Organising designs and the decisions behind the designs, has always been one of the big issues in engineering. It splits up into a range of issues, some are easy to solve and some are big head scratchers:
- Where do you store the data? So that it is accessible to your team but secured and traceable.
- How do you keep track of versions? If you have a part numbering system, how do you make sure it is followed consistently?
- How does a new person to a project/organisation find out why a design decision was made?
- How can you keep track of who is working on what? How do you make sure two people don’t accidentally start working on the same design?
- Designs/drawings need to be reviewed, how do you manage that effectively?
- CAD assemblies… how do you manage and make these available to everyone
- You don’t want engineers having to install software/servers… they should be doing what they are good at!
- Lets not re-invent the wheel, this should fit in with standard engineering practice.
- This solution also needs to work with a wide and ever changing range of softwares that may be used, you need to be able to use what is best for the design
And the kicker; how do you make sure your entire team follows whatever procedure you devise, so that they can’t get it wrong. This matters, as however brilliant a procedure is, it’s worth nothing very quickly if it isn’t followed to the letter every time.
Mashoom solves all of this
No points for guessing that here at Mashoom we recon we have a solution that addresses all of these problems.
Lets start with the basics, Mashoom is a website; its accessible from anywhere with an internet connection and requires nothing more than a web browser, we aren’t fussy which. Your data is uploaded and secured in the cloud, let us do the hard work of databases, cyber security, time zone management, data backup, hardware renewal and updates.
Part numbering has been in engineering for a long while; this way of keeping track of designs and versions is well understood and works. The only issue with it, how do you make sure your numbers are consistent across a team? What if one person doesn’t quite understand it and in a rush numbers a design wrong, this can have huge consequences in the wrong situation. So, we made a automated part numbering system, that the team admin can setup and manage. To cut a long explanation short, team members fill in the information required and Mashoom does the rest, its quick and very accurate.
User accounts are free on Mashoom, so everyone can have their own username and password. This is the only way to truly keep information secure, as soon as one account is used by multiple people (often done to save costs for some software packages) this breaks down quickly. It also means that every action on Mashoom is logged to a person, this means that in the case of a new employee, they know who to go and talk to about an action on Mashoom, whatever it may be. It also enables internal data security as well, how to manage the responsibilities of your team and make sure intellectual property doesn’t go missing.
Mashoom doesn’t rely on reading your CAD files, in-fact it simply doesn’t ever do it. This means that any CAD package or other software that your team needs can be stored on Mashoom, for now and into the future.
Drawing and design reviews? Well, we can make sure only those authorised can sign off drawings, then we can securely store them so that they can’t be changed without another review process. You don’t need to rely on your team to enforce this, Mashoom simply won’t let it happen.
The changes to your workflow
We would prefer to be honest here, we aim to keep this to the absolute minimum but “you have to crack eggs to make an omelette”.
Assemblies are tricky, to be able to distribute and properly version control them Mashoom needs to know what files an assembly requires so they can be packaged up and sent to team members. It gets worse, because the assembly file is expecting a set of filenames to open all the individual components, for a large assembly it simply isn’t an option to go through and tell the software which files are which every time you want to download the newest version of the assembly.
We have spent years finding a solution to this problem that is robust and can be relied upon to simply work every time, we are pleased to say that we think we have cracked it.
Firstly, when you upload a CAD file to Mashoom it will reject it if it is not named correctly (eh?). So, lets say we have a part called “Wishbone”, and it has a part number FS17-02-1234-01A. Mashoom will only let you upload a file that is named “FS17-02-1234-01A Wishbone”.
What this means is that each team member has to create their files or rename with to this name format. This is easy to enforce as a manager, “If it isn’t on Mashoom it doesn’t exist”, everyone has to get a part number for a new design then name their CAD data to a standard convention. Very quickly your computer goes from a jumble of oddly named file to being very organised, so that is useful.
You now have a computer filled with standardised file names, this means when you start making assemblies, that assembly will link to the same standardised file names, bingo. This means that assembly file can be uploaded to Mashoom, packaged with its files and sent to someone new, and when its opened it will recognise all the file names.
The final piece of the puzzle is when an assembly is uploaded to Mashoom it has to be uploaded with a data file of what parts are within the assembly. In most software this is as simply as saving the assembly as a .txt or .csv file. Currently we only support CATIA , but more are on the way. As everything in the assembly is accompanied by a part number, we have all the information we need to know the exact version of each part that needs to be included in its package.
So, what are the changes to your workflow? You need a numbering scheme, then name your CAD files correctly and upload two files instead of one when uploading assemblies. We think its worth it.
Why we think it works
Mashoom was designed for a Formula Student team, by one of its members. This is a project where a bunch of undergraduate engineers attempt to design and build a racing car; we struggle on how to design things, let alone keep track of the 1000s of parts that eventually go to make up a car.
We spent years going through iteration after iteration of how to solve these problems; they were crippling the team’s ability to get to a car built and into a competition. Mashoom has literally been re-written time and time again until we had this process cracked, and the software to back it up.
Students are famous for being both lazy and disloyal; if the solution didn’t work it simply wouldn’t be used, and if it wasn’t a water tight process, it would be abused. We are very proud of the fact that they and many more teams of the same background are successfully using Mashoom. We think that if it can organise a team in that kind of environment, we are onto something… and can take on greater challenges on a global scale.