Category Archives: News

Tell a Story with Aligni ECM

The essence of product lifecycle management (PLM) is to engage with the life of your product throughout its entire lifecycle – from conceptualization to development, from prototype to production, through maintenance, and ultimately obsolescence. Engineering change management (ECM) is the documentation process that tells this story. It’s hard enough for one person to build one product and remember all the twists and turns that brought them through today.

This month, we’re rolling out Aligni’s new ECM feature. Aligni’s ECM has been developed to provide a simple, easy-to-use workflow, a clean interface, and the integration you’d expect to other Aligni pages making ECM documentation easy to find for your parts and assemblies. ECM at the enterprise service level includes approval workflow for role-based management of the change process.

With ECM, you can create engineering change requests (ECR), link them to engineering change orders (ECO), then link the ECO to a part revision to fully track the proposal, discussion, evaluation, and implementation of requested changes.

Every organization handles changes a bit differently – priorities vary from company to company and your approach to change documentation needs to reflect your company’s values and purpose. Configurable ECM parameters allow you to customize your site’s ECM to work perfectly with your workflow and internal process terminology.

Discussions and attachments are a vital part of the change process. ECM discussions include a feature where participants can register their position on a proposed change or implementation as undecided, thumbs up, or thumbs down. This is separate from the approval process so even sites without approval workflow gain some documentation benefit from ECM participation.

Aligni ECM records allow you to list related items and affected items. These links include specific revisions of parts so you can quickly see which ECO were rolled into a revision update. We mentioned previously that ECM can help tell the story of a part’s evolution. This story becomes clear in the part revision history where links to all contributing ECO and ECR are connected to their corresponding revision. All of your change documentation is just a click away!

Documentation

For more information, please visit our Change Management documentation.

Aligni ECM Pricing and Availability

Aligni ECM is immediately available as part of all Large and Enterprise plans. Existing Medium plans are able to try out Aligni ECM for 60 days by emailing support. After the trial period, you will need to be on a Large or Enterprise plan to continue using ECM.

Minor API Update

An error in the API for subparts was recently brought to our attention. We will be deploying an update to the API over the weekend of June 24 / 25 but wanted to make you aware of the change. While we don’t believe anyone will be affected by this change, it is possible that some users quietly used the incorrect API data.

Before the change, the subpart tags in a part’s part listing used part_revision_id to incorrectly reference the PARENT’S part revision ID. You’ll note that this was already referenced in the revision tag.

The API update changes this so that the part_revision_id now correctly references the CHILD part revision.

Notice of New TLS 1.2 Requirement

TLS 1.2 Requirement

Starting 30 November 2016, TLS 1.2 will be required for all browser and API connections to Aligni. While many of you may not know what this means, the good news is that you probably don’t have to. TLS 1.2 is a protocol standard for secure internet connections. TLS 1.2 is supported by all recent major browsers. You can find a support matrix by visiting this page. The older your browser (or the more Microsofty it is), the less likely it is to support TLS 1.2 so make sure you’re using something up to date!

Aligni Replicator

The TLS 1.2 requirement also affects all API access. You will need to make sure that your API development environment supports TLS 1.2. Aligni Replicator 1.1.4 supports this and can be downloaded here. If you’re not using Replicator 1.1.4 by 30 November 2016, you will not be able to synchronize your local database.

Fall 2016 Newsletter

aligni-halloween-newsletter-masthead-v2-1200px

This update comes a bit later than we were hoping, but here are a few of the things we’ve been working on recently. We’ve got some great things coming in our next update, too!

GoogleAuthenticatorTwo-Factor Authentication

Aligni now supports optional Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) through use of the Google Authenticator smartphone app. By enabling 2FA for your account, a unique code is required in addition to your login credentials each time you login to Aligni.

Draft Revisions View

We’ve added Draft Revisions to the Engineering perspective of home screen so you now have a quick view of all draft parts as well as any draft revisions on existing released parts.
DraftParts@2x

URL Parameters

With the new URL custom parameter type, you can now add links to datasheets, web pages, or even intranet (internal) document storage. Links can have an optional text override in addition to the URL.
URL@2x

Part Import and Bulk Part Update (beta)

The Part Import tool now has a fresh new look and some usability improvements. Additionally, the tool now supports importing custom parameters from the CSV source.

Sometimes it becomes necessary to make broad changes to the items in your part database. This may be required after adding new custom parameters or other large scale updates. The new Bulk Part Update tool is intended to make this process easier. Just upload a CSV file with the changes you’d like to make and configure the tool to process those changes. Aligni will match to your part numbers and update the requested information. You have the option of making changes “in place” or creating new revisions.

This tool is considered BETA. If you use it, we would appreciate any feedback.

Equipment (Configuration Management)

Thanks to a recent sponsored development project, we’re happy to announce the availability of Equipment (documentation coming soon!). With the Equipment component, you can track the lifecycle of products throughout their operational life.

Equipment-LogbookEntries

Aligni already allows you to manage the product lifecycle from design, prototype, redesign, and production build. Now, you can manage the parts on these products after the build. Most commonly, this is used to manage parts, systems, and software of larger capital pieces of equipment such as aircraft or machine installations.

Approval Workflow (beta)

Approved@2xA new approval workflow is available to our Enterprise customers. It is currently supported for Purchasing and will be made available for ActiveQuote soon. It is also supported for the new Equipment / Configuration Management.

Miscellaneous Updates

We’ve made lots of other tweaks, adjustments, and improvements. Here’s an abbreviated list…

  • Attachments table in the Purchase email to vendors
  • API extensions to purchases
  • New “by vendor” part search filter
  • New “drafts” and “draft revisions” part search filters
  • …lots of other stuff and bug fixes…

Service Pricing Update

As of June 2015, new Aligni customers pay a monthly base fee and a monthly per-user fee. We will soon begin a transition plan for legacy customers to this new pricing. Please review our pricing matrix to see how this will affect your organization. All service upgrades from today forward will be done to the new pricing matrix.

Fall 2015 Newsletter

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a number of enhancements to Aligni and have more in progress. A number of these updates have been sponsored by customers through our Bespoke Support. Thank you for your continued interest in making Aligni awesome for all our customers!

Manual Inventory Adjustment Ledger

Parts-Inventory-AdjustRelative-B@2xSometimes there’s a lot going on with inventory: transfers, build reservations, and adjustment batches. Now, when making a manual inventory adjustment to an item, a new ledge is shown to help clarify exactly what changes will be effected.

Inventory Adjustment Batches

Bulk inventory adjustment batches are created from the Inventory Perspective on the home screen by clicking on “Adjust Inventory”. You can use these for all sorts of inventory reconciliation and cycle counting. Even though we just deployed this year, we decided to make some sweeping changes to improve the interface and make way for some additional features later. Now, inventory adjustment batches are done in a manner very similar to inventory transfers so you can store your progress on any pending batch and come back to it later.

InventoryAdjustments@2x

Builds Redesign and Performance Improvements

The build interfaces have gotten a major update and are now consistent with most of the Aligni user experience. Along the way, we’ve made some pretty dramatic improvements to performance. With large builds, you should see load and processing times reduced by up to 80%.

Build Deviations

Build-Deviations-Dropdown@2xHot out of development, Build Deviations will greatly improve the way you and your manufacturing manage and track deviations during the build cycle. You can add, remove, and substitute parts of a build during the planning stages and document those changes easily and clearly. Now that deviations can more precisely be handled at build time, we will soon be removing the part alternates management at the BOM level.

Builds-Deviations-Removals@2x

Builds-Deviations-Additions@2x

Inventory Transfers

The inventory transfers interface has gotten its facelift and now has a “Pull Ticket” feature. Oh, we also added this to builds.

Performance Improvements and Bugs Squashed

As usual, our developers continue to improve performance and close defects. We maintain our stand that bugs need to be first priority for any development and our low defect rate and fast response times are an indicator that we’re doing well in that regard. For all of you that have reported issues, thank you for doing so and helping us get to the bottom of things.

Help Us!

Please share your experience with Aligni with your colleagues and on social media! And if you have time, please drop by Capterra and offer up a review.

Spring 2015 Newsletter

Part Type Categories (Hierarchy)

PartTypeCategories@2xPart Types may now have parent categories, allowing you to define multi-level hierarchies of part types. Optionally, set the “Category Only” option to prevent parts from being added to a mid-level category.

Purchases Activity Tab

The Purchase View now has an additional “Activity” tab. When you submit a purchase order to vendors, Aligni now stores a copy of the email and purchase order PDF you sent so you can review it later. This is particularly helpful if you make changes to a purchase and submit those revisions to your vendor. You can now review previous submittals.

Purchases-ActivityTab@2x

Bulk Inventory Adjustments

Inventory-BulkAdjustments@2x

Inventory-AdjustmentQueue@2x

Performing inventory cycle counts and other bulk inventory adjustments just got a lot easier with Aligni! To get started, click on “Adjust Inventory” from the home page inventory perspective.

Select a part collection or inventory location and Aligni will populate the form with parts within your selection criteria. As you enter line-by-line adjustments, the adjustments are queued for review.

When you’re ready to commit the adjustments, click on the yellow inventory icon at the top of the navigation bar to see a list of the queued adjustments, remove individual adjustments, or commit them all with a common log message.

For more information, see the Bulk Inventory Adjustments documentation.

Partlist Export Templates

Part-ExportTemplates@2xStandardize your part list (and soon, kit list) CSV exports using Partlist Export Templates, available on the settings pages. You can select which columns to export and even specify their relative order in the CSV file. With export templates, your users will produce reliably-consistent CSV files every time.

Custom Parameter Search

We’ve cleaned up the part search filter and added new filter capabilities for finding parts by custom parameters. Check this out on the home page engineer perspective.

PartSearch@2x

Minor Updates

We’re constantly adding new features and adjusting existing ones for the ultimate user experience. Overall, we’ve made several (too many to mention!) performance and design improvements. We hope that these smaller tweaks improve your Aligni experience! For example…

Purchases and Quotes

We’ve added a new vendor selection interface and a new “Add a Part” link to add a single part to an RFQ or purchase.

Line item BOM details on the Where-Used

Click on the new “info” icon in the Part Usage area on a Part Details page to see the partlist entry for that part on the BOM including the quantity, reference designators, and comment.

Chrome 42+ and Dymo Label Printers

Google recently released Chrome version 42 in which they have disabled the key feature that allows web browsers to print to Dymo label printers. The Dymo software uses a feature called NPAPI for Chrome and other browsers. Google announced that they would remove this entirely in September 2015. With Chrome 42, they have disabled the feature.

To fix Dymo support in Chrome 42,

  1. Enable NPAPI by visiting the link chrome://flags/#enable-npapi and clicking “Enable”.
  2. Quit Chrome
  3. Re-install the Dymo DLS software

You should now be able to see that the plugin is enabled by visiting chrome://plugins

The folks at Dymo are still working on a solution to this issue for the long term.

Shiny New Welcome Page

Our designers continue the march to make Aligni more productive, more beautiful, and easier to use with a new Welcome Page design. Three switchable perspectives give you quick access to your most important items in a common look and feel.

Welcome-SupplyChain@2x

Welcome Page Perspectives

Three “perspectives” on the Welcome Page collect information related to Engineering, Supply Chain, and Inventory. Select between these perspectives to see summary information collected from your site.

Welcome-Perspectives@2x

For example, the Supply Chain perspective includes the familiar Build Manager (with some great new search and filtering options, by the way) as well as Quote and Purchasing Activities.

Welcome-Inventory-Transfers@2x Welcome-Inventory-ReceivePurchaseOrders@2x

Integrated Search Filters

Welcome-SearchFilters@2xWe’ve moved the part search filters to the Welcome Page now for faster access, eliminating extra clicks and page loads to find parts.

Part Favorites

Parts-Favorites@2xSearch in Aligni is pretty fast, but many users find themselves going to the same part pages often during project phases. Now you can tag often-visited parts quickly using the new Favorites feature. Just click on the Favorite Start at the top right of a part page and the part is instantly tagged as a favorite. Click again to untag. Favorites appear on the new Welcome Page in the Engineer Perspective.

Performance Improvements

Performance@2xWhile the designers have been doing their thing, our engineers have been working diligently to tune performance for demanding sites. The results are starting to pay off with dramatic decreases in page load times by up to 80%!

There’s more to come and we’re carefully monitoring activity to see which pages deserve the most attention based on their load time and popularity.

Lifecycle Parameters

LifecycleParameters@2xA great new addition is Lifecycle Parameters. These are parameters that can be edited at any time (by users with permission to edit lifecycle parameters) without the need to create a new revision and release. Lifecycle parameters are best suited to part attributes that change during the lifetime of a part and aren’t necessarily tied to the rigid release structure. For example, estimated cost and internal engineering status may change without the need to formally release a new revision.

Since Lifecycle Parameters can be changed at any time, their changes are logged on the part history tab.

Parts and Permissions – Fall Update

We’re excited to announce some significant changes to Aligni this fall with design and functionality updates to the Parts pages and Site Permissions. These changes will take effect soon on all sites but we wanted to give you a couple weeks to prepare for them. We invite you to take a look at our Demo Site and familiarize yourself with the updated interface.

We’ll also be updating the documentation pages soon with more detail on the updated functionality.

Permissions

Permissions-Parts@2xFirst, let’s talk about Permissions. Aligni currently has a limited set of permissions assigned to usergroups. As our customers (and Aligni) have grown over the years, we’ve felt the need to make permissions more granular to give administrators more power over what their users can and cannot do. To this end, we bring you Permission Sets.

Permission Sets replace Usergroups as a way to grant permissions to users. Permission Sets now offer much more granular control than our Usergroups did. You may assign multiple Permission Sets to any user and the permissions are granted in an additive manner.

Qualifiers

Permissions-Qualifiers@2xSome permissions now have optional qualifiers. For example, you can grant permission to view inventory at all locations or you can restrict the permission to a single inventory location. If you have multiple factory locations, this allows you to grant visibility only to people at the specific location.

We have additional plans for qualifiers coming soon. Stay tuned!

 

Part Pages Design

Part-Tabs@2xWhat started with a redesign of ActiveQuote and Purchasing features continues to the Aligni Part pages. Parts are central to the Aligni experience so our focus has been on usability and efficiency. In addition to a great new look and feel, the new design has allowed us to provide more information on the page.

Tabbed Interface

The first thing you’ll notice is that we’ve created a new tabbed interface to give each section of the part page more space and to focus information. With part information shown in the header, you can quickly switch between tabs for more information.

Standard / Summary views

A new summary view keeps the familiar density of part information of the old interface design but we’ve cleaned this view up a fair bit by making it read-only. The new decluttered view makes it even easier to get an overview.

Additional Data

On the tabs, you’ll see a few new nuggets…

  • Inventory History – The inventory tab contains recent inventory history and it’s even filterable.
  • Supply Chain – The supply chain tab shows recent quotes and now includes recent purchasing activity.
  • Change History – The history tab shows changes to the part parameters. It’s also filterable.

Part Revisions

The biggest functional change in this update is Part Revisions. Previously, we supported part changes through the Partlist Tags feature but this only captured changes to a part’s BOM. With Part Revisions, we additionally capture changes to several of the basic part parameters and all custom parameters, and even attachments.

Parts-RevisionList@2x

Drafts

Parts-Draft@2xWith the transition to Part Revisions, what was previously an “uncommitted” part has now become a Draft. Since most users were not using this functionality, we have converted all existing “uncommitted” parts to released parts.

Now, when a part is first created or a new revision is created, the part is in draft mode and cannot be used on part lists or added to inventory, quotes, or purchases until it has been released. This assures that the part has been entered and reviewed, if necessary, for completeness.

Release Workflow

Parts-ReleaseRevision@2xReleasing a new part is straightforward. The part becomes Released and may be used as expected.

Releasing a new revision is slightly different and offers the user an opportunity to review the part’s current revision in inventory and usage on BOMs. Since inventory in Aligni ignores part revision, existing inventory is either up-rev’d (converted to the new revision) or disposed.

Similarly, each appearance on an assembly BOM can be automatically up-rev’ed or left as the existing version.

Attachments

To help organize attachments (files, notes, and URLs) for your parts, you can now attach to either the Part or the Part Revision. Attaching to the Part means that every revision has visibility of the attachment. Attaching to the Part Revision means that only items attached to that specific revision will be visible. View and manage attachments on the new Attachments tab.

Attachment Handling

A new setting has been added to the Site Settings / Part Settings: Attachment Handling. This setting determines how part revision attachments are managed for released parts and apply to all parts on the site.

  • Open – Attachments may be added, edited or removed at any time by users with permission.
  • Add-Only – Except in Draft mode, attachments may only be added after.
  • Closed – Once released, part revision attachments are fixed and may not be added, edited, or removed.

Data Migration

This latest update requires some changes to site data. We’re always very careful and tread softly when this needs to be done to enhance functionality. The following changes will occur with the migration and we’ll let you know through our newsletter when this change will happen. It is currently scheduled for Saturday, 2014-11-22 but that date may change. If you have any questions or concerns ahead of this date, please contact us!

Migrating Usergroups to Permission Sets

We have automatically migrated your existing Usergroups to Permission Sets. With the new added flexibility, it might be a good time to review these Permission Sets and make any adjustments you need.

Migrating Partlist Tags to Part Revisions

The following table illustrates what changes will occur. Basically, Partlist Tags are converted to Part Revisions. Immediately after the migration is performed, there will be no Draft parts, so every part currently in your database will become released.

Partlist Tags Part Revisions
Tagged Partlists Converted to Part Revisions with the same name.
Untagged Partlists Released and converted a Part Revision named “A”.
Builds – Tagged Partlist Converted to a Build of the corresponding Part Revision.
Builds – Untgged Partlist Converted to a Build of Part Revision “A”.
Uncommitted Parts Released as Part Revision “A”.

Purchasing Reloaded

Our designers and developers have been hard at work putting together a new design for Aligni’s Purchasing interface and we’re happy to introduce some of the finer points here. For more information, be sure to visit our online documentation.

Purchase Manager

PurchaseManager-TabIndex@2xThe left-side navigation link for Purchases will take you to the Purchase Manager where you can see an overall of your site’s purchasing activities. Purchases are listed according to the three status categories listed below. A new search feature allows you to find purchase orders by vendor or PO number.

  • Draft – New purchases are in draft mode until they are committed.
  • Open – Open purchases are those that are committed but have at least one open item. An open item is an item on a purchase that has not been received in full.
  • Closed – Closed purchases are those for which all items on the purchase have been received in full.

Parts on Order

The Parts on Order tab shows all open items along with vendor promise dates (due dates) and links to the original purchase.

Purchasing Summary

On the Purchasing Summary tab, historical purchasing information is summarized by vendor and manufacturer over a selectable period.

Fresh Clean Look

Collapsible vendor tabs clear unwanted clutter and provide an indication of which vendors have been emailed the RFQ.

Attachments

You can now add notes, URL, and file attachments to purchases. Include copies of vendor quotes, drawings, or other helpful files. Keep notes of vendor discussions or changes in delivery dates. Best of all, attachments persist with the purchase, so you have a lasting record of the information associated with the purchase, not just the PO itself.

Widescreen Users Rejoice!

Purchase-Price-Helper@2xMany Aligni users have wide displays and our new design includes a number of features intended to help them get the most of your screen real estate. Helpful information is shown in the right sidebar when your browser is wide enough.

With the sidebars, entering quantity and price information is blazingly fast.
When entering quantities, the sidebar contains:

  • Current inventory and the item’s reorder quantity setting.
  • Recent quotes
  • Recent purchases
  • Recent builds
  • Historical and predicted consumption over 24 months
  • Where-used information

When entering prices, the sidebar contains:

  • Recent purchases
  • One-click selection of price / vendor based on quotes

Currency Support

Each purchase can be setup for a specific currency, often based on the vendor’s currency or their offered quotes. Write your purchases in this currency and Aligni will convert the received inventory to your site-wide inventory when you receive items against the PO.