One of the first things I typically discuss with customers concerning file management is the relationship between files in their engineering data. This is especially the case when working with data from 3D CAD systems like Autodesk Inventor. When you have Assemblies, parts, drawings, and presentations all with linked file relationships, it can be extremely challenging to manage this data without a tool that understands and maintains all the file links. Simply renaming a single file can cause all sorts of problems if done in Windows Explorer. Here are some of the areas where file relationships matter.
- Part, Assy, Drawing – As previously mentioned, 3D CAD data can be a challenge to manage. Simply understanding where a file is used (or linked) can be tremendously helpful.
- Copy Design – There is a “copy design” tool in Autodesk Vault that can make it much easier to reuse existing designs in the creation of variants based on the original. This also reduces the amount of duplicate data in Vault because so much more is reused rather than recreated.
- Renaming – In many workflows, files are initially created using descriptive filenames. These files then need to be renamed once a design is approved and will go into production. With Inventor data, renaming files in Windows Explorer will break the links between parts, assemblies, and drawings. The files then have to be manually relinked, which can become extremely troublesome if a file was used by more than one assembly without knowing it. When someone opened up the other assembly, the file would be missing and very difficult to locate. Vault simply fixes all the file references whenever a file is renamed so this isn’t a problem.
- Moving – Files that are moved in Windows Explorer can cause the same problems as renaming, but usually because of the way Inventor uses project files. Using Autodesk Vault with a single Vault type project file eliminates many of the challenges in moving files to more relevant or common locations.
- Attachments – Attachments in Vault can also be tracked. One example might be a design specification document that might apply to a whole class of components. The design spec can be attached to the relevant designs. If the design spec document changes, you can simply do a “where used” from it to see which files will be impacted by the specification change.