Future CAD-PLM and Assembly Version Management

I was reading SolidSmack’s post about how to manage versions of the assemblies. Creating versions of drawing and models is one of the most fundamental activities during your design process.

For the long period of time, I assumed that this field of PDM/PLM activity is well explored – done deal! If you need versions, you need to move to the one of the available PDM systems (whatever fit your CAD system and vendor choice). Sounds like pretty straightforward… Finally, if you don’t want to move to PDM burden, you can follow Josh’s rules and options.

But, what if…?

What if we will be able to automate this painful version management mechanism. Think Google Docs for the moment. You actually can manage versions of your document and Google Doc is taking care of your changes. You can revert to any version you want, compare versions, etc. Sounds simple. I know, you can tell me CAD data is complex, lots of dependent information and not clear how to manage version with actually designer involvement. However, the actual problem, in m view, is not a complexity of design and assemblies. The main problem is the way today PDM systems manage it. In the typical environment, the data is located on your local disk (or shared network drive). Data Management software (PDM or PLM system) is taking care of moving your data to the secured location (vault). Each time you are doing it, the very painful check-in / check-out process needs to happen.The fundamental problem is data management procedures. So, maybe we finally need to remove and reorganize it?

Let me dream about different data management scenarios and work organization. We can split version-related data management process in two separate activities. 1/Save all changes all the time; 2/Tag versions.

Unlimited Storage and Save Command
The storage is cheap these days. Even if you think it is not yet as cheap as you want, the trend is going down. Let assume we have an unlimited online storage that will allow us to keep track of all CAD activity and changes you are doing. Basically, we will reduce the need for <Save> command. Still, you may have it, but normally you’ll not use it anymore.

Revision As Tagging
Think about Version as a tag of the particular design state. When you are coming to this state, just tag all you have with a specific tag (actually you can use lovely revision schema you have in your organization).

There is no magic. The biggest problem is to optimize a process of data saving between CAD software and storage. I think, the network speed improvements and CAD vendors efforts will move us in the right direction. And finally, an alternative is to move your CAD system on the cloud and run it in a browser. Do you think, I’m overwhelmed by the simplicity of some online sotware available today? I don’t think so. Time ago, CAD systems had a problem to optimize save procedure to the disk. Today, they are in a pretty good shape and can optimize loading of huge assemblies in a very efficient way.

So, what is my conclusion? The “second movers” innovation is very important. The problem is on the plate. Today’s PDM Versions mechanism is outdated. Don’t give up and accept “it is as it is” statements. There are some fundamental CAD/PDM activities that can be improved and need to be improved.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg



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