When you are working on a project with outside contractors, vendors or clients, how do you share data, status and updates?

How often are you working on projects with outside people, and how long do the projects last?

For sharing data, status, updates ...

Are you using Email with FTP (or maybe Dropbox)?

Are you using Sharepoint or MS Project?

Do you use a proprietary system or something else?

Are you using a PDM or PLM system?

There are a lot of solutions to sharing, I'd like to know what engineers have been using and what have been your experiences with different tools.

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I normally use email with zip, sometimes zip with split into small segments, sometimes, yousendit, and sometimes dropbox.

There are usually translations - preferably STEP - both into here and out of here - also DWF - and PDF.

I have methods and practices I have developed over the last 25 years of working out here away from my client facilities.

These have worked well for me and all my clients.

Ed Galicki

San Diego, Ca.


Thanks for the Reply Ed.  

I'm glad to see that this forum is seeing a little bit of back and forth.  I'll quick reply to see if the discussion can draw some more attention because I think it is an important one.

New web software (Google Maps is a good example) has caused a lot of people to ditching traditional ways to work on the web and they start embracing new tools.  While the rest of the internet has evolved, email is about the same as it was 10 years ago.  Email Problems I've experienced: emails get ignored, deleted, flagged as spam, or forwarded without important attachments.

Have you investigated web tools outside of email?  What have you stayed away till now?

Some of my clients have such security constrictions email is the only thing that works - and it only works some times for some things. Their system has almost everything blocked. I don't know how they are able to do business. Other internet connection types seem to their security scheme to be invasions to do damage. Sometimes I have to jump on my scooter and buzz over there with a DVD, Jump Drive, or a USB Hard drive. If they are out of town, then its a UPS DVD, Jump drive or USB hard drive.

As a classification for data management and sharing, I'd call snail-mail or scooter-mail version 1.0, I'd call email version 2.0, and FTP version 3.0.  (I've used air-mail to ship important models and documents shipped about 5 years ago)

Then, there are file and data management systems that require special setup -- these aren't just an ordinary webpage.  For example they might involve VPN, proxies, and special ports.  Basically it means that IT has to get involved, which usually means it is not going to happen.  I bet this is what you are referring to in terms of causing invasions and damage for your clients.

The new version of web tools are optimal, in my opinion.  Again Google Maps is a good example, Facebook is another example.  They use a standard internet connection just like what we are looking at here on Enginering Exchange.  No complex permissions, just go to the site to work.  Another term is the "Cloud".  I'd classify the Cloud as sharing version 4.0, and an optimal way to share with remote parties if it is secure.  Plus, many of these services are free.

There aren't many tools out there that are made specific for mechanical design and doing something useful with CAD, drawings and PDF.  There are a lot of free, general purpose tools that manage file sharing and basic communication, like Dropbox.  A new one specific to Mechanical Design on the block is www.teamplatform.com (TeamPlatform).

Does anyone else want to share methods or experiences for working with outside companies?

I'm not sure if that one would work either. This would make a connection to the data through the internet connection to outside the facility - and they REALLY object to this. Even if I hand them a disk - it is still difficult to get the drawings logged in to their in-house data management system - whatever that is. There are only a couple who have this much difficulty. One defense contractor allows email ZIP files encrypted - this seems to work OK for them. If the files they want to give me are too big for their guys to know how to split and send I have to go there and get a disk and sign all kinds of  securty papers etc.

I think most of the DoD and bigger companies (Boeing for example) are going to forever have resistance to using email or  cloud applications like Dropbox to share data, and rightfully so.  It is difficult to manage exposure of data, who's on the receiving end and who's accessing it and for how long.  For big enterprises (like DoD or Boeing), this isn't acceptable, there needs to be more enterprise level control, and these big company's spend big-dollars to manage data across the enterprise (along with Product Data Management.

The company I'm working at - TeamPlatform - allows users to manage control and exposure of data very simply: users either have access or they don't.  If their email is not listed in the workspace then they don't have access.  If their email is listed in the workspace then they do have access through their account (and creating a new account is essentially one-click).

That said, not everybody wants to become a user just to send or receive data, so the other way to share is through a web-page.  Data can be embedded into a web-page, where it can be downloaded or accessed directly from the web.  Here's an example of someone uploading a file with a simple web-page.

web-page with embedded upload and download links

This would just be a glorified FTP and wouldn't be appropriate for engineering exchange if there wasn't something specific for Design, CAD and Engineering.  So here are some specific engineering features once the data is uploaded.

So there has to be some specific reason why you'd want to use an online software rather than good-old FTP or USB.  Below are a few benefits of putting data into a specific tool for online sharing:

Design Tree Visualization (plus Meta-Data fields chooser) and Design Table Download (as CSV)

3D Online Views (Thumbnails + View / Zoom / Rotate)

Discussion, Notes and Tasks with embedded content (like CAD, videos or images)

And of course, Search and Versions for Parts and Assemblies

More formal documents (ex: RFQ) can be handled with web-pages (like the one shown) and can be (and should be) password protected.  Design Collaboration, Product Design, Data Management and Engineering are the reasons to put data up onto (in this case TeamPlatform) to help work with other people.

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