Can poor CAD file management stop system engineering efforts?

Can poor CAD file management stop system engineering efforts?


Product complexity is growing and software vendors are making a case for MBSE (model based system engineering) to bring modern PLM system architecture to manufacturing companies.

David Ewig’s article Your legacy PDM system doesn’t support system engineering is a good example. It speaks about the need to upgrade legacy PDM / PLM system to leverage MBSE approach. This is my favorite passage speaking about the need to bring modern PLM systems:

….to really unleash the power of MBSE you need to connect it to your PLM system.  Creating models and leaving them in a shared drive or emailing them around is only a partial fix.  Firms need their PLM system to be the hub of all product data and bring all the various domains together in the context of their business processes.  They need to have MBSE data abstracted into the PLM data structure to provide the necessary information for solid decision making.  Making a commitment to an integrated product design landscape with MBSE models and analysis flowing through PLM driving your MCAD, ECAD, CAE, and documentation you really have something great.  All of your data is accessible to your entire enterprise.  Now all of your teams can think in terms of systems and make smart decisions for when to reuse vs creating new.  CAD is the easy part!

I certainly agree with the need to turn PLM into a digital hub as well as abstract system data in PLM to connect it with the rest of the information. At the same time, the article made me think about MBSE as a driver to bring files from shared drives and emails to PDM system. Is there a real need to get control of file to leverage MBSE?

The problem with un-managed CAD data is well known. The main reason for that is complexity of CAD-PDM integration and an additional burden PDM put on engineers. Most of engineers hate PDM system and will do every possible steps to avoid PDM and get dependent on painful check-in/out process to get access to files. In fact, the real reason for PDM nightmares is CAD files and the way CAD system is using them. Navigate to my earlier blog to read more.CAD and PDM industry is in the transition to eliminate CAD files and traditional PDM systems. The replacement is data-driven cloud systems providing single point of truth for both application and data. However, the transition will not happen overnight. Existing product licenses, legacy data, habits and many other factors will influence the speed of industry transition.

Coming back to MBSE. Some users are sophisticated enough to use System engineering and other users are not. How does it relate to the need to manage CAD files? I’m not sure it does. Those customers that thinking about MBSE can find an additional reason to use painful PDM systems with the need to check-in/out files. Regardless on MBSE, management of CAD files is a problem for the industry.

What is my conclusion? I think MBSE and complexity of CAD file management are two different problems. My hunch you can still apply MBSE principles and use existing PDM systems to manage CAD data. However, modern data driven and cloud based design systems can provide an additional pain relief to users looking how to connect design and engineering data into cohesive information system. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion about BOM can be unintentionally biased.


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