Team collaboration is essential to the success of any engineering project. Team members could be from different departments within the same company, or a group of partners working on the same project. Let’s take a case study scenario to illustrate the power of effective collaboration. In this scenario, two CAE engineers from Munich are working on the same automotive components project with a design specialist from Hannover, an automotive designer from Torino, and a testing engineer from a manufacturing unit located in Barcelona.
Effectively using design and simulation software requires good collaboration, fast action, and results in increased quality. If the communication and collaboration methods are not effective, the project goals cannot be achieved. Let’s now take a look at some disruptive factors that hinder an effective collaboration by posing different scenarios for our case study team.
Software Licensing Model
The ability to implement smooth team collaboration is highly dependant on the licensing model. Perpetual licenses allow the purchase and running of the network licenses with specific but limited team collaboration functions, all of which are managed by a server console. But that’s only if all team members are using network’s license. This is easy to manage within a company, however. For a group of independent partners, it is quite difficult to ensure that all project members have the same version of applications.
In our virtual, five-member collaboration team, the specialists from Munich and Hannover work in the same engineering company and are connected via the internal network. However, the Italian designer and the Spanish engineer are only using single-license CAD programs. They need to find other collaboration methods.
Many projects are based on the use of different applications or solutions for different types of activities: drawing sketches, design, simulation and modeling, product optimization, prototyping, and manufacturing. All these phases involve a multitude of interactions and data exchanges, which makes the use of compatible formats and extensions an absolute must.
In our team, the main problem is that the Spanish engineer has an old locally-developed CAD version that didn’t recognize project files received from the others. The result is a much longer time to make effective tests and prototypes or a substantial financial investment to make the necessary upgrade.
The Communication System Used
Even if all users are on the same network, the large data volume transfer requires bandwidth and storage systems, as well as back-up and security for all infrastructure components. This means a lot of additional costs. In our case, the German CAE engineers should be connected to a large bandwidth LAN network, and thus are able to transfer design files securely and in real time.
Sending Files by E-mail
The sending and receiving of e-mail can potentially create a large number of obstacles. These are mostly related to the volume of large attachments, which can be difficult to transfer by most existing messaging tools. File transfer speed, encryption, data security, and tools availability are other issues associated with effective e-mail collaboration.
In our example, the German team members who cover the simulations and design optimization operations can transfer large files via their internal network, but need to spend a lot of time with file uploads, exchanging different screenshots, and sending/expecting confirmation via e-mail. Other transfer methods should be used when communicating with partners outside of the network.
What Are the Alternatives for Transferring Large Files?
In the early days of PCs, engineers could usually submit publishing projects to the print house by simply removing the HDD unit from the PC case. It takes more than 24 hours for the storage unit to arrive at the printing factory and another few hours for DTP and pre-printing processes to be completed. This is without considering the possibility of major corrections or problems with the submission.
Today, large files are transferred using FTP addresses or public cloud storage services like Dropbox, Google Drive or MS OneDrive. Cloud is typically the preferred alternative, but in industrial projects, people should use only tools approved by IT. Our case’s team members from Italy and Spain are exchanging large files using Dropbox and Google Drive, tools that are not authorized by their IT teams or compliant with the manufacturing policy rules.
Work in the Cloud for Better Team Collaboration
Cloud-based CAD and CAE applications improve team collaboration by allowing dispersed groups to meet virtually and share information in real time. This capability dramatically reduces time-to-market and improves product development and customer service. When our team members from Germany, Italy, and Spain can access, edit and share documents at any time, from anywhere, they are able to do more together—and do it better!
With the SimScale simulation platform, you can work interactively with your colleagues, clients, partners, and industry experts, even if they are located in another office, or another floor, in another subsidiary, in another city or country, or even on a completely different continent. By providing completely web-based access to all simulation data and functionality, it is easy to collaborate, comment on simulation projects by other users, get help on your own projects, and easily share your simulation results with co-workers, vendors or customers. With SimScale and its partner for CAD—Onshape, there are no file transfers. Your system and data live in the same place in the cloud, and you and the team are co-owners of the data.
The colleague from Hanover can share a new product design with just a few clicks, while the simulation specialists from Munich run two different analyses and resend the optimized digital model to other team members from Hanover and Torino for product corrections, checking and pre-manufacturing approval. Finally, the manufacturing engineer from Barcelona receives the prototype model, makes the final tests, and sends the product to the production workflow.
Every team member is always using the same version. No updates. No wasting time and money.
Want to learn more about collaboration with SimScale? Read this article: 5 Tips to Successfully Collaborate on the SimScale Platform.
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