By Kim Hyde
When considering applying best practices to engineering release management, it is worth first establishing your company’s expectation by identifying some basic requirements. Although detail may change from company-to-company, the common requirements are likely to include the following for any data management solution:
- A secure platform based on credential access to protect IP
- A central repository for both CAD and combined non-CAD data
- A powerful search engine to find data quickly based on any metadata
- An auditable trail based on both version and release management revisions via engineering change requests
- Controlled secured syncing of shared data to selected Cloud locations outside of your Firewall
- To operate from on-premise hardware or Cloud-based services (e.g. Azure)
Although all the above are standard features of Autodesk Vault Professional, to get the best out of any product careful consideration should be applied when configuring the system to fit your business needs. Once configured, the art of adhering to `best-practice’ is easier to apply.
Vault Workflows (Lifecycles and Revisions)
Although any number of workflows for release management are configurable in Vault Professional, this article focuses on one example depicted in the following diagram (a Pdf of this is available here).
Two key features of the diagram are as follows:
The boxes with the various `State’ names depict the stages of the release management workflow. Each state is configured using Microsoft’s Read, Modify and Deleted switches applied to individuals or groups; these apply `Object Security’ to the data. A typical configuration would allow design team members to modify data whilst in the WIP state and locked for most of the other states. End users of the approved / released data (e.g. members of the Shop Floor) would only see data once it is approved, thus preventing the use of non-approved drawings.
The various states are represented in Vault Professional’s report documentation to track project progress.
The arrowed lines between the state boxes depict the available workflow of the state changes. Security is applied to either groups or individuals to control the workflow. For example, although members of the design team would be able to pass data to the Check State, perhaps only a senior engineer would be able to provide the final approval to release the data for manufacture.
In this example I have included a state for customer approval and sign-off. Since it is fairly common practice to pass initial designs for the customer’s approval, the transition to this state does not request that all dependent files are released; this dependency is applied at the final in-house engineering sign-off to the released state.
Transitions are also configured to control Revisions with write-back enable to the files so that the Vault and the Revision shown in the drawings etc. remain synchronised.
This example starts with a dash (-) in the design data; a secondary bump is applied for files returning to WIP and a primary bump applied when transitioning from Engineering Approval to Released (first release in this example is `A’).
File Storage and Release Workflow
Files stored in Vault can be unique, in other words “you only need one of anything!”.
The Vault folder structure is therefore normally divided into two main types namely, Projects / Products to store the unique configured designs and Standard Parts / Components that are commonly used and re-used in any design.
On this basis, the approval and release process is best performed `bottom-up’, where the base parts (e.g. fixings etc.) are likely to be previously released (as with most of the common parts / components). Each parent assembly is approved in-turn, the final being the GA (General Assembly). The following diagram depicts this workflow, however for Vault’s file-centric workflow for Inventor data both 2D drawing and the associated 3D files should be applied together in any state-change.
Finally, some `dos and don’ts’ and top-tips when using Vault:
Do’s and Don’ts
- Always open files from Vault (do not open files from your local workspace)
- Use the relevant CAD application to open the files from Vault*1
- Delete files from your local workspace when the design is finished
- Only check-out files required to be modified*2
- Only save files required for the update (do not automatically click `Save All’)
- Adopt a bottom-up approach for Release Management in Vault
- Release and re-use standard components
*1-Use Vault Professional `Shortcuts’ to locate and open files in CAD application
*2-Use `Uses’ (top-down) and `Where Used’ (bottom-up) to manage affected change
Be careful with double-click (do not open and check-out files unnecessarily)