When a company designs and manufactures equipment that is customised for each client, it quickly accumulates a very large volume of past job data.
It all needs to be kept accessible, for the inevitable modifications and additions that clients are likely to want after a few years, as well as for reference when designing systems for new clients. It should not be too hard to find previous data for a particular client, but to be able to find previous examples of particular design features, a company needs a software system that can index the archived data.
Orford Refrigeration manufactures a wide range of commercial and industrial refrigeration equipment. It has used AutoCAD for its design work since the 1980s, and has more than 16 000 DWG files to store and index. Every customer's data is saved so that it can be easily referred back to later. The company often uses previous data as a basis for new work, so data needs to be easily retrievable, which means being able to find files by search criteria other than just the file names.
The manufacturer had previously adopted a data management system for this purpose and it seemed a good choice for reliable indexing of drawing data. However, it became necessary to seek an alternative solution to better suit the requirements - a replacement data manager became urgently needed.
Ian Otto looked for a less complex data management solution that was more 'openly' accessible and easier to set up. He installed six different data management systems on a trial basis, including some that had a particular emphasis on CAD and some that did not. He tried these out using 'dummy' data comprising copies of a selection of their real data, so as not to disturb their working data.
At the end of the evaluation period, Otto decided that the DataViewer system from Practical Programs, met the company's needs most completely. An important factor for Orford Refrigeration was that the suppliers of DataViewer were prepared to help with the rather daunting task of extracting all the data out of the existing system's secure 'vault' and transferring it into DataViewer.
This extraction process proved quite a task. The data files were encrypted and stored with internally-generated meaningless filenames. Although DataViewer can do something similar, it is usually set up to keep the files in their normal operating system form and locations, and to rely on the network system's user rights system for controlling access to the data. DataViewer's database indexes the files for easy searching and retrieval using various user-defined keywords.
Orford Refrigeration had to extract all its data from the 'vault' system, and then rename all the files to their original names. Some trial and error was involved in figuring out the best method, and after two weeks the extraction process was successfully completed. Practical Programs supplied a lot of advice, plus batch and macro files to automate several aspects of the job, particularly the file renaming.
Otto says Practical Programs staff assisted them considerably in getting their data into DataViewer, yet never needed to make any lengthy trips to Orford Refrigeration - it was all done telephonically and file transfers over the Internet.
One of the attractions of DataViewer for Orford refrigeration was the considerable extent to which its methods of operation can be set up to suit individual situations and its wide range of scalability for very small and very large companies. It can use any of several 'industry standard' database systems, rather than having its own system. That feature is particularly valuable where the company already has a corporate client/server data system running on their network. Orford Refrigeration, decided to use the Borland InterBase client/server system that is offered with DataViewer. That has proved a good choice for its currently fairly modest size of network, while ensuring that it has the capability to expand in the future without running into the upper limits of data volume and number of users that are inherent with shared-data-file systems. However, for smaller situations, DataViewer can work perfectly well with common shared-file database systems such as Microsoft Access. It can also work with the commonly used large client/server network database systems such as SQL/Server and Oracle, as well as being integrated into Lotus and SAP systems.
Otto reports that DataViewer has a very simple installation process; it has flexibility to work with personal preferences for storage locations, access security mechanism and database system; it is easily expandable and can be custom configured; and can be easily maintained without needing special consultants.