CAD Data Exchange: How Easy is it to Secure Your Intellectual Property?

A growing concern amongst car manufacturers is the upsurge in external development partners and suppliers. Because of this increase, CAD models, electrical and simulation data and other documents need to be exchanged more widely and more frequently for efficient product development. These models and data tend to run several gigabytes in size, making them nearly impossible to share over easy-to-use and unsecure transfer methods such as email, FTP, and “Dropbox”-like external applications.

Porsche has directly experienced the above scenario. Porsche files were placed on an FTP server where suppliers could retrieve their data. Server access was restricted to certain users and other work-arounds had been implemented. Smaller, non-CAD data was often encrypted and sent via email and larger data was either burned to DVD or saved on a removable drive. Once burned onto removable storage media, data was then sent via regular mail to the intended recipient. This process took days, resulting in poor product collaboration and development. Steffen Kopp, responsible for CAx collaborative process in the IT department at Porsche, notes, “There was a plethora of different procedures that were no longer able to cope with the growing volumes of data and our security expectations”.

Another case involves The Mahle Group, a global development partner for the automotive and engineering industry. Because of their expansion into China and other countries with OEMs and subcontractors, they needed a reliable, efficient and secure CAD data exchange solution for efficient product development. The Mahle Group had more than 49,000 employees throughout 100 productions sites, forming a complex CAD landscape of about 1000 workstations. Differing CAD formats with various release versions and start configurations included CATIA V5, Pro/Engineer, Creo Elements/Pro, NX, I-Deas. 

By now, technology has advanced in engineering product development to the point where CAD data exchange inside and outside your organization is not only critical to project collaboration, but also to security and safety. According to the Commission on Theft of American Intellectual Property, IP (trade secret) theft is a major cyber security risk causing organizations to lose $180 to $580 billion per year.1

So how are you currently exchanging data? Are you using email? FTP? Dropbox?  Many times,  customers believe that it is just easier to ”do it the way we’ve always done it”.  Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, an Internet standard for email transmission, was first defined by RFC 821 in 1982 and grew out of standards developed during the 1970’s.  File transfer protocol (FTP) typically uses clear text authentication and was published as RFC 114 in 1971.

What does this mean? The more convenient your data exchange process is, the more likely it is to be unsecure with greater potential for IP theft. It is easier to do things the way you’ve always done them, but it is definitely not the safest or most secure way.

CAD data exchange is a necessary component of today’s globalized economy and digital thread manufacturing, meaning that it should be as close as possible to your user’s daily working environment – desktop integration, email integration, product lifecycle management (PLM) integration, integrated in purchasing/bid systems, etc.  The more that users have to leave their default working environment to send secure information, the more likely IP theft is to occur.  The admittedly minor inconvenience of stepping outside the default environment significantly decreases the likelihood that the approved solution will be put to use.

Luckily, CAD data exchange doesn’t have to be complex. With OpenDXM GlobalX from PROSTEP, the solution is built into a user’s work environment, allowing them to easily adopt the solution. This secure data exchange platform allows for multiple integrations, including CAD / PDM integration and Email integration.

OpenDXM GlobalX

Porsche was able to solve their data exchange problem with the use of OpenDXM GlobalX. As Steffen Kopp noted, “…in addition to web support and the possibility of integrating the solution into our supplier portal, we also needed support for our standard IT platforms, user authentication, scalable encryption, good performance when exchanging large files, restart of transfer after interruptions and seamless logging of all exchange operations.”  OpenDXM GlobalX provided that support.

The Mahle Group also found that PROSTEP’s OpenDXM GlobalX solved their issue. Their most important requirements included logging data receptions, identifying the recipient and automatically forwarding the data to an inbound folder for respective business unit while informing the recipient(s) it was available, and OpenDXM GlobalX addressed all of the above..  At Mahle, approximately 30,000 data exchange jobs are processes internally and externally amounting to about 750 gigabytes of data. As Heinrich Wickom, Head of CAD CAM IT Services Europe at Mahle states, “…main benefit is undoubtedly the fact that all data exchange operations are processed securely and documented.  Consequently, if a dispute arises, we are always able to identify which version levels we sent to the OEM or supplier and when. With GlobalX, we can now react more flexibly to the demands of our dynamic, change partner environment.”

CAD data exchange can be both easy and secure with the right integration platform. OpenDXM GlobalX CAD data exchange provides peace of mind   by ensuring that your intellectual property is safe at rest and during transmission to all parties throughout your product development process. If you’re interested in learning more about OpenDXM GlobalX, please contact PROSTEP for a free user account and demo.

Original article by Joseph Lopez.

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