CAD Interoperability Stories: Exchange Volume Matters

This blog post has been licensed for hosting by PTC. The concepts, ideas and positions of this post have been developed independently by Industry Analyst Chad Jackson of Lifecycle Insights. 2013-2014 © LC Insights LLC

There’s always a story behind the data.

Sometimes, it smacks you in the face its so obvious. Other times, it hides, like it doesn’t want to see the light of day. But if you look long enough, you uncover it. Either way, I find that there’s almost always some kind of compelling story in research data. That’s the case with the 3D Collaboration and Interoperability study. I’ve delved into it, looking at crosstabs, filtered views and segmentation cohorts. It wasn’t easy, but finally I found a story worth telling.

In this post, I cover the interrelationship between volume of design data exchanged with the issues, actions and technology adopted by different organizations.

Volume, Volume, Volume

When I published the 2013 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Report in May (you can get a complimentary copy from PTC here), I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment. The study quantified some of the real cost of interoperability. It showed how quickly companies were adopting Model-Based Enterprise initiatives, especially in the Aerospace & Defense industry. It showed that 2D drawings were still widely prevalent.

I felt good about it. I wasn’t, however, satisfied.

So, I went looking in the data. Primarily, I was looking for cuts or segments or filters that showed some differentiation across the findings. Many turned up moot. But one in particular turned up very interesting: the volume of design data exchanged.


Of course, this does make sense. Organizations flooded with a lot more files will experience more issues than organizations than hardly receive any files.

So what exact differences were there across these groups? Let’s take a look.

Pain. Some hindrances. But mostly pain.

I’ll let the statistics tell most of the story.


Organizations exchanging over 500 CAD files per month experience these issues at roughly at twice the rate of organizations exchanging less than 50 CAD files per month. And it make sense. A single inbound CAD files with geometry that blows up can cause a major disruption. When development projects get behind, executives usually throw more bodies at the problem after hours, wreaking havoc on current work. Project schedules still get delayed. Some uncaught errors proceed downstream, because of translation errors directly or because engineers were distracted with other translation problems. The same thing occurs when CAD files mucked up because of translation error get to testing and prototyping.

Boom. Crash. Bang.

Taking Action

Engineering executives, of course, don’t just stand idly by while CAD interoperability chaos is induced. These issues represent some serious risks to the continuity of development projects. And executives take action to mitigate those risks.


For me, these findings in aggregate tell me one thing: executives running organizations that exchange a lot of design data realize there are some serious problems in their organization. Just look at how much more frequently they have put measures in place to mitigate these risks.

At a lower level, however, the rationale behind these actions make sense. Tagging an effort as an official initiative not only includes some special activities to address a problem, it lets everyone know leadership is serious about the problem. Defining and documenting a specific sequence of actions, in the form of processes and procedures, means executives are trying to take human variations out of the equation. The two actions on the right, being handed down a requirement to create design data in specific software, and then passing that same requirement down to suppliers, is an attempt to eliminate translation errors by exchanging natively created design data instead of neutral formats.

One other thought: do you think organizations exchanging less than 50 files a month are feeling much pain at all? Not really.

Technology to the Rescue?

Today, almost every organization needs some technology to help. And this case is no different. Take a look.


Organizations that exchange a lot more CAD files are much more likely to use specialized translation software and services. They are also a little more likely to use Direct Modeling capabilities as well. All of these can help. And Direct Modeling in particular promises new ways to fix and edit translated CAD files. However, keep in mind that changes in the industry are on the horizon. Some CAD applications are incorporating the ability to open CAD models in their native formats. That should make a dent in this problem as well.


  • This post shares findings from the 3D Collaboration and Interoperability study. Specifically, it shows that the issues experienced, actions taken and technology in use with respect to CAD interoperability varies quite a bit depending on the volume of design data exchanged with external organizations.
  • In general, organizations exchanging more than 500 files per month are roughly twice as likely to miss project milestones, encounter  increased ECOs and conduct extra rounds of prototyping and testing as organizations exchanging less than 50 files per month.
  • High exchange organizations are much more like to take actions to mitigate these problems by tagging interoperability as a formal initiative, document formal processes and procedures as well as experience and pass on CAD standardization.
  • High exchange organizations are also more likely to utilize translation software and services as well as use Direct Modeling approaches.

Alright folks. I’m interested in getting your thoughts! Anyone have stories of ‘highly motivated’ executives rolling out interoperability initiatives? Any particularly painful stories around CAD translation? What were the fallouts? Have a different take on these findings? Comment and let me know. Will be good to hear different perspectives.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.

This entry was posted in Reinventing Design, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

One Comment

  1. Félix
    Posted Nov 18, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    It is very incredible to see that so many companies don’t use a CAD translation software.
    It’s true that these software are a bit expensive, but in long term, it is a very good investment, even for small companies : It saves a lot of time !
    And the excuse of the conversion errors are not founded : In my company, we bought CrossManager (the conversion software edited by Datakit). We never had translation errors. It is a very good quality product.
    I think all companies should calculate the time (and the money) they will save if they had a translation software. They will be surprised !

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <pre> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

  • Archives

  • Connect with PTC Creo