Machine Design

Knowing It When You See It, Guiding the Workflow

I'll Know It When I See It

Viewing drawings is the most basic feature of document management packages. More nonCAD users, such as those in technical publications or purchasing, need to find drawings, examine them for detail, and possibly plot them out. In its simplest form, a viewer lets people only look at drawings to extract information.

Documents must be in a database before authorized users can view them. Most viewers and document systems are based on widely used databases. This information is typically called metadata, or data about company information, such as which computer holds drawings for a particular project, which computer stores the specs for a project, and which computers have memos and communications for the job. With this setup, the user need not know where the file is stored to view it.

For those faced with managing a mountain of paper drawings, one expert suggests dividing the pile into active and inactive stacks and scanning only the most recent or active drawings. Most viewing packages also include features for checking out and returning drawings. Check-out lets users view, and with proper credentials, print drawings.

Guiding the Workflow

Workflow managers make sure documents such as drawings, approval forms, and memos get to the right people at the right time. They provide a framework so the tools that designers use, such as CAD or view-redline capability, are more easily plugged in. That means a document-management package must support a wide range of file formats from word processing, spread sheets, and raster formats such as .tiff and .gif.

Workgroup managers differ from full-blown PDM systems in that workgroup-level solutions can be assembled and working in 120 days or less while a company-wide PDM system can take years.

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