Inside engineer and design teams, Product Data Management is a process that needs to be addressed, and the way it is addressed will influence the time and quality of the outcome. Poor Data Management practices are related to “obvious” problems such as time inefficiencies, money-wasting, and also with “not so obvious” problems like design mistakes and vulnerabilities in the intellectual property. 3D modeling is not exempt from all the problems described above, and of course, have to be resolved. For example, while doing 3D models, teams might find themselves in the need to share their progress with different members and avoid creating unnecessary copies, because those additional copies might be a source of design errors. Two team members might find themselves geographically too far at a specific moment and need to discuss a specific part in an interactive way, but the distance does not permit the flow of ideas. So let’s take a moment to dig a little deeper into some data management problems and 3D Modeling, and how to solve them.
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Visualization and Communication
Design teams must keep constant communication with other departments of the project. Among these people, you could also count Supervisors and Executive departments. In order for engineer teams to show the progress of the project to others, they must create unnecessary copies of the 3D model file and share them by email, or any other mediums, without mentioning the need for everybody to have the same software or any visualizer compatible installed in their machines. This way of handling 3D modeling brings different problems such as the follows
When sharing a file of the 3D Model by email or any other medium, whether physical or electronically, a new copy of that specific version is created. This new copy bring challenges by itself, these challenges can be listed
- When you send a copy of your design, it will be out of your power, whether if shared by email or any other medium and this can compromise the intellectual property of your design.
- An outdated version of the model. When creating a copy of your 3D model, you are sharing what will be an outdated version in the next days or weeks. If this version is in the hand of different people related to the project, they might confuse the file and waste time finding the right one.
What is the impact of unnecessary copies on the outcome of the project?
Too many versions and outdated models
Unnecessary copies can have a bad impact on any organization. An example of this is when multiple departments are involved. Let’s say the engineering department shares the email of the 3D model file with two different people, the responsibles of manufacturing and executives. So far, the funds for the manufacturing department have not been approved, but they have a version of the 3D Model part and they are waiting for the funds to start the process. Executives decided that the design will need some smalls changes because of the new requirements they want to fulfill. With this in mind, the engineering department proceeds to make the necessary changes, and then, executives approve the funds. Engineers do their part and send the new file to the manufacturing department, nevertheless, someone mixes up the emails and uses the last version of the design and use the wrong file to produce the product. And just like that, a waste of time and money in the manufacturing process.
The Intellectual Property.
Intellectual property is an aspect that needs to be considered. The too many version and outdated models described in the last section can happen at any level and any stage of the design process. It can happen at higher levels such as the described above or inside design teams. When a design team is too big, some members could be working on different design versions, leading to wasting time on fixing the mistakes and doing the actual design But going further, sometimes the team might not be enough to solve a problem and third-party professional advisor/consultant is needed This advisor can be an individual or have its own team. Nevertheless, he probably will need a copy of the current state of the art of the 3D model to further analysis and even create its own copy to perform changes. With so many copies flying around, the doubt will always be hanging, is someone going to find one of those copies and use it for its own development? Things like this are weak points when in traditional software.
The final statement: How to face this problem?
With a different approach to handling the information. One approach to handle data management issues related to 3D modeling is using Collaborative and Cloud base software that has its own Data Management Tools avoiding the need for using separate PDM Systems. But, where to find this? Answer: Solidface.
Having software such as Solidface as part of your 3D modeling daily tools will allow you to centralize all the information related to your design. Having all the information in one place avoids creating unnecessary copies guaranteeing that everyone has access to the latest version of every part and data, so no mistakes can come from this point. And going further, you can grant access to your files to everyone you want, from executives to suppliers and professional advisors. This might bring the doubt that if any third party could modify your files by mistake? no, you can control if they can edit or only see the shared information, but in case they need to edit, Solidface allows you to go back in history to the previous version, so everything safe down that path. Also, the time of access can be controlled by you, this means that the intellectual property can be guarded in a more safe way, this means once your advisors or suppliers finish their job, you could remove their access, so you don’t have to deal with unnecessary copies flying around.