Managing CAD files is an important part of the data management systems and product lifecycle management (PLM) process. CAD files contain an initial digital representation of the product and are used as a foundation of product development processes. As such, it’s essential to have a system in place that helps keep track of these files and manage them effectively. Despite the great progress the CAD/PLM industry made with the development of cloud/SaaS tools, the ugly reality is that the majority of design work is still done using file-based desktop CAD tools.
Therefore, having a service that is capable of managing these files is extremely important.
To solve this problem, OpenBOM brings Drive service that is helping engineers and product development companies to establish and manage centralized virtual storage for all engineering files used for product development, control simultaneous access to these files, and ensure that multiple people won’t be able to make changes that override someone else’s changes.
Read more about OpenBOM Drive in our training library – OpenBOM Drive Documentation. If you would like to have more systematic help, I’d encourage you to take step-by-step instructions fromOpenBOM Drive Training Course.
OpenBOM Drive vs. Legacy PDMs, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc
Data management technologies advice for the last decade together with cloud technologies and storage management systems, allowed us to bring a different solution if we compared it to legacy PDM (data management solutions) used by the industry for the last 2-3 decades.
All existing data management platforms (PDM) are using a centralized vault management system that is keeping all files and bringing these files to a local workspace for changes. This is the so-called “Check-out process”. After a file is changed, you can perform the same operation in the opposite direction (check-in) and the file management system will retrieve files from the local system and return it back to the Vault.
Drive is different and it uses a central cloud database to track all versions of the files. Drive allows every user to interact with this database using Windows File Explorer extensions, which makes the work seamless and eliminates the need to sync files manually. A manual or automatic locking system prevents changing files by two users simultaneously and makes data flow automatically. Also, you can get access to files via OpenBOM Drive dashboard.
There are also difference between OpenBOM Drive and other cloud disks (Google, Dropbox, etc.). OpenBOM Drive is automatically managing versions and enables manual and automatic locks in a very efficient way. This allows engineers to work simultaneously with remote locations without VPN service as you need it for traditional legacy PDM systems.
In our early articles, we discussed OpenBOM product release best practices. The article covered the process to manage engineering data, creating items/BOM, and managing releases. In my article today, I’d like to zoom in on the part of the process that is related more to Drive and discuss how to create file management processes for CAD data.
OpenBOM Drive Best Practices
Drive is a simple system, but it requires proper setup and configuration. The biggest part of the configuration is related to the installation of the Drive File Explorer extension to create and access a virtual drive from your Windows workstation.
Before continuing you need to enable Drive in your account (Drive dashboard) and get access to the installation file. NOTE- the installer file is sent to you via email coming from OpenBOM support with the subject: “OpenBOM Drive License Activated”.
For the coming new release (end of January/2023), you will be able to install Drive directly from the dashboard.
1. Install Drive File Explorer Extension
The installation process is straightforward and covered in OpenBOM Drive Training. Please keep in mind that Antivirus configuration is extremely important and ignoring it can make the Drive malfunction.
After the installation, start a Drive and you will see OpenBOM Drive (default S:\ drive) in your operation system. You can make a change to the drive letter using settings.
2. Organize Centralized Shared Folder System
The next step is to think about shared folders and how files will be available to all team members. Keep in mind, the data created by team members is not shared automatically to prevent unintentional data sharing. Therefore, we recommend the first person (admin) create a folder system and share it with the rest of the team.
We recommend using the “Vault” type for design or project files. It will enable “Check-in/out commands”. All other files can use automatic locking with people that have the right to change them.
3. Define Sharing Permission
Drive allows you multiple permission levels. You can share files for editing, and viewing only and you can allow users to download files to another location (if needed). Sharing is propagated top-down. So thinking about how to do it in the way you will have 2-3 main branches can be a time well spent to simplify your file-sharing processes.
4. Upload Standard Hardware Libraries
We recommend separating the file folder system between standard library files and your design (project file). The first one should be shared for read-only and not allow versions (Vaulting). That would be the simplest way to ensure that data is shared with all engineers, but cannot be changed.
Project folders can include design files you created for a specific project or use in multiple projects. Try to share data and not duplicate it. In such a way you won’t be running into conflicts when you will capture the data for Items/BOMs.
5. Save a New Project & Capture Items/BOM using CAD Add-in
Create new design files or upload existing files. Keep in mind to use software to neutralize local path (eg. Solidworks Pack-n-go). Once you got these files in Drive, you can follow the normal process of design using the CAD system. If you would like to check out the file, you can do it via File Explorer or CAD add-in (eg. OpenBOM SolidWorks Add-in)
Use OpenBOM CAD add-in to capture Items/BOMs directly from a CAD system. OpenBOM doesn’t change your CAD design processes. The item/BOM generation process is not different from the situation when you work with CAD files. Once an Item is saved or BOM is generated, OpenBOM transfers the file from Drive and attaches it to an Item. The drive version of the file is remaining in Drive. (Note: we are planning changes in these functions in the future to allow Drive files to be available directly from the Item/BOM user interface, including 3D viewer function).
Use Drive to manage design work-in-progress file management. It supports multiple CAD systems integration and allows seamless file management, versions, and provides 3D viewer for CAD files. OpenBOM Drive is not a complex system, but it requires proper setup and configuration. In this article, I gave you 5 steps to follow before starting to use OpenBOM Drive. Follow these steps and you will find Drive easy and simple. OpenBOM Drive functions are available in all subscriptions – Team, Company, and Enterprise (starting from January 2023). If you purchased an OpenBOM subscription before 2023, please contact OpenBOM support and check about the Drive license in your plan.
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