Data Efficiency as the Engine of Creativity

A revolution in IT is underway, pressured by four strong currents: big data analysis, the cloud, mobile devices, and social media. Because of the momentum of these trends, some engineering software companies now push their customers to port every bit of design and engineering data to cloud technology, so it can be reorganized for greater efficiency.

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) products take this approach; they scrape every engineering document for every bit of information, and reassemble the pieces in a new database. According to this philosophy, the key to efficiency is data granularity; the more one breaks design information into its individual pieces the more efficient the organization becomes. A small army of consulting firms make a good living doing this for PLM customers.

But as the old adage states, the devil is in the details. Is a drawing or a 3D model just a geometry database that needs the information within to be extracted? Is every cell in a spreadsheet really longing to be liberated and moved to a PLM database? Does efficiency require scrambling the existing paradigm and changing work flow? No doubt, cloud technology has tremendous value when used correctly; the question becomes how to use it wisely.

A big data store is irrelevant if you can’t get to the information you need fast and use it fast. The end game should not be big data, but useful data that helps you improve your process, shorten your time to market, guarantee quality, and other measurable business goals.

In manufacturing organizations with thousands of parts and assemblies to manage, perhaps the totalitarian approach of PLM makes sense. But for every Ford or Boeing that needs the PLM monolith, there are a thousand other companies who look with horror at the big company approach. Surely, smaller firms wonder, there must be a better way to achieve secure, controlled access to product/project information than by running documents through a blender and re-sorting the pieces. The information in engineering and design documents are mission critical; the context of that information is as important as the content.

Unlike the big data approach of PLM, Synergis Adept takes advantage of the fact that engineering data lives within the documents. To make the best use of that data, it doesn’t make sense to remove it from the context of the document. Adept’s approach maintains the data within its original context, providing access to metadata within the environment of the drawing or model.

Data supports creativity and productivity when that data is quickly accessible by those who need it in a form they can immediately put to use. Adept’s vaulting approach to engineering information skips the rhetoric of big data and delivers fast data within the most useful context. Users get what they want, when they need it.

With nearly 30 years in the design software industry under my belt, I have come to realize technical innovation is not an on-off proposition. If it were, no one in engineering would be using 2D CAD or Excel spreadsheets today. There is a continuum of opportunity with each new hardware or software advance. Given the access to the cloud, and other advanced factors in the IT revolution, it is now affordable to store massive amounts of information, and to make that mountain of information accessible outside the confines of the local area network. But just because computers are capable of breaking down and storing massive amounts of granular data does not mean that this big-data approach is best for every application. For the majority of engineering groups and departments, the Adept approach, keeping the data in the context of the document, is more understandable, more effective, more affordable, easier to implement, and easier to use.

In future guest posts for this blog, I’ll explore more on how Adept improves the engineering process.

Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at

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