Managing big projects with many variants/options via PLM

Hi all,

Just interested how people manage big projects electrical side of design.

Let's say you have 10 different machines, each of them may have up to 10 variants (i.e. different motor, more or less controls, extra light or usb charger). But majority of say wiring looms are the same and in some cases very similar. 

It is obvious that just like other OEM's we will look how to standardize the design in a such way that you can have options without having different looms. 

How do people manage these things? I see great benefit of having entire system in one project file but what if your PLM software cannot handle variants inside the file? How do you work around this?

Thanks for replies,




  • I don't use it but E3 has a concept of "sub-projects" within the project, for the Revision Management tool; Zuken might use it for their PLM bridges as well.

    You could look into that.

  • Hi Tom,

    Unless you have some specific special requirements most PLM software wouldn't care too much what's inside the drawing, let us know if you have more specific requirements.

    Usually each of your 10 machines would have a composite drawing which includes all of the necessary options, basic PLM functionality wouldn't distinguish what's inside of each drawing as long as you're able to lookup each PN and track revision history.

  • Thank you for your replies.

    Let's say you have one vehicle which has 10 variants. Main parts (i.e. main wiring loom) is the same but small bits are different (let's say 110/220 output variants). Ideally, I would like to have a single file where you have complete system for that particular vehicle, for obvious reasons - it would be easy to check and make changes and also would help aftersales support technicians. Not to forget this "big file" would need to be taken into single drawings/parts so the supplier gets documentation to make specific part of the system. 

    The question is, if other 9 machines share 70% of components and layout, I don't want to create 10 "big files" and whenever there is a change to main components, go through every file - this would be so time consuming. An "file into file" integration would be something that would do the job. I was looking into sub-circuit option, but I'm unable to find edit option once you create one.

    It's not easy to describe my concern but I hope someone has faced similar issue and gets the point.

  • @Tomas,

    What you are describing is exactly what we are hoping to do at my company with E3.  I know that some CAD software (PTC Creo (Pro/E), AutoCAD, and maybe others) call the concept you are describing and application of a "family table". 

    Family Table description:

    We commonly use a family table on a print for mechanical parts and for system designs where the core of the design is the same and a few features are different per part number.  We regularly do something similar for PCB design where we have a common PCB with "assembly variants" (different component populations) for different products, all managed under single "project" in Altium Designer.  I'd like to do something similar with electrical design at that high/system level as you described in E3. 

    Recently I posted a similar question to yours here:

    I've yet to follow-up on the proposed ideas, but I am getting the feeling that it will simply take some experimentation to figure out if E3's variant/options functionality can do this "out of box".  Comments are sounding positive, but it sounds like generating the family table itself might be a manual process until scripting can be setup.

    Not sure if that helps, other than to tell you that you are not alone in this quest.


    Art Graf

  • Hi Arthur, 

    Thanks for your reply, good to know someone is facing similar challenge.

    We currently looking into our PLM software and how it can construct product family tree but I can't see how it would integrate with e3 (other than manual setup every single time). 

    I believe DS-E3 has abilities to do what we are describing but this is really something you'd expect to come with the standard package and in this case software costs would go up despite spending a lot money already. I'll have to contact tech support and ask for more details and pricing. It's hard to imagine majority e3 users could live without such features..




  • @Tomas,

    You make a good point here that I didn't touch on.  There are two levels of integrating with PLM:

    1. Direct PLM integration (what we are just starting to do with our MCAD/Creo) - I have little experience with this, but am aware that in some cases CAD/ECAD can talk directly with the PLM system to build the Bill of Material automatically in the PLM from what data is available in CAD.  Additionally, one can drive the item (or find) numbers of each component part within the assembly (within CAD) so that it matches the PLM.

    2. Manual PLM linking (my initial hope for E3) - drawings output from CAD are synced with PLM by hand - Building the BOM, assigning item numbers, etc.  Everything is manually on both sides.

    My point in bringing this up is that I currently do option 2 for standard (non family table) drawings. (It sounds like you may be desiring option 1?)  My hope is that E3 can actually generate a usable family table type drawing without too much effort (that is, hopefully no custom scripting).  This definitely seems like something E3 should have the capability to do especially since they offer variant/options functionality.  I guess time (and testing) will tell.

  • Hi Arthur,

    It is getting very interesting. 

    As we are in 2019 and industry already runs on v4 I cannot imagine doing these things manually. It should be all automatic thus removing as much as possible of potential human error. 

    We currently use PLM for our MCAD files (and it is all directly integrated) we do need similar solution for E3. I am pretty sure this can be achieved by splitting entire system file into singles - in other words, each loom would be separate file and then linked with PLM. But this removes great features of the E3. I really want to see entire system together in one piece and do the changes without needing to manually replicate & check the changes between single files.

    Sadly there is no videos of DS-2 and we'll have to wait for sales rep to turn up and show around all of it's features.

    BUT this means having another PLM system. Why it has to be so complicated for such basic requirements..

    Where are you based, Arthur? We're going to ZIW in September and will raise this issue in Q&A's.




  • Hi!

    Maybe here you can get some more information?


    Best regards

    Michele Mura

  • Hi Michele, 

    I have seen this already and sadly it does not provide any real-life data samples.

    I believe this can only be done in front of you by the representative, which we already contacted.



  • Tomas,

    Interesting discussion, indeed...

    I would like to see end to end integration with our PLM system, but right now, I am one of two users of E3 in my company and am trying to promote its use internally.  I'm still attempting to show that E3 can in fact meet our needs with these common design cases like family table assemblies.  At least here, integration and automation will have to come later.

    I welcome your bringing this subject up at ZIW.  Anything they can do to ease the "on ramp" to generating common types of drawings will help.  I am hopeful E3 will come through for us without significant effort or cost.  Anything different will be an impediment to acceptance within my company.

    We are based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.



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