Document management is hard if you do it manually. To manage versions of documents requires you to follow some rules or naming conventions. I remember one of my first lessons in configuration management many years ago. It was about how to use file names in versions. Simple rule for starters – never ever use words “last” or “final” in names, otherwise (guess what) all you versions will be “last” of “final”.
To manage versions of CAD files is harder than manage Word documents. For many engineering organizations, it was the main reasons to bring PDM tool. I can tell you endless stories about people spending days of work because overwriting the deleted version or companies losing weeks of work trying to restore project baseline in their communication with subcontractors.
Unfortunately, to manage CAD files using PDM is a hard job too. CAD projects are combining multiple files. These files are interconnected and it is hard sometimes to resolve the complexity of these connections together with management of proper versions. The main reason for that was related to the need to keep multiple files in some location on your computer (usually called workspace) and switch between these files in order to get a desired version of your project with right parts and sub-assemblies.
Here are some good news, in my view. Cloud and more specifically cloud CAD systems can finally solve hardest PDM problem. The main reason for that – cloud CAD system should build a solid data management foundation to manage CAD data in the cloud. So, it will fix a broken link between CAD files saved on your computer and PDM storage.
The main outcome of cloud CAD data management is the ability to manage versions and merge branches design. In my view, this is a functionality CAD / PDM users dreamed for years. I remember many requests to support the ability of branching revisions and applying changes done by two engineers together.
In the past I speculated about future of CAD / PDM data management and how cloud can simplify management of design versions. You can read my old posts from 2010 - PDM and management of CAD files and Future CAD and Assembly version management. The technologies are getting mature and we can see some interesting results these days. I captured two recently published videos from Autodesk Fusion 360 and Onshape demonstrating how you can branch design, collaborate and merge results using cloud data management tools.
Autodesk Fusion 360
What is my conclusion? Back in 2010, I was dreaming and speculating about “invisible CAD data management”. Fast forward in 2015 – it is a time to see changes in new products. Cloud technologies are reshaping traditional boundaries of engineering tools. For many years, CAD and PDM tools were separate. Integration between CAD and PDM was complex and painful. Cloud allows us to focus on user experience and hide data management form users. Just my thoughts…
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