Migrating to SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard or Professional

Article by Eric van Essen updated December 9, 2015


Loading files into SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard or Professional can be very easy.  Because the PDM tools are built on Windows Explorer architecture it can literally be as simple as drag and drop, but there are a few things to keep in mind when populating your new vault.

This article provides direction on the tools and techniques that are available for migrating to SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard or Professional; and I recommend that you invest time with a PDM Implementation Specialist to figure out which techniques are going to work best for you.

Consideration #1: Current Location of Data

The majority of PDM implementations that we perform are with clients that currently have files in Windows Explorer.  This has the advantage of being relatively simple but has a major disadvantage of typically being a major mess.  You can theoretically drag and drop an entire folder structure from Windows Explorer into your new SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard Vault but it will be important to create a strategy for the other considerations.

The second most common location for our clients files to reside in is an existing SOLIDWORKS Workgroup PDM Vault.  As you are likely aware, it was recently announced that Workgroup PDM will be retired in the next couple of years.  Because of this, we have been working hard on options to give to our clients that plan on Migrating to SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard or Professional without breaking the bank.  The unfortunate reality is that the process is fairly complex and requires a utility and proper know how to make this possible.  You do have the option of caching projects locally and dragging them into the new PDM vault one at a time in the appropriate project folder.  Depending on the amount of data this may or may not be a viable option.

If your data is not in one of these two locations, Migrating to SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard or Professional may be challenging but definitely not impossible.  At Javelin Technologies we have experienced staff with literally decades of experience handling the most complicated migrations and can help make a plan that makes sense for your company.  Regardless of what your goals or budget are, I highly encourage our clients (or companies considering us as a PDM Services provider) to schedule a PDM planning call with us to figure out what will be the most cost effective option.

Consideration #2: File References

File references are without a doubt one of the biggest pains when it comes to migration.  The good news is, once the file references have been established in the new PDM Standard vault all of your file reference errors you have had in the past will go away.   Ideally the files are moved in to the vault in a way that moves all references over in a clean way.  A great way to do this is loading up the assembly in SOLIDWORKS and using the “pack and go” tool. This can be great for important large projects but can be fairly time consuming for a large number of projects or files in distributed folder structures.

If files are dragged over to the PDM Vault without moving the file references, there are a couple key tools and techniques that you must be aware of.

Update References Tool

The most important one is the “Update References…” tool available in the “Tools” drop down menu.  By selecting an assembly and selecting this tool, your PDM vault will attach file references assuming the file that is being looked for is already stored in the vault.  It is important to perform this task before the initial check in of the assembly.

Migrating to SOLIDWORKS PDM Standard or Professional

PDM Update References in Windows Explorer

This tool can be a lifesaver, but if you have duplicate file names, you may still have issues making sure your files are pointing to the correct instance of a file.  If this is a situation you are in, it would be highly recommended that you familiarize yourself with some common ways to manipulate which instance of a file is being used.  I believe there are 7 possible sources that are used to try to find a broken file reference.  Most of them are variations of the expected folder path, but the most important two (which are actually the first two spots where SOLIDWORKS looks) that you must be aware of when manipulating references are “Active Memory” and “Referenced Documents” folder locations in your options.  If you would like to force SOLIDWORKS to start using a specific reference, you must either open that document first or add the folder to the “Referenced Documents” in the system options.

Export Search Results to Excel

There are many advantages of using SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional, but when it comes to loading files, there is one piece of functionality that is incredibly helpful.  That is the ability to export search results to an excel spreadsheet.  With this ability, it can be incredibly easy to generate a report of duplicate file names and create a todo list.  You can also export an entire spreadsheet of all of the custom properties as well and with the PDM Professional API, Javelin Technologies has developed utilities that bulk update these properties.  Depending on the status of your existing design data, PDM Professional can make all the difference and easily justify the additional expense during migration alone.

Consideration #3: File Properties

To get the most out of your new PDM vault, it is important to put some thought into the attributes that you would like to use.  In the PDM system, they are referred to as “Variables” and can be bidirectionally linked to “Custom Properties” of SOLIDWORKS files.   It is critical that you get your variables setup correctly prior to loading in your data because if you don’t, the existing properties will not be indexed and searchable.  To figure out which attributes you would like to set up in your data cards, you should compile a list using these sources:

  1. Existing custom properties from SolidWorks files (look at parts, assemblies and drawings)
  2. Existing attributes in current PDM system
  3. Desired Bill of Materials
  4. Desired Title Block
  5. Desired Search Capabilities
  6. Desired Project Properties

There are also some common properties that we add which are automated such as dates and users who create or approve the files.  These are automated by PDM once they are setup and can be highly valuable for searching and understanding the history of a file.  A very nice capability of SOLIDWORKS PDM is the ability to drive folder level attributes into the files themselves.  This can be very helpful for automatically updating title blocks of drawings with project information or copying entire projects and having all of the title blocks automatically updated.  SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional also offers a few advantages here as well.  The most notable one is the use of “PDM Templates” as well as “Centralized Lists”.  With PDM Professional it can be much quicker to create your folder structures and have the attributes of the projects populated in a standardized way which may save a great deal of time if there are a large number of projects.  It also has the added benefit of adding a larger degree of quality/predictability to the data.

Consideration #4: Revision and Status

It is important to make a plan with how you handle your current revision and status of files.  If you are migrating from Workgroup PDM, it is possible to map both of these to a PDM Standard or Professional vault.  The mapping exercise can be a great deal of work and if one or both of them aren’t used effectively, you may choose to save effort and cost by leaving some of this information behind in the legacy system.  With the announcement of PDM Standard 2016, SOLIDWORKS also announced new added functionality of mapping revisions after the fact.  Essentially this functionality allows you to use a PDM Variable to set the current revision level.  If the revision level is not mapped correctly and the revision level is bumped during a workflow approval process, you can have scenarios where the revision level moves backwards.

PDM Set Revision

PDM Set Revision in SOLIDWORKS PDM 2016

A common technique that is used as well for interpreting and setting information is workflow automatic transitions.  This technique is limited to PDM Professional so it is not available to everyone.  Essentially in PDM Professional you have the ability to set up “Conditions” and “Actions” during “Automatic Transitions” which can interpret your existing custom properties and use those to take certain actions such as setting the proper revision counter or status.  There are other scenarios as well where this technique can become very handy and can be an invaluable tool to have available when cleaning up a new PDM Vault.

Consideration #5: Timing

Lastly, another important consideration is timing.  The two key aspects of timing are when and how long the migration will take.  With larger design teams, it is common that we scheduled Workgroup PDM to PDM Professional migrations over the weekend to minimize the amount of time that a designer would spend without a PDM System in place.  Naturally, if more time is required to perform the migration, this will also affect your down time.  While working with a reseller that is going to perform the migration, it is critical that you make a plan together on these details.

If there is time where the designers will be working without a vault in place, it will be important to keep careful track of which files are being modified so that any updated files can be checked into the new vault once it’s in place, while keeping in mind the other considerations in this article.


Although there are many considerations, getting your data into your new PDM Vault does not need to be difficult. In fact, more often than not it can go incredibly smoothly and quickly.  However, if you are unfamiliar with these discussed considerations, I cannot emphasize enough how beneficial it will be to your organization to budget for some PDM Implementation time to help with this highly important task.  Learn about our PDM upgrade service to migrate data into your new SOLIDWORKS PDM Vault »

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Eric van Essen

I have been working with Javelin for 10 years and now have the role as director of products where I oversee the ramp up of new solutions for our customers or potential customers.