Guest editorial by Cedric Desbordes
More than any other DWG vendor, Graebert of Germany has done more to connect the primary design platforms with one another -- desktop/laptop on Linux/Mac/Windows; tablet/phone on Android/iOS; and Web browsers. The name of the company may not be familiar to you, as they tend to sell white label CAD. Companies like Corel, Dassault Systems, and Onshape use Graebert's "ARES" code for their DWG editors.
Here, business development manager Cedric Desbordes describes how this trifecta of CAD platforms is useful for today's WFH environment. Asynchronous communication means that all parties don't have to be online at the same time -- this like sending an email, instead of placing a phone call, which is synchronous communication.
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With so many professionals forced out of office environments by the pandemic, even the most hesitant companies have had to reorganize their workflows to accommodate remote workers. During the first lockdowns, I was surprised to see large organizations using older and very expensive techniques like virtualization or VPNs [virtual private networks]. I remember too how the press was skeptical about our offer to make ARES Kudo [Graebert's browser-based CAD viewer and editor] free of charge for a period of time.
When this all started, people thought the virus would be a problem for only a couple of months, so the priority was to keep all systems in place and avoid stressing users, even if this meant a very slow AutoCAD streamed to your computer from virtual machines. So, during the first wave, IT teams acted more like firefighters: they weren't trying to implement new products or substantially reshape workflows.
Today, organizations understand that the virus-induced crisis is not acute, but chronic. It will continue to affect us for a long time. New waves or variants may come, resulting in further lockdowns. More importantly, working with remote team members has became the new normal. Previously, your co-workers sat next to you and worked the same office hours as you. Now you see them reorganizing their work hours, and working from different places, at different times, and even from other countries.
Recently, I watched a Webinar from Onshape. The guest speaker was a customer we have in common, Kichler Lighting in the USA. They use our ARES Trinity together with Onshape. Kichler has suppliers in China and adds new ones frequently. In the lighting industry, trends change rapidly, and so they need to react quickly with new products. Reducing time-to-market with suppliers in China that they have potentially never met is a challenge. Part of the challenge is to secure remote access and to synchronize drawings; another aspect is collaboration by sharing ideas, commenting on issues, and getting design changes validated.
One key takeaway from the Kichler story is that communication was significantly improved through online collaboration. No one was afraid to interrupt other users with questions or comments. It was a smooth, asynchronous flow of communication. As a consequence, time-to-market was reduced.
This is where communication tools like online meetings or email or chat fall short. Users need to be able to collaborate in-place (inside drawings and documents) and do so asynchronously.
One clear example of asynchronous communication is how people use Google Docs:
- Manage and revoke user rights by determining who can only view, and who can comment and/or edit
- Comments help to organize the work and extend the collaboration to more people, without altering the document
- Document history that goes back in time to show what has changed, and who changed it
- People working together as a team, but without needing to work at the same time
- Notifications to stay updated (without needing to open documents) and to react faster when help is needed.
What we are achieving with our Trinity workflow is very similar for DWG drawings (files in the cloud, user rights, view-only links, markups and comments, email notifications), but with additional advantages:
Do it your way. For each project, users can decide whether to keep working with local files or to access files from the cloud. Also, it is not required to switch to cloud-based ARES Kudo to benefit from collaboration features, as they are also found in desktop ARES Commander. Users in organizations can go at their pace — there is no abrupt/disruptive transition to new tools or workflows.
Your cloud. In contrast to Google Docs, ARES does not force users to place files on our servers. We recognize that many companies have already made the decision on which cloud storage provider(s) to use. There is no reason to isolate DWG files from other files, so it is just common sense to for ARES to connect to a large number of existing cloud services, as well as provide the WebDAV protocol to connect easily to any other service.
In addition, we partner with AWS for those customers asking for a dedicated infrastructure, as well as to offer some storage with ARES Kudo Drive for users who have nothing in place and so want first to experiment with a few projects on our servers.
Highly secure. Files stay on the servers customers are already using, and ARES is used only to edit them. Our infrastructure is reviewed by the AWS team for security.
I think another key difference with Google Docs is that our industry has a strong need to improve the workflow between the users who are producing drawings at the office (or in home offices) with others in the field needing that technical information while working at a construction site, who are on customer visits, or work at a facility or factory.
Efficient interaction between the two groups requires software with the following capabilities for workers in the field:
- Access any drawing without planning ahead of time which files to take with them
- Always view the latest version of the drawing to avoid mistakes, which cost
- Enrich the project with useful feedback collected in the field to help the users editing drawings to reduce time-to-market
- Email notifications to that allow every user to follow the project updates, and jump into the file promptly when needed
From my perspective, view-only links are the most appealing feature to get new users started with cloud-based workflows. As we offer some free storage with the ARES Kudo Drive, it becomes possible for ARES Commander users to upload one of their files, create a view-only link, and send it to a colleague or customer who can view — and comment or markup — for free.