Top Five CAD Collaboration Fails

What if the secret to success is actually failure? Failing is all about testing what you believe in the real world and then learning from the results. I've been able to learn so much about the failures experienced day to day by our community of engineers with our customer development process for GrabCAD Workbench of "Learn. Build. Repeat." I want to share some of our most commonly heard CAD collaboration fails so you can learn from their mistakes:

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1. CAD software past its prime.

This story makes me cry a little. I spoke with this one engineer who informed me his company was using a much older version of the CAD software than his client was using. As sympathetic as we may be to his situation, his customer was not...and would only send files in the latest version of the software since it was the version they were using. He couldn't open them. So what did he do? He would waste hours by opening the file in a free viewer and redrawing the whole thing in his software so he could build off of it. I wonder how many labor hours you need to waste before you decide to evolve and upgrade your tools. Have you ever lost hours trying to communicate across CAD systems or versions? You're not alone, almost all our members have this issue.

2. Too many presentation tools.

Have you ever worked with someone who has no CAD experience? It's really hard to present 3D designs without your client, marketing team, or manager being able to see and manipulate the model on their own. Sometimes you just need a design review and you don't want to add to your work to get approval or feedback. One designer told me he used a combination of six different tools to present one design to a customer. I'm not sure taking a screenshot, marking it up, attaching it to a PowerPoint, emailing it over with a 3D file attached, and then having a conference call to discuss is the best way to do this. How many tools do you use to show off your work?

3. Convert, share. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat...

This engineer failed in time management by sticking his work in an endless cycle of file conversion and transfer. He spent his days designing wakeboard towers on speedboats and additions on cruise ships. His typical customer usually had a different software than he did and owned the assembly file. So, in order for this engineer to build, the client would convert to a neutral format like IGES then use an FTP site to share the entire assembly file (since a 500 MB file is just a tad too big for an email.) What gets this process on the fail list? Every time the customer wanted to review the progress of the design he would convert and send the entire file back to them! They would also have to arrange a call for the engineer to go over the work that was completed. Think of all the needless data transfer, which comprised the security of the work and wasted time. An estimated three month project ballooned to six. How do you share your CAD files? How many conversions do you have to make during a project?

4. Bad version control means lost work.

Has this happened to you while using a cloud based tool for sharing and managing project files? An engineer I spoke with was working on a large assembly and he had a few other engineers working with him. All the files they needed were in the cloud where they could easily access and update their work. Great intention. But this is where the process breaks - each engineer would pull down the entire folder of files to work on one piece! When they finished their drawings they would each save the entire folder back to the online storage space. It was easier than syncing just the work they did. Without realizing it, they were overwriting each others' work every time they saved their assembly, parts, and drawing files! Their company spent copious man hours recovering the lost information. How do you manage multiple team members making edits and new versions?

5. Communication breakdown.

Most large engineering teams have a system in place to prevent overwriting and coordinate data management. The company of one of our members uses some intense tools where engineers check files in and out from a database, which prevents others from making edits. Many times, he will find that the file he needs is checked out and locked down. "OK, no big deal. I'll just ask the engineer to check in the file," he says. It was important because he needed to get his work done by the end of the week. The team member who locked the file was out sick for days and never unlocked the file! Talk about a breakdown in communication and a misuse of tools. Have you ever had any tools turn into HAL and keep you from getting your work done?

We feel your pain! These are all bad experiences that our members expressed to us and I think we can all learn from them. What do you do to ensure your team has the right tools and process? Share your stories in the comments.

Andrew Divencenzo
Customer Development