A Complete Guide To Getting Your SOLIDWORKS Users Ready For 2016

At this point in the year, many people have forgotten all about their New Year’s resolutions but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get organized! There’s still time to make 2016 your users best SOLIDWORKS year ever. Below is a complete guide you can follow, broken down into five big categories. Download the easy-to-follow worksheet.

Step 1: Survey Your Existing SOLIDWORKS Installs For These Five Crucial Things

Survey Your Existing SOLIDWORKS Installs For These Five Crucial ThingsNo one likes to floss, everyone hates keeping their receipts for tax purposes, and we all have that three year old folder of papers that says “URGENT- SORT AND ORGANIZE”. But every now and then, a little housekeeping is good to keep your assets in order.

The start of a new year is as good a time as any to collect information about your existing SOLIDWORKS deployment. And although there are hundreds of things to note about CAD use in your company, our experience has found these five are the most important:

  1. The serial number of SOLIDWORKS on that computer
  2. The SOLIDWORKS products on that computer (i.e. Standard, Professional, Premium, and other tools like PDM, Simulation or Inspection)
  3. Who is using that seat?
  4. What they are using it for? (Initial design, detailed design, just viewing finished files, Simulation, sheet metal, etc.)
  5. And how often? (I.e. is the license in use 20% of the day, 50%, or 100%?)

With just those five pieces of information you can learn some important facts about your company like:

  • Do we have too few SOLIDWORKS licenses?
  • Do we have too many SOLIDWORKS licenses?
  • Can our licenses be moved or consolidated to make things more efficient?
  • What are we really using our CAD for?

The answer to the last question might surprise you, and is helpful for our remaining steps. Optionally, you could also collect information about the computer hardware your SOLIDWORKS seats are being run on. The checklist linked at the start and end of this article is already formatted for you to record the information for this step and all the others.

Step 2: Make A SOLIDWORKS Budget (That’s More Than Just Dollars)

Make A SOLIDWORKS Budget For 2016 (That’s More Than Just Dollars)At CAPINC, our best SOLIDWORKS customers (that’s the ones who get the most out of the software, not the ones who buy the most stuff from us) don’t just set aside dollars to maintain their CAD each year, they set aside time. Besides planning on days for upgrades, training, and database cleanup, they also set aside one to two afternoons a month to have internal, management-approved, SOLIDWORKS User Meetings. At these meetings users can share CAD tips, help each other overcome modeling challenges, and create standard practices everyone can agree on.

Middle managers will tell you how expensive it is to have all your best engineers gathered in a meeting all afternoon. But project managers will tell you how much MORE expensive it is to have one of your engineers find a great way to do something, not tell anyone else about it, and then have to undo all his work at the end of the project so it matches up with everyone else’s process.

Things sorted out at internal user groups can be seemingly trivial but eventually super important questions like:

  • Do we use configurations for different sizes of a part (Short, Long), different use cases (Door open, Door closed), or for different approaches to a solution (Larry’s idea, Sandy’s idea)?
  • How much do we rename feature tree features and sketches so other engineers can understand what we’re doing?
  • What should be an assembly and what should be a multi-body part file?

For anyone who thinks internal SolidWorks user groups aren’t worth your time, just imagine collecting SOLIDWORKS files at the end of a project where two different engineers had two different answers to any of the above questions. Ouch.

So as you’re making your SOLIDWORKS budget for 2016, sure, set aside money for subscription, maybe upgrading your hardware, and user training (more on that in a second) but also set aside time for things like:

  • One day a year, usually around December, to upgrade your machines to the new version (required- 2016 is pretty awesome)
  • One day a year, usually around May, to apply a mid-year service pack to your machines (optional- SP’s aren’t always needed)
  • One day a year to update your templates/design libraries with all the little changes your users have been asking for all year
  • One day a month to back-up your CAD files (and test the back-up from last month!)
  • One afternoon a month for your SOLIDWORKS users to have an internal users group meeting (CAPINC can help you get this started if you’d like)

These budget items and more are in the downloadable worksheet.

Step 3: Upgrade To SOLIDWORKS Version 2016, But Back Up These Three Things First!

Upgrade To SOLIDWORKS Version 2016, But Back Up These Three Things First!Every SOLIDWORKS upgrade breaks down into three basic phases: back-up your data, upgrade your servers, and then upgrade your clients. People stumble into the last two, but often forget the first. The things you’ll want to back-up are what might be lost/altered by the upgrade: each user’s SOLIDWORKS settings, the shared document templates/part libraries and the shared toolbox.

Your actual design data shouldn’t need to be backed up for an upgrade, since only information in the SOLIDWORKS installation directories will be altered. And if you are saving actual design data inside your SOLIDWORKS installation directories… why?

Backing up user settings is done with the Copy Settings Wizard program, which stores a user’s toolbars, keyboard shortcuts, and system options, such as where to look for shared things, in a simple text file.

To back up shared document templates and libraries, first you need to find the location of those by going (on each computer) to “Tools…Options… File Locations…” How many of these locations you back up is up to you, but it’s at least worth doing your Templates, your Custom Property file, and your Design Library.

It’s also worth noting that the move to a new version is a great time to finally go through those same three things and adding that linked drawing field or part property your users are always asking for. (And because of Step 2, we’ve budgeted for this time.)

The third thing you might want to back up is the largest, but also the most optional. Each version SOLIDWORKS upgrades its Toolbox of screws, bolts and fasteners, so if you’re just a casual user of Toolbox, you don’t need to back that large database up- the upgrade will take care of it. If, however, your company has heavily customized your Toolbox, adding part numbers, custom properties and sizes of thousands of components, you may want to back it up before your upgrade. Just to be safe. Find the location of your shared toolbox at “Tools…Options… Hole Wizard/Toolbox…” and set aside some backup space.   (A Toolbox can be 400 Mb or more.)

After all the back-ups, you’ll start upgrading the servers. This can (and should) be done before upgrading any of the clients. For folks using only standalone seats of SOLIDWORKS, congratulations! You don’t have any servers and you can move on to the next step!

But for those using networked SOLIDWORKS seats, you have a SolidWorks Network License (SNL) server, which is a snap to upgrade. Simply drop in the DVD or start the installer on the server, follow the prompts and you’ll be done in less than 10 minutes. Don’t worry, a 2016 SNL server can serve licenses to clients a few years older than it.

For those using the program formerly known as EPDM (now called PDM Professional in 2016) you actually have an SNL and two more servers, a Database server and an Archive server. The steps to upgrade a Database server and an Archive server are too many to list in a blog post, but are in the downloadable PDF that comes with this article.

After the servers come your actual clients. Each SOLIDWORKS client might take about 30-40 minutes to upgrade, and if you have more than five clients, you may want to consider creating an Administrative Image. That is one installation package that can be given to all the clients to make sure they all install the same thing. It will still take 30-40 minutes per client, but now those times can overlap and be done without you there. (You may also want to make an Admin Image if you’re a control freak, as it makes sure everyone is installing the same thing.)

For people using PDM Professional, you will also need to upgrade the PDM clients.

Finally, once your servers and clients are all on the same version, you will want to read the entire 232 page “What’s New 2016” PDF and teach the highlights of the new version to all your co-workers.

If you think that’s a lot of work, keep in mind that CAPINC offers a service where we come to your office, do all the back-ups, upgrades and installs of the new version for you AND provide a one hour What’s New session, all in just one day’s consulting. And we bring pizza.

As we said before, SOLIDWORKS 2016 is pretty awesome, you can find out about the new enhancements here, so it’s worth upgrading to make your users happier and more productive. Just make sure to back up those three things and cover the What’s New so they get the full benefit. (Or have us do it.)

Step 4: Take This Training Class If You Are In This Industry

Take This Training Class If You Are In This IndustrySo by now you’ve surveyed your users so you know what they’ve got installed and what they use SOLIDWORKS for, you’ve made a budget for the year which includes money and time for improving those users, and you’ve got the new version installed.

What else can you do to make those users successful?

While there are people out there who think you don’t need SOLIDWORKS training, what other piece of heavy machinery would you spend thousands of dollars on and not have an expert train you in person before using it? Would you buy a motorcycle and only watch some three minute YouTube videos before driving away? How about a chainsaw? A hang-glider?

A lot of people take our SOLIDWORKS Essentials training, but then drop away before the advanced stuff, just as things are getting really interesting! What they don’t realize is how much their industry affects which Advanced class ‘is right’ for them, so below is a matrix of which class you should take if you work in what field, with an explanation why:

If you work in…
You should take…
For This Reason…
Consumer Products Design *Advanced Parts 

*Advanced Surfacing 

Advanced Parts covers top-down modeling which is key for your device to have an integrated, organic look. Adv. Surfacing covers how to get the fluid, curvature continuous faces consumers crave.
Plastic Mold Design *Advanced Parts

*Advanced Surfacing

Oddly enough, making injection molds requires a lot of integrated, top-down design too, and shut-off surfaces and parting surfaces are well, surfaces.
Aerospace/Defense *Advanced Assemblies Got large assemblies? Parts that need to change size when another part in the assembly does? Complex mechanisms or interlocks? Military contractors, this is the class for you.
Sheet Metal Fabrication *Sheet Metal Duh.
Document Control/Drafting *Advanced Drawings The hotline question we get most about drawings is how to link title block fields to information coming from the part files. This class covers that and every other trick you need to know to meet your drafting standard.
A Pro/Engineer Or Inventor Company That’s Switch Over *SOLIDWORKS Reboot You know enough to get bored in a normal Essentials class, but you still need to be trained out of all those home-grown CAD tricks you don’t need to use anymore since SOLIDWORKS 2016 has grown past them.

Again, this matrix and more training options are in the attached checklist here.

Step 5: Consider Finally Tracking And Protecting Your SOLIDWORKS Files, Especially Now That It’s Sorta Free

Consider Finally Tracking And Protecting Your SOLIDWORKS Files, Especially Now That It’s Sorta FreeOne of the biggest and farthest reaching SOLIDWORKS resolutions you can make for 2016 is to finally put your company’s intellectual property, the CAD files you have spent months or years building, in a secure location that is backed up, protected from being overwritten, and easy for everyone to search.

Most companies put off protecting their irreplaceable data because of cost or hassle, the same reason most put off stocking our emergency cabinet. One of the biggest changes for 2016 was the introduction of PDM Standard, little brother to our full-scale data management system, PDM Professional (formerly Enterprise PDM).

Our biggest customers usually have some sort of PDM plus a company-wide Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) system, to track their designs from cradle to grave, which takes a lot of IT overhead and dollars. Our medium sized customers usually just have the PDM Professional system, since that’s all you need to pass an FDA or DoD audit. That takes a medium amount of IT staff and dollars.

But our smallest customers, who have the least IT support, usually just let all their intellectual property just hang out in Windows folders, which we’ve already discussed as being a bad idea. But since PDM Standard is now included in SOLIDWORKS Professional and Premium, this may be the year to finally protect your data.

And for our smaller customers or those with over-worked IT staff, CAPINC can also come on site to install, configure and train your users on how to use PDM, just like we could help out with the yearly upgrades back in Step 3. In fact, we can do both at the same time, to make sure your company’s CAD assets are all new and shiny for 2016.

So if you want help doing any of the tasks on this article, or in the downloadable checklist, please give us a call at CAPINC. Unlike going to the gym, drinking less coffee or finally writing that great American novel, getting your CAD users rocking and rolling for 2016 is one resolution you don’t have to tackle alone.

CAPINC was founded on one core principle: Provide the best solutions and services to assist our customers in designing and developing better products. CAPINC provides premier solutions and services in New England to assist our customers in accelerating their design and development process for better mechanical products. Our award winning technical support team is comprised of industry experts with hundreds of years of combined practical experience in mechanical design, design validation and analysis, product data management, and technical communication. We are the award winning 3D solutions partner offering SolidWorks software and training, and the entire Stratasys line of 3D printers and production systems. For more tech tips and blog tutorials check out CAPINC's blog and videos.