Case Study: Hardware startup accelerates design with cloud-based PDM

Miselu needed better CAD file organization and revision control for product development. The many tools their hardware startup used left engineers wasting lots of time and injecting human errors into simple data management tasks. It also left non-CAD users and partners out of the loop. We spoke to VP of Design and the chief architect of current products - Mike Prichard.

What does Miselu do? What is your role at Miselu?

Mike Prichard: Miselu develops music interfaces and instruments to enrich the experience of creating music with the iPad. I am the VP of Design and the chief architect of our current products, C.24 and T.10. We started evolving a custom Android-based learning instrument into a hyper-portable iPad cover, 2 octave BLE (wireless) connected MIDI keyboard with the ability to combine units to an arbitrary number of octaves for a full Piano-like experience.

What were some file management problems at your hardware startup?

Previous CAD management “systems” we’ve used tended to be walled off gardens that didn’t communicate intelligently with anything but the CAD user. All data sharing (PDF and solid file exports, primarily) was handled manually by the user, including hand editing of the filename to append revision and version numbers. These systems rarely offered any non-CAD users any access at all, read-only or otherwise except for some that might have a proprietary viewing app that only runs on Windows; annoying for a Mac only shop. Getting files into the PLM system required lots of human interaction to move ECO and Part numbers from PLM into CAD and the above mentioned steps during export from CAD to PLM.

What was your method of managing and sharing files before Workbench?

SVN, CVS or EPDM to manage CAD data. Unigraphics had a crude filename-ing scheme that just used the filesystem. Exported CAD was zipped up and e-mailed, primarily, both to internal colleagues and external vendors/partners.

What did you not like about those solutions - where did they let you down?

CAD engineer wasting lots of time and injecting lots of human errors into very simple data management tasks that should really be "automagically" handled.

How does Workbench help you do your job better?

Our biggest wins with GrabCAD so far:

  • It's cloud-based. No servers to provision/manage.
  • Not just for engineers. It's web viewable CAD for the whole company and partners.
  • Revisions are easy. No more individual file name changes, which can lead to errors.
  • Version compare. Truly disruptive way to easily see differences between versions.

This last feature is not even offered within the CAD ecosystem of most CAD environments and it’s one of the most crucial to mechanical engineers. For years I’ve had to import older exported revisions of files as dumb solids into current revisions and try and manually perform a number of add/subtract operations to identify the clumps of features that have changed. GrabCAD Compare makes that a thing of the past, and this function is available to anyone without CAD.

Who do you think could benefit from a solution like this?

It’s the best CAD data management solution I’ve seen so far and combination of the above features would help any CAD user or company, I’d think. I will certainly continue to recommend GrabCAD Workbench.

Do you find that having projects available online is an advantage?

Yes, this has proven invaluable. No servers to manage, no backups to monitor, no VPN to configure, no user accounts to setup/delete/provision; one single email invite to whomever we wish to grant access. New CAD workstations install Workbench and login to fetch the complete repository of CAD.

Thank you Mike Prichard from Miselu for taking the time to share your experiences so other hardware startups can find the right solutions for them. Let us know your biggest CAD file management problems in the comments. 

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GrabCAD Workbench offers a full set of file management and collaboration tools to ensure that engineers and partners can find the right CAD file, avoid duplicate work, and get input from everyone involved. It’s ideal for mid-sized companies who need to coordinate multiple engineers but don’t need the cost and hassle of traditional solutions.