Making Configuration Management a Better Watchdog

The Bill of Materials (BOM) is the gospel for product development and an important element of configuration management (CM). But in many organizations the creation and use of BOMs and the existing paper-based configuration management workflow places a stranglehold on efficiency and prevents innovation.

The idea of configuration management is to have a watchdog process, driving consistency in product definition and manufacturing execution. Done right, configuration management provides visibility into the functional relationships in a product’s definition. If changes are required, the CM becomes the guide to final reconciliation of consistency. CM ensures that every person on the team shares a common understanding of what is being designed, approved, ordered, built, sold, and serviced. Read More

CAD Secret Agent Finds a Soulmate

I’ve been covering the CAD industry since PCs were called “microcomputers” and a math co-processor was a must-have accessory for CAD users. There have been winners and losers in the CAD market: anyone out there still using VersaCAD? At one time it was bigger than AutoCAD.

Among the survivors from the early years of desktop CAD is Kubotek KeyCreator, originally called Cadkey. KeyCreator was a three-dimensional modeler at a time when most CAD was 2D only. Over the years KeyCreator has developed a devoted following as the go-to tool when models arrive on the desktop in need of repair. It can read and write most 3D CAD formats, and uses direct editing technology to simplify the editing of 3D entities, even if they were created by a parametric modeler. KeyCreator is the CAD equivalent of a secret agent, called upon to quickly, quietly, and efficiently eliminate a problem.

When a CAD program is used to edit models created by other products, there is a lot of collateral to deal with. Editing somebody’s model means there must be an Engineering Change Order. There are revisions to track, supporting documents to amend, and an audit trail to worry about. Usually the job is not about one CAD model but many. It all adds up to a big data management headache if not addressed upfront.

Recently Kubotek has been hearing from some of its larger customers how they need a product data management (PDM) solution to help ensure accurate revisions and complete control over supporting documentation. It came as no surprise to me when Synergis and Kubotek announced a partnership for using Synergis Adept in the KeyCreator environment.

Adept is no stranger to multiple CAD environments as well as all the non-CAD document types used to create products. By working together on a KeyCreator plug-in for Adept, KeyCreator users now have access to the Swiss army knife of PDM products. It will be easy for engineering teams to find and reuse design content, secure intellectual property, automate change and approval processes, and comply with relevant standards. Add to that the best file viewing technology in the industry (based on Oracle’s AutoVue), and you have a CAD-PDM match made in heaven.

The KeyCreator plug-in for Adept is expected to be ready for implementation in the next one to two months. In my opinion, the CAD secret agent has found its soulmate.

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

Securing Engineering Documents in the Cybercrime Age

These days no company should consider itself immune to the possibility of cybercrime and data theft.  Engineering documents hold the company’s crown jewels; data must always be kept secure. With careful planning you can still take advantage of the latest cloud and mobile technology; security does not mean lack of accessibility.

Outdated approaches to data management are the most vulnerable systems. There is nothing that says “STEAL ME” more than important documents just sitting naked in a file folder on the network. Once the external firewall is breached, these files become easy pickings.  A comprehensive IT security solution for engineering/manufacturing data will include the user, the data management software, and the network, as well as application layer interfaces and interconnecting systems (such as PDM to SCM).

Older PDM/PLM systems were built with data, speed, and functionality in mind; security was a minor concern limited to user access rights. Today’s global networks, dispersed workforce, and cloud and/or mobile access to engineering data completely changes the security scene.

Using modern engineering document management software means you are using modern security. Companies who have not upgraded from management by file folders to a modern EDM system like Synergis Adept generally do not have modern IT security in place. These companies are also more likely to treat engineering IT as “their problem” and not include it in more general IT oversight of security issues.

Creating a data immunity system

Security experts say good IT security can be compared to the multiple levels of immunity in the human body. Skin is just the first of several protection layers. Each organ and functional system has separate immunity barriers and “protocols.” The brain has its own separate security protocol, the blood-brain barrier. Engineering IT security should operate in a similar fashion. If the “skin” of your company—the firewall from the outer world—is breached, the engineering data inside should still be secure.

A recent survey of 4,506 IT professionals found that an estimated 49% of an organization’s worth is derived from the information created inside the company. Security is not just protecting this information from the outside; those with access inside the company often are found to be the source of data theft.

Proper security for engineering data does not mean one more module in a PDM/EDM system. Security should not be an overlay; it should be embedded into in all systems at the lowest possible level. Security should never be separate from every aspect of using, managing, and storing data.

Synergis Adept provides built-in secure, controlled access to documents from any location. Whether you need a centralized vault or distributed vaults at each location, Adept’s unique smart vaulting maintains native folder structure and file names without scrambling or moving files. Yet at the same time it wraps documents in a tight layer of protection beyond that provided by your existing IT infrastructure. Adept becomes that extra layer of immunity beyond the skin provided by IT.

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