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Machine Design

Survey says: CAD file exchange is problematic

Most engineers involved in collaborative projects still have problems exchanging CAD files.

Among the reasons: limited access to CAD software for viewing and commenting, reviews that take too long, and the lack of a clearly defined review process.

So said a recent survey commissioned by Adobe Systems Inc. in San Jose, Calif. The company sponsored a poll by Harris Interactive Technology Research of about 400 design engineers and production and project managers about typical problems in project collaboration. Adobe was not identified as the poll sponsor.

The good news is that 71% of the design respondents thought collaboration reduces design errors and 79% of the production respondents reported it improves manufacturing efficiency. But 70% of all respondents said slow collaborator response times is a big problem, and 47% said lack of clarity in comments is another. Some 71% of all respondents were dissatisfied with CAD file exchange methods in collaborative efforts. Adobe figures that limited access to CAD forces many individuals to resort to the lowest common denominator — paper.

CAD wasn’t the only area of dissatisfaction. Adobe says results show document- exchange difficulties include the many different file formats, lack of accurate and timely information, an inability to manage workflows across applications, and the inability to comment on documents.

Adobe says the poll also shows that collaboration by e-mail and phone isn’t always effective. Often, authors have no way of knowing if collaborators have even opened e-mail attachments. Worse yet, there is no formal tracking process to maintain strong audit trails. Thus, it’s all too easy for documents to go through revision changes before an author receives feedback from all reviewers. Also, e-mails often have MS Office or CAD-file attachments that pose security problems because recipients can copy or edit files.

Issues such as these led half the respondents to cite the importance of having project materials and documents in one searchable, reliable, and secure digital format. They also wanted a way to set permissions for document access and control.

Finally, 90% of all respondents collaborate regularly with colleagues in the same company, but only 33% do so with an OEM or suppliers. Adobe says this finding emphasizes that organizations need to improve their collaboration methods.

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