Design Engineering

Beyond the obvious: four high-level reasons why data management should be on your radar


General DPN

A lot has been written about how data management can standardize revision control, provide a documented, auditable design history, and retain iterations and 3D data sets for future leverage.

While these are important features of data management, let’s take a look from the 1000 foot view at how data management can contribute to higher-level corporate objectives and goals – beyond better design and more efficient manufacturing.

Succession Planning
With so many boomers getting set to retire in the next five years, many manufacturers are working out how best to pass on the collective knowledge of years of engineering expertise. Not only can data management protect intellectual assets, but also it can allow next generation designers to work intelligently by leveraging existing assets at a much more use functional level.  Not just finding the part, but also seeing how that design has been applied to other products in the past.

The complete design history – stored in the data vault for each part or assembly – captures product design experience into the system making future design decisions based on history possible without having to rely on firsthand accounts.  Workflow automation can build experience based best practice workflows into the design process giving newer employees more time to focus on core design responsibilities.  This reduces the learning curve for new employees and allows them to immediately leverage the collective experience of the organization.

Focus on Innovation
Top management sees innovation as a mandatory part of their future. Faced with incredible competitive pressures from new economies in Asia, North American manufacturers can use innovation to maintain an edge. This means new products and enhancements for existing products – more design iterations faster to outpace competitors that primarily manufacture copied products.


For many, keeping pace is more than adding people, it requires better leveraging the experience resources that are already in place.  This may require that the designers and engineers be able to collaborate seamlessly across locations or specialized resources work across more projects to further leverage their expertise.

Innovation does not have to center solely on product design. Many incremental process innovations beyond design, including shop floor, customer service and sales can stem from data management solutions that make design information available to the entire organization from an early stage. Upstream and downstream innovations can contribute to increased productivity, improved closing rates and reduced shop floor downtime.

Customer Retention
There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to track down the latest design documents when a great customer calls in a huge new order that needs fast-tracking. How much time does your organization waste looking for files, trying to find finals to revise or to re-send to the shop floor? A data management solution allows your staff to respond rapidly and accurately to each and every customer request, no matter how urgent. By providing excellent customer service in terms of re-orders, replacement parts and further product customization, manufacturers stand a better chance of keeping existing business and growing new business.

Business Continuity
Lengthy downtime can kill a manufacturing business – or at the very least stretch credit facilities to the breaking point. In the face of catastrophe, what is your strategy for ensuring your operations can be up and running again in a matter of hours not weeks? Are your designs scattered throughout your office in various standalone applications? Gathering critical data assets in a single repository like Autodesk Vault can contribute significantly to your business continuity plan. No matter what the original file type, a data vault can store and organize them for future use. When paired with a good back-up and recovery platform, a data management platform can get workers back up and running in very short order.

All too often we get caught up in product features and we forget the forest for the trees. When considering data management, take a look at how the solutions you are considering might contribute to higher-level corporate goals: succession planning, innovation, customer retention and business continuity.

Greg Dohrman is with Data Management Solutions at IMAGINiT Technologies


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