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Mind the Gap: CAD Product Data Management

A number of CogniDox companies use the tool to store their 2D and 3D CAD drawings, in addition to more typical Office files.

In general this is not a cheap or smooth process for them. Drawings are made from parts or components and there are typically a large number of assembly parts/number of alignments of expensive high-precision parts. It usually takes a few months to complete a typical drawing and therefore they can each represent around an $30K investment. Supplier lists can stretch to more than 200 various suppliers located throughout the world. The most used widely CAD software packages we see are SolidWorks, AutoCAD, and PTC Creo.

Specifically,

  • SOLIDWORKS PDM 29%
  • Autodesk Vault 23%
  • Windchill 14%
  • Autodesk PLM360 14%
  • Teamcenter 13%
  • ENOVIA 6%
  • Omnify 1%

There are free, open source tools such as FreeCAD and LibreCAD available, but we don’t see them used that much. However with growth drivers such as the Internet of things (IoT) and Building Information Modeling (BIM), there is no reason to suspect any slowdown in this usage.

Recently, ENGINEERING.com surveyed 151 product development professionals about how they manage this product data. They graded their company’s performance on this, and the problems they encounter may sound familiar.

  • Missing steps in the release process
  • Encountering late stage design changes that require rework
  • Failing to get input from necessary collaborators
  • Ordering wrong parts
  • Working from the wrong version of documents

Poor quality performers reported the wrong version pitfall as happening “Often or All the time”. Only around half the surveyed companies used tools to mitigate these problems. These tools may be 3rd party (and expensive) add-ons from the CAD vendors but we also often see re-purposed open source version control system tools such as Apache Subversion (SVN). There are overlapping requirements such as file check-in / check-out. Usability is often very poor. Either way, it is not a successful strategy.

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