Sunday, May 1, 2011

Initial Days...Struggling and getting to know Windchill

I began my career in PLM in 2008. I began with getting trained on Windchill 8.0 functionality. No doubt when I was being trained on Windchill I began to realize that this was a huge product and I knew it could take me years to develop myself as an expertise over this product.

When you are actually new to PLM the first thing you wonder ‘Does this thing really help?’…I was pretty confused when I began Windchill and with its vast range of features always made me think how is it actually time saving…which is PLM’s biggest advantage..reduce TIME…from conception to reality.

The best way to learn Windchill would be to start using it. You can’t realize its actual use without using it. When you work on it as an admin you need to be aware of its huge list of feature which is almost next to impossible. There are a few people who actually know all of its features. But that definitely is a long shot. Sometimes it actually confused me. What module serves what purpose?

That’s where I was so involved in a team activity since there are many engineers in your team who all together know different bits and pieces of the software. You can’t work if you cannot communicate. You can learn more by giving away your knowledge. Working with juniors was a always a treat since sometimes you used to find out something that would discover. That’s what I enjoyed. I also see a great deal of interaction on PTC users forum where each and every Windchill users gets together to share information.

Before joining PLM I had very less or experience on actual CAD softwares because I had a Computer engineering background. Initial times were funny for me when I used to hear things like wtparts, epmdocuments and it bounced off my head. I had my previous career developing applications in Java but this was an entirely new field for me.

When it comes to Windchill functionality it covers a very wide scope of any industry process which are into vivid business mostly manufacturing. Creating such a software which has many modules and binding them together so that they can work together is surely a tedious job. But once they get together , things move pretty smoothly. The challenge is to understand how these modules are coupled together. If you are a newbie in Windchill you need to know that it’s going to be at least 2 years down the line when you will get yourself acknowledged with this software completely. If you want to make it simpler you need to understand its actual business purpose. If you don’t have the actual process knowledge on which Windchill is based, even simple things can seem tough and time consuming.

There are hundreds may be thousands of engineers who actually use a one Windchill system. Maintaining the performance of the system and administering its background softwares mainly Tomcat and Oracle is one of main things to get acknowledged with. Very frankly it isn’t an easy job, since usage of the system varies hour to hour. Increasing the Memory and clearing the caches is not the answer to every problem. Sometimes it is actually the other way around. Performance tuning is many-a-times a time consuming activity. When we are into performance tuning we need to set our own expectations first. I had worked on an issue where in opening of folder took 2-3 minutes which was clearly unacceptable to anyone. Analysis was done on this issue for about 2 weeks and then the time was brought down to 5 seconds. The issue was escalated again saying ‘5 seconds’ is unacceptable which lead to many angry engineers who spent time on the issue. When performance tuning is done we need to take care if there is any other module that may get affected performance wise if changes are made of one module. We need to decide our priority and expectation.

One of the most important things I learned when working on Windchill was ‘Patience’. Windchill is such a huge product and there is only one log file which reports it. It just prints it out there and you are the one who needs to find the culprit. Mostly it happens that the same error occurs for different issues. I had encountered an error of ‘unknown webname‘ after installing an OOTB Windchill 9.1. I knew what had gone wrong and I instantly went ahead and wrote a technical document on it. Next day morning I had an email from one of the senior engineers stating that it was ‘wrong’. I immediately setup a meeting with him and showed him why I wrote this document. But after that he showed me 3 other documents which had the same issue reported. The thing to notice was that the root cause was different. So you even though the error is same the root cause was different.

I spent most of my time in PTC on server administration, working on Tuning performances and also Enterprise down situations. EDOWN is a worst thing that can happen to an engineer….especially if it comes on Friday J. When I used to get EDOWNs I used to be in tremendous amount from pressure from my managers and client and their managers. The challenge at this would be cope up with that pressure and get on with your job and fix the issue. I had several cases when client used to start a fight and get frustrated. I would assume this an obvious case that even they had a sword hanging on their neck. My worst EDOWN was when I had a French guy who was sitting in South Africa. He had no idea how to speak English and I had no French tongue and the EDOWN went on ‘chat’ me using Google Translate to figure out what that guy was saying. At a time I got frustrated with all that and asked him if he could wait till the EU guys came up. He said that he could lose his job if I did not help him fix it. I had no choice but to help him at that time.

After that I spent about 3 years in PTC working on various modules of Windchill and it was a wonderful journey.


  1. Mast Blog hai Rohan! Thnx for sharing! Interesting indeed!

  2. Ur blog is nice rohan .
    I want to learn windchill. Can you suggest me where I can learn it in delhi NCR area.