Windows Explorer wasn`t made for engineers
Windows Explorer
wasn’t made
for engineers
How much time do you waste
managing your design data?
Introduction
Introduction
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Engineers spend, on average, 15 percent of their time managing data—and some
routinely waste the equivalent of one day a week or more.*
Reusing designs
Much of this waste is due to the simple fact that Windows® Explorer wasn’t made for engineers. And it certainly wasn’t made to manage CAD
files. To illustrate, here are a few examples of data management challenges you and your engineers probably deal with daily:
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion


When sifting through
thousands of files, you wish you
could search for more than just
a file name.
You dread copying or renaming
files. It’s tedious and you
typically need to repair broken
references.

When you work with other
engineers on a project, you
worry constantly that they will
overwrite your files.

You manually maintain
spreadsheets that document
every instance where parts and
subassemblies are used.
To overcome these challenges, you need a file manager that’s made just for engineers. It should understand the complexities of CAD file
relationships, help you find the files you need when you need them, and, most important, make it easy for you to collaborate with your
colleagues.
Product Data Management (PDM) exists just for this purpose. This guide outlines the different ways Windows Explorer can undermine
engineers’ productivity, and illustrates how a solid PDM strategy can help your entire team spend more time doing what they do best.
Get a better handle
on PDM
2
Introduction
What is PDM?
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Think of PDM as a business strategy for managing your product-related information
and engineering processes in a single spot.
Reusing designs
It serves several purposes, including:
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM


Improving engineering
productivity


Acting as a repository for
engineering knowledge
Providing an audit trail of
the entire development
process
Working well with others
Protecting your
intellectual property
More effective
collaboration with PDM
This guide focuses primarily on how a PDM strategy can help you better manage your design files. But it’s important to understand that PDM
is about much more than CAD file management. Once you have all your data in one location, there are many things you can do with it to
improve everyday engineering processes like design reuse, engineering change orders (ECOs), product releases, bills of materials (BOMs), and
product customization.
Conclusion
Get a better handle
on PDM
3
Introduction
Finding what you need, when you need it
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
When engineers are asked about their data management challenges, they typically
identify search and retrieval of design files as top issues.
Reusing designs
In fact, 46 percent of those involved in product development cite “finding the right information” as a top design challenge.**
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
Finding a file should be a simple task. But too often, the data you’re looking for is spread across local drives on individual workstations and
shared folders on assorted servers. There’s also the problem of volume: With multiple people contributing to hundreds of projects, thousands
of files can accumulate over time. And the only criteria you can consistently search for is the file name.
This all adds up to a lot of wasted time. When you can’t find the files you need, you may end up wasting even more time designing something
that may already exist, which is compounded by the need for additional investments in tooling or redevelopment of manufacturing processes
that were already available for the design you couldn’t find.
These situations make clear why Windows Explorer is simply not up to the task.
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion
46%
46 percent of those involved in product development cite
“finding the right information” as a top design challenge.**
Get a better handle
on PDM
4
Introduction
How PDM makes finding data simple
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
With a PDM strategy in place, you can use the search criteria that makes sense to you
as an engineer.
Reusing designs
If you want to find an aluminum 150 mm gear created by one of your colleagues on a project two years ago, you don’t have to remember the
file name. Just use that exact specification in the search to find exactly what you need quickly.
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion
The first step in a PDM strategy is to put all your files in a single spot. You can still use folders to organize data at a top level or within your
projects, so you have the option to browse or search within a narrower set of data. Once all your data is in one location, you can:



Search for more than just file names
Use multiple search criteria
Save your common searches
PDM systems are designed to fundamentally
understand CAD files, so all file-related
properties are indexed and searchable.
This includes default properties that
are cataloged automatically or custom
properties that you can map to parameters
or characteristics unique to your designs.
It’s likely many of your designs have many
similarities, so when trying to identify the
few relevant items you’re looking for, you
may need to conduct a detailed search.
Having the option to use several different
properties and Boolean operations to filter
down results is extremely useful to find just
what you need.
You probably need to conduct the same
types of searches over and over again.
Saving your searches gives you one-click
access to common things like documents
you are working on or important files in the
project.
Get a better handle
on PDM
5
Introduction
Reusing designs
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
The endless search for files isn’t the only way inefficient data management can sap
your productivity.
Reusing designs
Tedious and repetitive design office tasks are also near the top of the list. For example, 29 percent of engineers report that reuse of data is a
top design challenge.**
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
The complexity of CAD files is a root cause for this issue. Instead of housing everything in a single file, links are built between parts,
subassemblies, and top-level assembly files. Playing around with those files in Windows Explorer can cause things to break quickly. To reuse
designs, you will eventually need to find a way to copy the data and give it a new name. Just try moving, renaming, or opening a copied file,
and odds are all of those references will be severed. That means you’ll need to spend time pairing everything back up inside your CAD software.
Working well with others
There are better ways of copying designs built inside most CAD applications, but the task remains tedious and repetitive. For example, if you
have an assembly with hundreds or thousands of parts, it is extremely inefficient to manually select each file you want to copy, rename each
copied file, specify the destination location for each new file, and confirm everything worked properly.
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Since design reuse is such a common activity, another significant data management challenge is determining the total impact of a design
change to a part or subassembly that is used in multiple products. Windows Explorer can’t tell you that. More than likely, you manually
maintain a few spreadsheets that list all the files used in top-level assemblies and subassemblies. This approach does work, but keeping those
spreadsheets up to date can be time consuming.
Conclusion
Get a better handle
on PDM
29%
29 percent of engineers report that reuse of data is a top
design challenge.**
6
Introduction
Move, copy, and rename with PDM
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Reusing existing designs saves development time as well as manufacturing and tooling
costs, but the process should not undermine your productivity.
Reusing designs
A PDM strategy removes the repetitive tasks and frustration involved with the technical aspects of reusing existing data, giving you more time
to work on what’s actually new in the design. Here’s how:
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion
Get a better handle
on PDM



Drag and drop
Rename anything
Copy design
PDM systems are generally
designed to provide similar
usability to Windows Explorer
with the added benefit of not
breaking things when you make
changes. So, you can drag and
drop a file or folder within the
system just as you would do
normally, without worrying
what will happen the next
time you open it or another file
where it is used.
With PDM, you can rename
files exactly as you would
inside Windows Explorer; the
difference is that PDM software
makes sure all links remain
intact. You can also use tools
to apply naming schemes to
entire batches of files. This is
especially useful when copying
a design or working on a
project that involves hundreds
or thousands of files.
One of the most powerful tools
a PDM solution can provide is
the ability to simplify design
reuse into a single step. Once
the top-level assembly is
selected, every file referenced
in the assembly is identified and
included in the copy operation.
From there, you can pick and
choose which files you want to
copy, reuse, or remove from the
new project, and then define
a scheme for renaming the
copied files.
7

See where parts or
subassemblies are used
Since relationships between
files are already being tracked,
in a single click you can
see everywhere a part or
subassembly is used. PDM
works in the opposite direction
as well, allowing you to see
every file used by a part or
assembly.
Introduction
Working well with others
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Reusing designs
Collaboration is an essential part of the development process.
But more than 25 percent of engineers said that collaborating with internal colleagues and working with conflicting document versions are
significant problems.*
Windows Explorer lacks some basic capabilities that engineers need to make collaboration on a project easier. For example, there is no simple
way to prevent other people working on the project from accidently overwriting your files in a shared folder. To prevent this from happening,
you need to be able to lock down files while you’re editing them.
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
Your team also must be disciplined about properly maintaining versions of designs. However, tasks that rely solely on discipline are likely to fail
eventually due to human error.
Storing files on shared network folders creates additional collaboration issues, particularly with larger teams. A few dozen engineers opening
files directly from shared folders and saving often (as they should) can strain network capacity. Pulling the files down to the local computer
while editing reduces the traffic, but creates more opportunities for data loss. It also makes it more difficult to find files, since they can be
anywhere at any time. And with different versions of the same part or assembly in many different places, it is hard for your team to answer the
question: “Which one is the most up to date?”
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion
25%
More than 25 percent of engineers said that collaborating with
internal colleagues and working with conflicting document
versions are significant problems.*
Get a better handle
on PDM
8
Introduction
More effective collaboration with PDM
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Reusing designs
Helping engineers work better together is a fundamental pillar of PDM.
A PDM strategy helps to remove the typical problems that can arise when multiple people are working on the same set of files. You get the
benefit of collaboration without the loss in individual productivity.
Here are some specific ways PDM helps engineers to collaborate more effectively:
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion



Checking out, checking in
Versioning
Working locally, saving globally
PDM solutions remove all concerns
about overwritten files with a simple
yet fundamental capability: check out
and check in. Just like your local library,
when you check out a file, nobody else
can touch it until you check it back in (it
becomes “read-only”). While it’s checked
out, everyone can still find the file and see
who is actively working on it, so you know
exactly which user to track down.
Versioning capabilities keep track of all
the changes you make during the design
of the product while maintaining the
same file name. It logs the who, what,
and when behind each change, providing
traceability and context for each update to
the design. You always know which version
is the latest. When paired with check-out/
check-in capabilities, versioning prevents
conflicts from developing when multiple
engineers are contributing to the same files
in the project.
Most PDM systems operate under the
principle that data is best stored in a place
with global access, but edits should be
made locally. When you check out a file, it
is faster and less draining on the network
to download the file once to your local
workstation, save locally as you edit the
design, and then upload it back to the
server as a new version when your changes
are complete. This process helps to protect
against data loss because the original file
still resides on the server. It also ensures all
files remain searchable and discoverable
even when checked out.
Get a better handle
on PDM
9
Introduction
Conclusion
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Reusing designs
Can a PDM strategy really make a difference?
Consider the facts: World-class manufacturers are 30 percent more likely to use PDM or product lifecycle management (PLM) to manage their
design data; these top performers also spend 25 percent less time on non-productive data management tasks.** PDM is likely to have a positive
impact on your efficiency and productivity, too.
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Working well with others
30%
World-class manufacturers are 30 percent more likely to use
PDM or product lifecycle management (PLM) to manage their
design data.**
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion
Get a better handle
on PDM
10
Introduction
Get a better handle on PDM
What is PDM?
Finding what you need,
when you need it
How PDM makes finding
data simple
Reusing designs
Learn how Autodesk can help you better manage your design data
The Autodesk® Vault family of products is a comprehensive PDM solution that allows you to better manage your design data and track your
development processes throughout the Digital Prototyping pipeline.
In addition, Autodesk and our value added resellers are experts in helping customers better manage their design data. We work with
thousands of companies across the world, sharing sound advice on potential opportunities for improvement and crafting solutions to real
customer problems.
Move, copy, and rename
with PDM
Learn about Vault 
Talk to an expert 
Working well with others
More effective
collaboration with PDM
Conclusion
Get a better handle
on PDM
770.434.3050
www.reproproducts.com
Autodesk and the Autodesk logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of Autodesk, Inc., and/or its subsidiaries and/or affiliates in the USA and/or other countries. All other brand
names, product names, or trademarks belong to their respective holders. Autodesk reserves the right to alter product and services offerings, and specifications and pricing at any time
without notice, and is not responsible for typographical or graphical errors that may appear in this document.
© 2015 Autodesk, Inc. All rights reserved.
11
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