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Product Management Made Easy: Top 5 problems with file-based systems and how to fix them

Updated: Apr 20

-Shashank Nanivadekar



Teams are increasing in size locally and globally. Engineers, managers, and executives spread across the country collaborate daily to add, remove, update, and rework CAD assemblies. Regardless of having dedicated teams to support existing customers and product development, taking a lean approach to managing your product through its lifecycle helps you cut down on waste of time and money.

Many factors play critical roles in shipping high-quality products on time. Cost, weight, time to manufacture, approval time, and lead-time are just some of them. And once products are shipped, the challenge begins again.

The Status Quo

Traditionally, engineers use the design-and-assemble combo to create CAD assemblies. A detail part designer, mechanical engineer, or CAE based designer designs the part, and another engineer assembles the parts using CAD tools like Assembly Design.

The best assembly or manufacturing engineer is usually someone with knowledge of systems, installation, and fabrication so they often prospect different parts to satisfy the requirements.

Best-in-class companies are invested in aligning management, engineering, and manufacturing when it comes to large assemblies that may contain upward of a thousand parts.

As teams grow, companies are seeking out collaborative solutions so all the stakeholders can access data at their fingertips. Falling communication costs, globalization, and increased specialization have made collaboration more important than ever, say researchers at McKinsey.

Let’s take a look at five common problems that file-based systems face today.

Storage

The most obvious problem file-based systems face is where the files are actually stored. With file-based systems, engineering, CAD and analysis data is either stored on your machine or at best in a local server. Multiple users working from different locations also pose a critical challenge to the assembly’s integrity and security. This in-turn increases the chances of files getting corrupted, over-written, and worse, accidentally deleted.

The Fix:

With cloud-based storage that streams data to the end-user as opposed to checking out files, you allow multiple users to access the same data with constant updates. With the cloud-based storage and services market soaring past $200 Billion in 2018, top performers will be prioritizing best practices in storage in the near future.

Configuration Control

Have you ever tried opening a MS word or Excel file at the same time as someone else? It either tells you that you can’t, or makes you save a local copy. One becomes two, and two becomes four. Make this a complex CAD assembly and the risk to configuration control increases exponentially. Its engineering entropy! As assemblies get larger and more complex loss of configuration will result in lots of time spent reconciling your products downstream.

The Fix:

Systems that stream data from either a secure public or a private cloud instead of checking files out eliminate the need to actively manage configuration for every end-user.

Communication

PDM access is no longer simply restricted to engineering and manufacturing. From the fabrication team on the shop floor to operations execs, everyone is accessing assembly-level data in different scopes at the same time.

Execs need to be able to look up design status in 3D as changes are being captured and shop-floor assemblers should be able to interpret changing engineering intent seamlessly.

With file-based systems you have to rely on email or other methods. Instead of actually using the engineering data as a means to communicate the change scope, the two get separated.

The Fix:

As updates are made to the design, or design intent changes, any annotations and notes can be seen simultaneously by everyone as a result of cloud-based systems.


Collaboration

Multiple designers working on the same assembly have to wait on stakeholders and contributors which leads to a stop & go solution. While exchanging knowledge across the organization is a top priority, only 25% of companies surveyed reported that they were “effective” in doing so. Working on the same assembly becomes difficult as each designer must be restricted to the model or sub assembly they’re working on. This eliminates any opportunity of optimizing the rigid design process to get to market first.

The Fix:

As updates are made to the design, or design intent changes, any annotations and notes can be seen simultaneously by everyone as a result of cloud-based systems.

Rigid Design Process

The typical design process starts with product specs being put into a design and goes through multiple rounds of analysis. This process repeats until you satisfy fit, form, and function along with behavioural tests such as stress analysis. This age-old design process is infused with file-based systems, and the desktop lifestyle.

Multiple stakeholders cannot possibly accelerate or optimize this process simply because file-based systems force the single-user, single-configuration environment. Not at all top-performer thinking.

The Fix:

The ability for the design process to allow collaboration enhances the business case for cloud-based systems. With different parts of the process able to run at the same time or with minimal lag, cloud-based systems allow you to flex your design process to your needs.


Key Takeaway

File-based systems have been great if you’re a one-person company, but that won’t get you anywhere. With larger teams working on larger problems across cross-functional teams, everyone should be able to access assemblies and products for their purpose within your company. Stress analysts, managers, designers, and executives should be able to put their minds and efforts together concurrently for you to make the best use of your company’s talent. Leveraging systems and tools that allow you to do so open up the door for optimizing your processes, cutting development cost and time, and getting to market first.

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