire run list, PLC I/O list, or something more unique to your industry, the tool works to help produce the report in a clean, dependable, and repeatable fashion for you.
Reports in SOLIDWORKS are also highly configurable. While the developers were keen to think ahead and provide many common reports right out of the box, many will see these as merely a launching point. Since reports, at their core, are SQL queries, the configuration can be as simple as reorganizing columns and break conditions, or as complex as editing the query directly.
Communicating the Data
While this tool can capture this information and regurgitate it back to you, very often you are not the intended audience. At the end of the day, reports communicate a large amount of information concisely to someone else in the organization who has use for it. This might be someone in procurement that is sourcing the necessary components for the project, or a technician on the shop floor troubleshooting a problem. SOLIDWORKS Electrical is capable of exporting this data to common file formats (XLS, XML, TXT) to ensure it can be processed efficiently by project stakeholders downstream. It can also automatically draft the tables to report drawings within the project - complete with your title blocks - to build a more comprehensive and professional deliverable for your clients or internal teams.
Helpful Error Checks
One question remains: if the schematics are the single source of truth, how do we ensure they accurately reflect our expectations for the project? Garbage in, garbage out – if the schematics have mistakes, so will our reports. Not to worry! SOLIDWORKS Electrical has your back here as well. Design Rule Checks are a function within the tool very similar to reports. Instead of presenting a ton of data from the project, they process it by comparing records in the database and looking for errors. Some commonly used examples include:
- Checking for parts that have been assigned to the project but never actually used
- Checking connected wires to ensure they are an appropriate gauge
- Duplicated cross-references (multiple parents)
- Locating disconnected wires
- Locating cables/devices without a part assignment
- … and many more!
Just like reports, these are also built on SQL queries and are infinitely configurable. If there’s a problem that you find your team is frequently encountering, it’s nice to know you’ve got a solution baked into the design tool you’re using rather than depending on often expensive custom programming.SOLIDWORKS Electrical is a robust and feature-rich tool that puts in the work so you don’t have to (not as much, anyway). Hopefully, this webinar and blog series has helped highlight some of the standout ways the application can make you more proficient, organized and profitable! As always, thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for more!
Watch the full on-demand webinar to dive into the reporting functions available in SOLIDWORKS Electrical that allow you to automate the publication of BOMs, wire run lists, and I/0 lists directly from the associative schematic drawings.