Not all electronic documents are the same. Remember that skit from Sesame Street called “which one of these things is not like the other”? Well, engineering documents are the pink apple and they stand out from all other electronic files. CAD files cannot be properly managed by a standard document management system that handles office files, pdf’s, tiff’s, etc.
Companies who let their IT or “non-engineering” departments select an enterprise wide EDMS (Electronic Document Management System) often find that out the hard way. When the project implementation gets to the CAD department all hell breaks loose. CAD managers start to ask questions like: Where did my x-Refs go? Why can’t I customize my drawing number and file name? You want my revision number to be 1,2,3..?
Most standard EDMS systems are designed for banking, real-estate, accounting, and similar industries which handle one version of a file that can be stored as a tiff. These files often never have to be “checked-out” or modified, just stored, copied, or distributed. Systems like these do not recognize xRef’s, they don’t allow you to view and mark-up CAD files, and they often exaggerate the size of your database because they use database blobs.
The majority of CAD files in existence today are DWG (AutoCAD) and DGN (Microstation). A few companies also use 3-D modeling files which require very specialized applications for file management. Usually PDM (Product Line Management) tools are required to manage 3-D files and all of their associated sub-files. PDM applications usually do not have the versatility to manage anything other than that one specific file type.
Applications that will manage DWG’s, DGN’s, and often associated office files include AutoEDMS, Synergis Adept, and Dv TDM. Office Document Management systems like Documentum, Laserfiche, and Filenet can only manage CAD files on a limited basis and require a 3rd party plug-in which can be very expensive.
In Summary, whatever EDMS system you choose for handling CAD files should store your electronic files in their native format, recognize xRef’s, and allow you to modify simple processes like check-in, check out, document numbering, and document naming. Most CAD departments have their own nomenclature for document revision numbering and file naming. Why should you have to have a new revision created every time you check in a document? Why should you have to name your document 1, 2, 3 .. Keep in mind that whatever system you are using may not be around forever so you want to make sure you can always find your files the old fashioned way just in case you have to!