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by Thomas Fitzgerald, June 1, 2022

Structuring, Migrating, and Sharing Better with Engineering Data Management Software

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I’ve never met a manufacturer that takes pleasure in managing, structuring, and migrating their engineering and design files. It can be a time-consuming, budget-swallowing, catastrophe-laden process that distracts designers and engineers from doing their best work. But technology changes fast, and new software relegates old, making engineering data management software and data migration an inevitable feature of the modern manufacturing landscape. Manufacturers and engineering groups are structuring and aggregating their data from disconnected systems that are spread across their organization to centralized data repositories – improving data sharing to drive agility and innovation. 

The good news is that structuring, collaborating, and migrating data doesn’t have to be painful and filled with risk. This article breaks down the challenges of working with and migrating manufacturing data from legacy systems to operate cleanly and on a new on-premise solution…or even the cloud. I explain how manufacturers should structure their metadata to streamline collaboration, version control, migration, and shareability. 

This is what we’ll cover: Why Manufacturers Should Care About Their Engineering Data Management Software

  • They want to weave a digital thread that connects customers, designers, and the engineering department to the factory floor, driving efficiency and automation. 
  • They want to gain an integrated view of people, processes, and systems across departments and sites to identify opportunities and threats and act with greater agility. 
  • They want to improve revision and version control to maintain consistency and lockdown designs and drawings for complex products. 
  • They want to remove silos to centralize data from disparate systems under a single source of truth; improving accessibility, shareability, communication, and collaboration. 
  • They want to adopt, trial, and integrate new technologies (IIoT, AI, big data, etc.) without shoehorning them into idiosyncratic data architectures. 
  • They want to partner with other digital leaders and participate in digital-first supply chains. 
  • They want to onboard new hires more quickly and attract and retain top talent when skilled labor is in short supply. 

Why Version Control Is Key to Collaboration 

Design teams that are using local storage, shared drives, and other ways to “collaborate” when designing new products or making revisions are suffering. They might be updating old versions of a file or cannot work collaboratively with another designer without overwriting each other’s revisions. 

Looking at data in a new way provides an opportunity to uncover and remedy data quality issues, particularly weaknesses in revisioning and version control that plague manufacturing organizations. 

Engineering data management software (like Autodesk Vault PLM and Upchain) makes it quick and easy for designers and engineers to find the right versions of files. These solutions store tried-and-tested designs, tracks changes, and keeps everything synced, saving much-wasted engineering energy.

“Can We Collaborate Like This…But in the Cloud?” 

Manufacturing organizations want to capitalize on the value of engineering data management software by taking the functionality to the cloud. Leveraging the cloud removes the burden of data management, upgrades, security, and support, placing it squarely at their cloud provider’s feet. As a result, internal IT departments can focus their energy on innovation and automation. 

 Most manufacturers that are thinking about–or actively pursuing–cloud migration, are doing it to improve data accessibility and shareability across teams and with external partners.  

There are financial benefits too. Cloud migration moves data management spend from CapEx to OpEx, making resources available that would otherwise be spent on hardware. Data storage expenses become more predictable as many cloud providers offer a pay-as-you-go-type subscription service.  

The cloud lies at the heart of digital transformation in manufacturing. There’s no AI, big data, IIoT, and only limited scope for automation without the cloud. With digital leaders achieving earnings growth that is 1.8 times higher than digital laggards, isn’t it time you started migrating your data to the cloud? 

engineering-data-management-software

Manufacturing Data Migration Challenges  

One cannot just “go to the cloud”, though. There are preparation and migration activities required to do this gracefully. A recent white paper published by Moor Insights & Strategy nicely summarizes the risks and complexities many manufacturers face when migrating their data. 

Data ownership: They don’t have a solid understanding of their data. They don’t know how it’s integrated with the broader IT infrastructure, how it impacts manufacturing operations, and where it lacks robustness (duplicates, missing information, errors, etc.) Somebody has to take ownership. 

Coordination of people and business: A large data migration project is broad, affecting disparate people in different roles and teams that use multiple solutions with varying degrees of understanding of old and new systems and processes. Many manufacturers are unable to coordinate and get buy-in from the various stakeholders and decision-makers 

Availability and downtime during the migration: They can’t afford to suffer downtime, but they don’t have the tools and experience required to minimize it. 

Validation of the new environment: They fail to rigorously test their new data environment under a wide range of future scenarios before migration. 

Operational readiness: Employees within the business are incapable of deploying, operating, utilizing, and managing new data systems. 

Cost control: They don’t have the budget to carry out data migration effectively. According to a 2019 Deloitte study, 55% of IT teams see budget and cost concerns as an obstacle to data modernization within their business. 

A big part of the solution lies in partnering with experienced data migration specialists who can guide manufacturers through the entire process. Meticulous preparation (discovery, design, planning, operational readiness) combined with continuous communication can ensure flawless execution. Having access to proven methodologies and tools increases the chance that migration projects will be successful while eliminating errors and downtime. 

Ok, Let’s Get Moving (Migrating) 

Let’s cover some core migration principles to make sure we are thinking holistically about our approach: 

Reducing the Lift 

A core data migration principle is to minimize the amount of data to be migrated, so weeding out duplicates, improving folder structure, and integrating tools for maintaining control of designs and drawings in the future is a no-brainer. 

Structuring Metadata Before We Go 

Of course, following data migration, users across departments expect everything to work exactly how it did before! Believe it or not, this is achievable. Ensuring critical metadata reaches its new destination maximizes stability and reduces friction.  

Common metadata nightmares to avoid include: 

  • File-created dates change automatically to the date of migration. 
  • Existing file names are too long or include restricted characters. 

Manufacturers can anticipate and avoid most metadata issues with proper planning. Files may have to be enriched with additional metadata before migration, and new tools and systems can be used to recategorize files automatically when metadata gets lost in migration.  

For metadata issues that can’t be remedied in advance, careful communication with stakeholders is key to keeping users happy and informed through a challenging period.  

Execute the Migration to Engineering Data Management Software

Now that the hard work of pruning out unneeded content and structuring what’s left is done, we can move our content. 

There isn’t a lot of hidden magic here; just some standard IT practices of ensuring backups have been made before we touch anything. We also want to try to virtualize, or do as much as possible in test or staging environments, before we start affecting the live systems that employees are using daily. Lastly, software and utilities are used to move the content digitally across the network (or external to the network) to the new destination.  

Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3… 

Now that the content is there and safe, it’s important to test everything impacted by the migration.  

  1. Did we check our naming conventions, file permissions, and metadata to ensure utilities ran properly? 
  2. Did we allow our users to dig around and try things out before we called this done? 
  3. How is the access? Is anyone having issues accessing the new system safely? Are they able to find the content they need and have permission to view and edit as they should? 

Does Engineering Data Management Software Sound Hard? We Can Help! 

KETIV has an entire business practice area dedicated to engineering data management software with experts ready to assist with consulting, solutions, migration, software, and support. 

We also offer Vault as a Service by KETIV, which delivers Autodesk Vault in the cloud, so you don’t have to worry about the management of your engineering data management software. 

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