Today we are living in a connected world. This connected world has allowed us to look at new and innovative ways of accomplishing more complex projects in a much shorter time by using a globally distributed team. Using a distributed team has many benefits but it also has additional challenges which we did not have when we only had collocated project teams.
The main challenge is how do we share and collaborate on the same product data over this distributed environment. This was something we did not have to worry about when the whole team were accessing the same product model at the same site.
Distributed teams come in many different flavors depending on the type of industry, product, company or culture. Even in shipbuilding there are many different strategies:
- Leveraging teams from different locations that are part of the same organization
- Outsourcing teams focused on specific disciplines (Hull Structure, Pipe, HVAC, Cable management, etc.)
- Outsourcing teams for specific blocks to help during a heavy work load or a very tight schedule
- Outsourcing the whole project to one or various different companies
One key piece of information I left out in the above strategies is the consideration of if the distributed teams are using the same CAD/CAM software or if they are using different software products. If they are using the same application then it is much simpler; I am not saying easy, just simpler. The reason it is “simpler” is because most modern applications usually have a good strategy to solve the distributed environments when all sites are using the same application.
For example, ShipConstructor has several solutions in our WorkShare product portfolio. You can also always use a VPN connection to connect to the same project remotely or use Remote Desktop.
However, if each site is not using the same application, the problem of sharing and communicating becomes much more complex.
Some people have attempted to solve this by passing files back and forth between sites but this has many issues:
- Files can be large and take a long time to send.
- The model is actively being worked which means very frequent updates are needed.
- The format that is being shared does not contain non-geometric information which is needed for proper design or production review.
- Very manual clash detection with no way to manage or communicate on clashes.
- With the frequency of files being shared it is easy to lose track of which file(s) is the latest version.
- Proper design or production reviews are very difficult.
To properly solve this additional challenge of using distinct tools we need to first understand what is required by a suitable solution. Here is what it is needed:
- A combined and complete rich 3D Model of the entire project. This rich model has more than just geometric information.
- An allowance for each site to update and manage their portion of the model at any time without disrupting or requiring any work from the other teams.
- A way for each site to view the complete rich 3D model, navigate it as well as interrogate its rich data no matter where the original source is.
- An allowance for design reviews, markups and various other communication methods on the combined model synchronously and asynchronously with the other sites.
- An easy way to identify and manage clashes especially when they are from objects from different departments.
Wow that sounds like mission impossible. Actually it is not. How you ask?
Well I will show you in the next 5 blog posts how you can get a seamless and just plain awesome workflow with ShipConstructor, Autodesk Navisworks, Autodesk BIM 360 Glue and virtually any other CAD/CAM tool on the market.
Distributed environments are only going to get more popular. Having a proper solution that is designed to handle this strategy as a first class citizen is going to be a requirement if you want to succeed with a distributed team.
The complexity of the distributed environment is increased when each of the teams are using different software applications. Restricting to only using teams that are using the same application can reduce this complexity but at the cost of reducing your opportunities. To increase your options it is best to have a strategy that can leverage any team no matter which CAD/CAM tool they are using.
Using ShipConstructor and the Autodesk Platform you can create a strategy which at its core supports any distributed environment configuration. In the next few blog posts I will show you just how this can be done.