I’ve been playing with several PDM and PLM applications. They are designed for manufacturing, no question about it. So people who works in manufacturing will have most of the benefits.
However, if you are working in other industry, you might be questioning if you should use it. What benefits will you get. I’ve been playing with Autodesk Vault Basic, which is free for subscription customers. I know Autodesk Vault families has more capabilities (depends on which version), but let’s see this free version for a start.
I review this software as an AutoCAD user point of view. Because most of CAD notes readers are AutoCAD users. There are many limitations in basic version, but it’s free. Let’s see what you can do with Vault Basic.
What is Vault?
Vault is a PDM software. Product Data Management.
Snipped from Autodesk website:
Autodesk® Vault data management software helps organize, manage, and track data creation, simulation, and documentation processes for design and engineering workgroups. Get more control over design data with revision management capabilities and quickly find and reuse design data, for easier management of your design and engineering information.
So the bottom lines here, you can have benefits of using Vault if:
You need to manage data better than just a shared folder
I’ve seen people just create a share folder in storage server and throw everything there. People make their own folder, make their own copy to keep older designs, etc. It can be a mess.
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With Vault, you can organize your data better. Not only the folder structure. It will also record who created the file, and the date of editing. And you can keep your vaults and folder structure clean because not all users can create folders.
You need a better security
You can set user with specific permission or apply roles to their account. If they only can use the drawing as reference, then they will not be able to make modification on Vault database. You can set people to view only specific vault, and won’t be able to access other projects.
In this sample, the user has document consumer role. When he tried to check out the document, Vault will not let him.
Another thing that make Vault data is more secure, it will rename all files when you check in the files to Vault. It will be very difficult for them to find data and relate it to other data. After you check in the files, the only way to access them properly is login using your credential.
You need to manage versions
You can track each document versions easily. Every time it was checked out and checked in, Vault will record the activity. You don’t have to save the file as different name to keep a version.
In the past, I’ve seen how people keep same design with different name to keep versions. It is confusing, isn’t it? After a few months, sometimes it’s almost impossible to find correct old version. Or it might be already deleted or accidentally overwritten.
You need to search and reuse data
This feature is very useful in manufacturing. They use many standard and common parts in many designs. You can search the part with attributes (part number, part name, etc) and use it in your design. This will avoid duplicate part and files. It will reduce errors and consume less file storage.
If you are familiar with AutoCAD, creating assembly is like attaching reference files (XREF) to a master file. I’m not sure if this is quite useful in AEC. Because we don’t reuse files, but we insert blocks. Unfortunately inserting blocks from Vault is not supported. I’m not sure with Vault Workgroup or higher, but I’m pretty sure it’s not supported in basic version. So yes, we still need to place libraries in a shared folder, outside of our Vaults.
Of course, you can use it to manage file reference. But the searching and reusing data like this in AEC is not as heavy as in manufacturing.
You need to backup and restore data
You can create full backup and incremental backup of your Vault easily. It’s just a few click process. Restoring the Vault is also easy. You can also create a scheduled backup, so it will create backup automatically.
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I know many companies have automatic backup tools. But if you don’t have it, this is a very nice alternative to create a backup to other storage.
Interested to try it?
There are many more advanced features in paid version of Vault families. See the comparison matrix here.
However, the basic version is interesting enough to try. If you are not convinced that you can use Vault, basic version is free. In my opinion, using the free version is much better than just a shared folder.
If you want to give it a try, you can download Vault Basic from subscription center. There are two components you need to download: for the server side, and for the client sides.
Read this tip if you need a guide to download from subscription center.
Installing Vault is amazingly easy. Well, compared to other PDM product I’ve tried.
You need to install Server component on your server, and install client component on each client. The server component is quite tricky. The installer will check you configurations, and you will likely see some error or warning. But the documentation is good, you can click the error message and follow the instruction to fix it.