Data Management

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

New Expectations Drive Development of PDM Collaboration Features

4 Mar, 2015 By: Randall S. Newton

Product data management software is evolving with the incorporation of on-demand cloud, analytics, mobile, and social elements.

When a smartphone user takes a photo or records a video, the results can be immediately saved to a cloud storage site. The data is then available to edit, to geo-encode, to tag (possibly using facial recognition software), and to share. Such capabilities are only a few years old, but most of us already take such fluid access and creative flexibility for granted — until we go to work. Creating and sharing a CAD-based model or drawing in a professional setting is an entirely different experience; it's the IT equivalent of donning a straitjacket.

The discrepancy exists because most of our workplace processes still mimic the days when everything was done on paper, whereas the “workflow” of using a smartphone is rooted completely in contemporary digital processes. The freedom we experience with new technology in our personal lives is being driven by new interrelationships among four existing technology types: cloud, analytics (“big data”), mobile, and social (CAMS). The power of these four technologies is rooted in their ability to provide the following on-demand services:

  • Cloud: On-demand computation and storage
  • Analytics: On-demand insight
  • Mobile: On-demand access
  • Social: On-demand collaboration.

CAD industry software developers are discovering the benefits they can deliver by incorporating these CAMS technologies in their solutions — how to take off the straitjacket, in other words. While the new technologies are relevant to content creation, the biggest changes are happening in product data management (PDM).

Simply put, PDM is software that tracks and controls the data related to product development. Originally, PDM products organized CAD files and provided version control and check-in/check-out access control. Over time they took on other tasks, including the management of change orders and bills of materials. PDM products are created by CAD companies (such as Autodesk Vault and PTC PDMLink) and by PDM specialists (such as Synergis Adept or Arena Solutions BOMControl).

The Product Development and Management Association calls today’s reformation of PDM distributed product development, and defines it this way:

The separation and optimization of activities performed during a single product development process (i.e., product ideation, development, and launch) across multiple geographic locations. These locations may be within a single corporate entity, within subsidiaries, or involve the use of third parties.

Venture capital firm Greylock Partners is one of many investors in this new wave of collaborative PDM. In a statement on its web site, Greylock claims product development teams are looking for new software to match today’s expectations:

Engineering and Manufacturing Managers are looking for different ways to help individual engineers become more productive, and have internal and external supply chain teams work together. The key for this transition is creating clear communication and process around the workflow. The best way to manage this is through software that is designed for the new environment.

Around the turn of the century, engineering software vendors were leaning heavily on “collaboration” as their new buzzword. But reality did not match expectations, and the term was dismissed by many as just more failed marketing spin. But today, collaboration is being rehabilitated as CAMS technology is proving to be the real deal. Early adopters are discovering:

  • New ways to open up the design process by allowing shared access to CAD
  • Visual version comparison of parts and assemblies
  • Web-based viewing and markup of CAD models
  • Tools for workflow automation, including digital handling of BOMs and other required transmittals.

While CAMS technology is shorthand for many specific services, the real star is “the cloud.” By using a neutral location with infinite storage and infinite processing capabilities, adoption of cloud technology has become the key to unlocking the inherent “on demand” possibilities of the other services and making them available to a wider constituency.

Several vendors, representing both the old guard and new startups, are bringing products and services to market that rewrite generations of existing procedures and possibilities. Features are being added for use on mobile environments and the Web, for making messaging part of the workflow, for extensive search inside documents, native document viewing, and access to new or previously unmanaged data types including 3D point clouds, simulation data and visualizations. What follows is an introduction to a few of the players redefining PDM by incorporating CAMS services.

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About the Author: Randall S. Newton

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Data Management

Get Organized with Total Folder Monitor

27 Jan, 2015 By: Robert Green

Start the year off right by getting your network folders organized.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Aconex Launches Connected BIM Product for Model-Based Collaboration

29 Oct, 2014 By: Cadalyst Staff

New release extends cloud-based platform to manage building information modeling (BIM) project data.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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Building Bridges between Platforms

7 Dec, 2013 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

User Profile: For civil engineering firm IDS to function, data must move smoothly between GIS and CAD — and Amanda Nunley Menard is the person who gets it there.

Amanda Nunley Menard's job bridges two worlds: CAD and geographic information systems (GIS). She is the GIS manager at IDS Engineering Group, a Texas-based firm that provides infrastructure design services for public and private clients. As such, Menard produces maps, designs and maintains databases, and builds web mapping applications. She also moves masses of data between the Esri ArcMap GIS and AutoCAD and Bentley Systems' MicroStation CAD platforms — and vice versa — giving her coworkers the tools that are essential to their work.

Cadalyst: How did you become interested in GIS?

Menard: When I started my career, I had the intention of becoming a computer programmer. At the same time, I loved science, and I'm an environmentalist at heart. While I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Computer Science at Texas A&M University, I learned about GIS, and it seemed like a perfect way to blend what I was good at with what I was passionate about. When I changed my major to Geography, I had my first formal training in GIS — and I have loved it ever since.

What role does CAD play in your work?

I’d consider myself an advanced GIS user, but I'm still a pretty novice AutoCAD/[AutoCAD Map 3D] user. Although I rarely work directly in AutoCAD, I spend a large amount of time converting data between CAD and GIS; working with coordinate systems, scaling issues, and data translation.

I never received any formal training in AutoCAD. Instead, I started experimenting in AutoCAD Map 3D a few years ago, out of necessity: Every day we are asked to show a CAD drawing as a layer in one of our GIS maps, and no matter how great that CAD drawing is, it rarely displays the way you’d expect in GIS.

While working with some great designers at my company, I learned how to make minor edits, work with layers, and — one of my favorites — explode all those blocks! Yes, I know you CAD guys are all cringing, but ArcMap just hates blocks; they don't display correctly.

The most common reason that I use CAD is to scale drawings from surface (ground or flat) coordinates to grid (curved) coordinates. And sometimes doing basic things, such as turning off or freezing CAD layers, is just easier in CAD than ArcMap.

What kinds of data do you manipulate in AutoCAD?

I most commonly work with land plans, survey data, or infrastructure utility lines. I wish I could say that the process is always easy, but each dataset is unique.

One challenge that I run into frequently is lining up drawings created in assumed coordinate systems with GIS data in geographic coordinates systems. To an engineering company, accuracy and precision are critical in this process; shifting a drawing around in GIS could really mess up a floodplain. Instead, I usually work with a CAD designer to line up the data correctly. This could be easy, like asking a “scale factor” and scaling the drawing myself in CAD. Or it could be difficult, requiring survey to shoot control points and having a designer match them up or, if survey isn’t an option, georeferencing the drawings to the best of my abilities in GIS.

On some occasions I am required to convert our high-quality CAD data to GIS files. One reason is to make the data easier to manipulate; due to the differences in software platforms, tracing and snapping functions may not work correctly in GIS. Second, we might convert the CAD data to help us generate elevation surfaces for use in GIS. Our GIS surface could be built by using surveyed shots as our point data, or it could be generated from polyline contours created in CAD. Even better, the surface could be built by converting a LandXML file from CAD to an Esri grid for use in our floodplain modeling or profiles.

But the main reason we convert our CAD files to GIS is to create complex databases around the datasets. For instance, once our utility line data is converted to GIS, we create attribute data to populate it with information. This can be anything from line types and sizes to hyperlinks for plan sets. And once all of this data is in a GIS database, we are able to run complex SQL queries on the data easily.

Converting CAD layers into shapefiles is relatively easy; you just right-click on the layer in ArcMap and export it. Running the tools to repair geometries, generate polygons and points, dissolve and intersect layers, and snap and split lines can be a little more complex. Populating our new GIS fields with information can also take a significant amount of time. But all of this work is well worth it when it comes to performing complex analyses and creating beautiful maps.

What kinds of projects do you support as GIS manager?

Our GIS group creates maps and databases for all of our civil engineering departments. For our Hydrology & Hydraulics group, for example, we create location, floodplain, and topographic maps. These can be used to show water ponding and flooding, areas of clearing and fill, and detention pond locations. We may even generate new floodplain maps for FEMA submittals.

For our Land Development and Municipal Utility District groups, we produce aerial exhibits and site maps of subdivisions, land plans, and facility locations. We also transfer CAD infrastructure utility maps into GIS, showing sanitary sewer lines, water lines, and storm line locations. Then, through CCTV programs and analysis, we can show areas where problems have been detected and indicate required repairs.

Menard uses a variety of programs and databases to produce detailed utility maps.Click image to enlarge.

For our Public Works group, we work on road rehabilitation projects or new construction, showing right-of-way, utility, and property line locations and generating spreadsheets to notify property owners of construction or other types of development in their area.

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Siemens PLM Shares Strategy and a Glimpse of What’s Ahead

25 Sep, 2013 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

As it remains focused on continually shoring up Teamcenter’s core architecture, the company announces plans for Industry Catalyst apps designed to address the needs of specific markets.

In the realm of modern manufacturing, fast has been key: Product developers can’t be slow to market and expect to survive. But today you also have to be smart. That requires building on a platform of best practices and solid business strategy while understanding and responding to the needs of customers.

Interestingly, that’s precisely the approach of Siemens PLM Software in developing the product lifecycle management (PLM) solution, Teamcenter, that supports manufacturing customers. The foundation of the software is a “future-proof architecture” — a platform that is open and interoperable as well as scalable, offers flexible deployment options, and is upwardly compatible to protect a customer’s long-term investment in the software.

Steve Bashada, senior vice-president, industry strategy, said, “We want to ensure future proofing, that our product releases are smooth and fast” and help customers execute key processes and move forward without complex system configuration. Bashada was addressing attendees at the annual Siemens PLM Software Analyst and Media Conference in Boston this month. He explained 70% of manufacturing practices are common across all users and can be addressed by a single platform PLM solution, while the other 30% are specific to a given customer and typically require customization. But that is changing with the company’s announcement of its Industry Catalyst Series, offerings that consist of a prepackaged combination of industry best practice guides, templates, and software designed to accelerate PLM deployment and tailor the system to the needs of specific industries while reducing the need for customer-specific customization.

“What we hope to see happen is to reduce the 30% customer-specific practices to 10%,” Bashada said, “with 20% being industry specific. … We hope that the industry-specific adoption improves in this way.

“At the end of the day,” he said, “the most important thing is the industry solution itself.”

CEO Chuck Grindstaff and his executive team answer questions from attendees at the Siemens PLM Software Analyst and Media Conference.

Siemens PLM also announced a new product in the Teamcenter portfolio called Active Workspace, a personalized environment for instantly accessing 3D information. Working in conjunction with other Siemens PLM Software technology, Active Workspace is designed to bring together this information in instantly available, visual representations that support decision-making.

Manufacturing Matters

Chuck Grindstaff, CEO and president of Siemens PLM Software, established context for the two-day media event — and for his company’s products — by emphasizing the importance of manufacturing. “Manufacturing matters and has always mattered. Success in society is almost always correlated with advances in productivity, technology, and manufacturing,” he said. Of the top economies in the world, he explained — including the United States, Germany, China, and Japan — every one has a strong focus on manufacturing.

Today, he said, “Manufacturing is strong. It is a huge contributor to the economy globally.” In the United States, manufacturing accounts for 9% of jobs, 12% of the gross domestic product (GDP), 35% of engineers, and 90% of patents. “Manufacturing sustains economic stability and drives growth.”

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About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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Data Management

Window Maker Speeds File Retrieval Time with AutoCAD Search Tool

10 Jul, 2013 By: David Miesbauer,Steve Gaston

With a quarter-million CAD drawings on file, Sierra Pacific Industries depends on DrawingSearcher to fulfill customer requests in a timely fashion.

As anyone in the housing, construction, and home improvement industries can attest, the past few years have been among the most challenging in recent history. Because of the tough economic climate, construction companies are forgoing customized products and homeowners are putting off home renovations. When there aren’t as many new orders coming in, existing customers become even more important to a business's success.

Providing our customers with timely, professional service is a priority for Sierra Pacific Industries, a forest products company that makes specialized doors and windows. To meet this goal, Sierra Pacific relies on its employees and some sophisticated technology: a search tool that reduces the time it takes service personnel to find AutoCAD drawings in the company's archive.

Every product Sierra Pacific makes starts with CAD drawings that detail the precise shape, size, and design of the doors or windows the customer has requested. All products Sierra Pacific makes are custom-made — customized for each individual job and each client’s specific needs. There may be dozens of drawings per project, based on the customer's specifications.

At Sierra Pacific, workers craft windows and doors customized for each architectural application.

Once projects are complete, Sierra Pacific's service team needs to access and locate specific drawings quickly and effectively. Each customer's project and service needs are different; however, customers usually want a record of their project, especially if they plan to make any modifications, add-ons, or redesigns in the future. Also, prospective buyers of a property often ask for drawings to be included with the sale of the property.

Drawing requests come to any one of Sierra Pacific's eleven service offices, where there may be as many as 30 requests per week for specific drawing and project information. The size of the drawing archive — which currently comprises close to 250,000 drawings — also presents a challenge.

To better help our staff more easily locate the correct CAD drawing quickly, Sierra Pacific deployed Docupoint DrawingSearcher. This program shortens to just a few minutes searches that would otherwise take the service team days, or even weeks, to complete.

Before Sierra Pacific had an AutoCAD search program, service personnel had to manually sort through the company's archive until they found the drawing that the customer needed. It was a cumbersome, timely, and expensive prospect for Sierra Pacific, and the company's customer service suffered because of it.

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About the Author: David Miesbauer

About the Author: Steve Gaston

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

Grass Valley Updates Legacy Systems with Product Lifecycle Management Solution

27 Feb, 2013 By: Alaine Portnoy

Broadcasting hardware manufacturer adopts Omnify Empower PLM in effort to automate and integrate its product development processes.

About the Author: Alaine Portnoy

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No-Budget CAD Management

26 Feb, 2013 By: Robert Green

These simple suggestions will make an impact on your workplace and don't require a dime — just your time.

About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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Building Design

New Product Suite Aims to Ease Operations and Maintenance Handover for Capital Projects

24 Feb, 2013 By: Cadalyst Staff

Aconex Smart Manuals helps contractors to organize deliverables and owners to easily access and update records.

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Q&A with Rick Rundell: Technology, the Contractor, and the Future

16 Jan, 2013 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Autodesk director says construction will become a more precise, more efficient endeavor based on "digital reality" rather than abstract geometry.

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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