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Case Studies

Drawing Management in Manufacturing

Dv TDM solves CAD data management problem for Orford Refrigeration

When a company designs and manufactures equipment that is customised for each client, they quickly accumulate a very large volume of past job data. They need to keep it all accessible, for the inevitable modifications and additions that clients are likely to want after a few years, as well as for reference when designing systems for new clients. It should not be too hard to find previous data for a particular client, but to be able to find previous examples of particular design features they need some software system that can index their archived data.

Orford Refrigeration is a company at Toowomba in Queensland who manufacture a wide range of commercial and industrial refrigeration equipment. They have used AutoCAD for their design work since the 1980's, and now have about 16,000 DWG files to store and index. They save every customer's data so that they can refer back to it easily later. They often use previous data as a basis for new work. so they need to be able to retrieve data easily. That means being able to find files by search criteria other than just the file-names.

Previously used Autodesk WorkCenter

About five years ago, Orford Refrigeration adopted Autodesk's WorkCenter data management system for this purpose. Being produced by the same company as their CAD product, it seemed a good choice for reliable indexing of AutoCAD data. WorkCenter is a very big and complex system that provides an exceptional level of data security – more security than Orford really needed in fact. It hides all the data in its own ‘vault' storage system that is invisible outside the WorkCenter system. The initial setup and transferring of all their data files into its ‘vault' system was quite a big task, and needed a considerable amount of specialist consultant's time over about a week. But once it was all done and operational, it settled down to serve them well.

However, in recent years it became clear that WorkCenter was likely to cease being supported, and hence, might become incompatible with later versions of AutoCAD data. Also, Ian Otto, in charge of CAD and IT at Orford Refrigeration, had become a bit concerned about the fact that all their data files were ‘hidden' within the WorkCenter ‘vault' and not accessible other than through the WorkCenter program. That is what gives it its extremely strong security control. However, it also presents a problem if the program fails and is no longer supported. In fact, Autodesk sold the WorkCenter product to another company who renamed it Motiva, but that company later folded. As a result, a replacement data manager became more urgently needed.

Evaluated six systems

Ian Otto looked for a less complex data management solution that was more ‘openly' accessible and easier to set up. He installed about six different data management systems on a trial basis, including some that had a particular emphasis on CAD and some that did not. He tried these out using dummy data comprising copies of a selection of their real data, so as not to disturb the working data still running on WorkCenter.

At the end of the evaluation period, Ian decided that the Dv TDM system from Acumen Data, met their needs most completely. An important factor for Orford Refrigeration was that the producers of Dv TDM were prepared to help with the rather daunting task of extracting all the data out of WorkCenter's secure and rather mysterious ‘vault' and transferring it into Dv TDM.

This extraction process proved quite a task. WorkCenter encrypts all the files and stores them with internally-generated meaningless filenames. The original filenames and their folder organization are only recorded in the WorkCenter database. Dv TDM can do something similar, but usually, it is set up to keep the files in their normal operating system form and locations, and to rely on the network system's user rights system for controlling access to the data. Dv TDM's database indexes the files for easy searching and retrieval using various user-defined keywords.

Orford Refrigeration had to extract all their data from the WorkCenter ‘vault' system, and then rename all the files to their original names. They found, through the help of Acumen Data and AutoCAD Consultants, that there were utility programs on the WorkCenter CD, but with little documentation about their use. Some trial and error was involved in figuring out how to operate those utilities, and the extraction process took a week or two to complete. Acumen Data supplied a lot of advice, plus batch and macro files to automate several aspects of the job, particularly the file renaming.

Ian Otto says Acumen Data staff assisted them considerably in getting their data into Dv TDM, yet never needed to make the lengthy trip from Adelaide to Toowoomba – it was all done by telephone and file transfers over the Internet.

Versatile and widely scalable

One of the attractions of Dv TDM for Orford refrigeration, was the considerable extent to which its methods of operation can be set up to suit individual situations and its wide range of scalability for very small and very large companies. It can use any of several ‘industry standard' database systems, rather than having its own system. That feature is particularly valuable where the company already has a corporate client/server data system running on their network. At Orford Refrigeration, they decided to use the Borland InterBase client/server system that is offered with Dv TDM. That has proved a good choice for their currently fairly modest size of network, while ensuring that it has the capability to expand in the future without running into the upper limits of data volume and number of users that are inherent with shared-data-file systems. However, for smaller situations, Dv TDM can work perfectly well with common shared-file database systems such as Microsoft Access. It can also work with the commonly used large Client/Server network database systems such as SQL/Server and Oracle.

Ian Otto reports that Orford Refrigeration is very happy with Dv TDM. They like its very simple installation process; its flexibility to work with your own preferences for storage locations, access security mechanism and database system; its easy expandability and custom configuration; and its easy maintenance without needing special consultants. Ian feels secure that his company is not likely to have another major upheaval of their data management system forced upon them, because Dv TDM is easy to maintain and expand and the data is not locked secretly within it. He is satisfied that Dv TDM provides all the facilities and controls they are ever likely to need, and has no real limits on expansion of data or number of users


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