Data Management

Expert guidance for implementing data management software and best practices in a CAD environment.
Management

Familiarize Yourself with Management Concepts from a Master

25 May, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Toolbox: The theories of W. Edwards Deming are required reading for every CAD manager interested in process analysis.



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Data Management

Siemens Builds Out Industrial Digitalization Support Network

29 Dec, 2017 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

At Innovation Day 2017, Siemens showcases progress toward its goal of equipping enterprises with applications powered by its MindShare Internet of Things technology.



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Data Management

Prevent End-of-Project Data Surprises

12 May, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Toolbox: This is one kind of surprise that no one enjoys — but a little proactive intervention on your part can mitigate, or even eliminate, the problem.



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Workstations

New SSDs Deliver Brute Bandwidth

28 Apr, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager's Toolbox: Latest announcements in solid-state drives promise faster handling of large data sets.



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AutoCAD

Despite Marketing Hype, CAD Users Adopt New Technologies Cautiously

14 Apr, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: Find out which technologies are being adopted at a faster rate.


I often participate in conversations with other CAD managers about the adoption of new technology. One of the topics that often comes up is exactly how far along everyone is with implementing new tools such as cloud-based CAD, building information modeling (BIM), pay-for-service software, etc. After all, we all read about these trendy technologies, so we logically wonder how widely adopted they are.

The interesting thing about these conversations is that they invariably lead us all to agree that the euphoric hype we read about doesn't match the reality we see in our offices. We are often left scratching our heads, wondering why the companies we work with seem so far behind the market buzz. Is it just that our companies that are slow to adopt new technology, or is the phenomenon more widespread?

Market Data

In the past two weeks, two very interesting pieces of industry news came out that validate the theory that technology adoption occurs much more slowly than PR agencies and software companies would have us believe.

The first is the Business Advantage Group's 2015 Worldwide CAD Trends Survey report (see also Business Advantage CAD Trends Survey Results). CAD professionals can download a freely accessible, high-level report of the results using this link.

The survey evaluated professionals' awareness and use of various technologies including 3D modeling, BIM, and 3D printing. Image courtesy of the Business Advantage Group.
The survey evaluated professionals' awareness and use of various technologies including 3D modeling, BIM, and 3D printing. Image courtesy of the Business Advantage Group.

According to the company, the survey was completed by 635 professionals from around the world in various disciplines during late 2014. It covers 15 technology categories, including 3D modeling, BIM, cloud-based CAD, simulation, 3D printing, open-source CAD, and augmented/virtual reality computing. The topics are ranked by awareness, importance, and current and intended adoption to reveal their trends and growth potential, including comparison to the prior year's survey results.

One of the most interesting conclusions from the survey was a division of technologies that have above-average adoption (those that are enjoying success in the market) versus technologies that have below-average adoption (those that aren't gaining much market traction).

As most of my CAD manager acquaintances and I have discussed, the types of technologies we see being adopted (as seen in the first column of the table below) are shown to have above-average adoption rates in the CAD Trends 2015 survey. But the really interesting things to note are the highly hyped technologies that aren't enjoying widespread adoption, as seen in the right-hand column below.

 

Widely Used ToolsTools Not in Wide Use
3D modeling/BIM Outsourcing of Labor
Simulation/analysis Cloud Based CAD
Product data management (PDM) Open Source/Free CAD Software
Product lifecycle management (PLM)     Pay-as-you-go purchase plans (software rental)    
Mobile CAD tools 3D Printing

 

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Data Management

Why Your Data Management Plan Depends on Your WAN

24 Mar, 2015 By: Robert Green

CAD Manager Column: A workable wide-area network is key to keeping your users on the straight and narrow procedural path.


In the previous edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I made the case for a data management strategy that goes well beyond simple backups done by your IT department. I received responses from a wide variety of companies asking for more specifics on how to put a strategy in place. It seems that there is wide acknowledgement of the need, but a lack of knowledge on how to proceed.

In this edition, I'll start the process of guiding companies through a discovery of their needs and discuss some possible solutions. Here goes.

What's Really Required?

Perhaps the best first question in the data management process might be: Exactly what should a good data management strategy include? Here, in no particular order, are the key components I've come to believe are required.

An enforceable storage, numbering, and revision scheme. This is how you know where the current versions of files are and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Whether you use a software application or file folders and manual file naming, the point is to achieve consistency. Note that enforceability (via software tools or management edict) is key — users cannot be allowed to improvise on naming, revising, and storing files!

Some sort of file-locking mechanism. In cases where multiple team members may need access to the same file, there must be a way to prevent team members from writing over each other's files. There are a variety of software and wide-area network (WAN) management tools that can provide file locking, which we'll explore later.

Durable backup and restoration for disaster recovery. This is most likely taken care of by your IT department and includes the ability to store massive amounts of data offsite, then retrieve it rapidly to restore entire servers, user e-mail accounts, etc., in bulk. (CAD managers typically don't need to worry about this.)

Local project archive storage. These archives contain all the data needed to "reload" an old job and work on it again. Archives typically are made at key points in a project timeline (bid, initial submittal, final submittal, as-builts, etc.). The archive data must be locally available to the CAD manager so jobs can be quickly pulled from archive (no waiting two days to download something from the cloud).

Company Size and Topology

Now that we know what to manage, let's turn our attention to how our company size affects our approach. The first thing to consider for your data management plan is how your company is configured, from a topology point of view. The reality is that the more far-flung your offices and workers are from each other, the bigger an IT problem you're going to have. So think about which of the following categories your company best fits into:

  • Small company with all data in one location and minimal employee travel.

     

  • Medium-size company with a few branch offices and travelling workers.

     

  • Large company with many branch offices and travelling workers.

Using the size-based breakdown allows us to reach the following conclusions quickly:

Small: Moving files over WANs isn't required in this case, so a complex IT networking infrastructure doesn't need to be part of the equation. Therefore any filing/naming/revision standards can be enforced locally, file-locking issues are handled by the network, and when all else fails team members can easily "yell across the cubicle wall" to resolve issues.

Medium/Large: The need to have multiple offices working on the same files inevitably leads to users complaining about network speed between the offices. Workers then tend to "work around" the obstacle by making unauthorized copies to their local machine/server, which means the same data can be edited in multiple locations. This "working around the WAN" scenario often leads to a total lack of file locking and frequent violation of the filing/naming/revision criteria that any good data management system must maintain.

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File Sharing/Publishing

Cadalyst Survey: Most CAD Users Today Face Significant File Collaboration Problems

11 Mar, 2015 By: Cadalyst Staff

New report reveals the extent of issues related to slow data transfer, lack of file version control, unreliable data synchronization between locations, and other consequences of inadequate technologies and procedures.



Management

TBM Conference Publishes IT Management Videos

10 Mar, 2015 By: Robert Green

If your job as a CAD manager requires you to understand IT management strategies, these online videos are invaluable.



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Data Management

A Data Management Wake-Up Call for All CAD Managers

10 Mar, 2015 By: Robert Green

Network technologies are changing with the times, and your data management strategy must follow suit — or it will put your company at risk.


Way back in 1989, the company I worked for realized that we had to do a better job of file management — we were just dropping all of our 5,000 CAD files into network folders. We'd already lost some files and had written over others, and we were feeling the pain of having to recreate that lost work. We implemented a data management system and never looked back.

Fast-forward 26 years, and I can't believe how many companies still manage their valuable file assets using — you guessed it — simple network file folders. And perhaps even worse, many IT departments think that rudimentary backup procedures are all they need to manage CAD data.

In this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll explain how managing your CAD data in simple folders is going to become much more complicated as wide-area network (WAN) and cloud architectures become common. To help you understand the risks involved, I'll argue that CAD managers must be integrally involved with data management, and list some action items you can take to make sure your company moves toward ever-better data management as things change. Here goes.

Basic Data Truths

One reality we all deal with is that our companies produce a lot of CAD data each year. And as your company completes an ever-increasing number of projects, you must manage an ever-larger mass of extremely valuable data.

The second truth is that this data won't manage itself. In fact, if you let users manage data on their own, you'll have a huge mess on your hands in no time. Now I don't mean to imply that users are incapable of managing their own data; I simply mean that when everyone is left to their own devices there aren't any standards, and that lack of consistency inevitably leads to data being misplaced.

Of course, the data you manage is diverse in nature (think CAD models, calculation spreadsheets, PDFs, renderings, etc.), but if any of it disappears your company will suffer. This leads to the third truth: The lack of data management strategy can be a severe liability for your company that could result in hugely expensive losses of data.

Action Item #1: Make sure you understand the risk of not having a solid data management plan for your CAD files, and communicate that risk to users and management alike so everyone is on alert. Should the worst ever happen, at least you'll be on record as having sounded the alarm.

What IT May Not Know

Of course, data management is often perceived as an IT department issue rather than a CAD manager's concern. My experience has been that when IT plans for data management, they often think of simple backups and disaster recovery — as they should — but forget the unique challenges of CAD file management, such as:

  • File-to–file folder relationships that must be maintained during backup and recovery operations.

     

  • The need to keep track of file revisions of not just drawings, but parts, assemblies, families, and all manner of supporting documents that relate to CAD project work.

     

  • Extremely large file sizes, which make retrieval from backups very time consuming.

     

  • The need to recall projects at various stages of completion rather than simply restoring directories with the latest saved files.

Taken together, these challenges make it obvious that CAD data management isn't just about backup and restore operations. The ability to manage, archive, and recall whole projects at a moment's notice is a common requirement.

Action Item #2: Confirm that your IT department understands the unique issues, as outlined above, that make CAD data management more complex than other types of files. Strive to create a data management solution that can archive CAD projects in their entirety so they can be quickly restored if needed.

Action Item #3: Be sure that project managers and senior managers in your company understand how many work-hours it would take should you have to recreate a project without proper data management procedures.

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