So what "HAS" gone wrong with Engineering?
Part II 

"Engineering's only purpose is to make available, concise
and unambiguous documentation to manufacturing."

This article will duplicate much of my first article. But it was stimulated by the above image and a video by two fellows discussing Systems Engineering and PLM.

So What "HAS" Gone Wrong with Engineering?

I have been part of this industry since 1965. I am a Boeing trained draftsman. I have worked on projects similar to those above. We did the drawings and design layouts on the drafting board. Sent the released engineering to document control that recorded the parts and assemblies, created blueprints and released them into the system: purchasing, planning (manufacturing) and the blue print stations. That was it.

My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"

I quickly became a contract engineer or jobshopper for the next couple of years. A family problem forced me to leave the industry. I came back to Boeing in 1977 and found a few changes. There were no more blueprint counters and now we were using microfiche cards. But not only were the drawings included but a description of the usage of part in a computer printout. Now nothing had changed, we still got our part numbers from Document Control and they still controlled the engineering documentation.

Again I headed out on the road as a jobshopper (at twice the pay). I worked as a shopper from then on. But something happened on my second contract with Williams International in Walled Lake, MI. I was introduced to 3D Computervision CADDS 4. To make a long story short I was then introduced to PC Based 3D CADKEY while on contract with Boeing in Everett, WA in 1986 and saw that PC based 3D CAD was going to be the future and became a CADKEY dealer. But with the introduction of 3D CAD nothing basically changed until surfacing and solids showed up where the model could be used as a pattern for CNC, analysis, 3D printing and a variety of other purposes. We still included paper prints with the model until the PDF was released around the turn of the century. Then we could send both the model in a neutral format with the PDf in one zip file or email.

The 1980's - 3D CAD - The Beginning

But there was a devastating change at the turn of the century. My Boeing suppliers were calling and telling me that Boeing was not sending drawings. They were sending something called PMI (Product Manufacturing Information). Boeing seemed to have given their engineering over to to Dassault with their PLM (Product Lifecycle Management). Along with PLM came MBE (Model Based Enterprise). Yes, engineering was now taken out of the hands of the engineer and put in the hands of the InfoTechs managing the digitization of engineering.

Engineering Documentation - A Primer for the PLM Guru!

Boeing did not even prepare their first tier suppliers. Most were fending for themselves with my help. Many were forced to buy Catia 5 or Enovia software. It was a horror show. Now the suppliers had to work around a very chaotic and unpredictable Boeing engineering department. Sadly, it has actually gotten worse. Where we used to go to a blue print counter or a microfiche, we now have to have access to specialized software. Where in the past many different departments had easy access to all of legacy engineering, we now have to be trained in a complex PDM system to access a native 3D CAD file. You know what? I have no idea how Boeing now accesses the manual drawings of the past. I do drawing to 3D conversions for a few Boeing suppliers and wonder how do they access these manual drawings? They get delivered as PDFs.

"The Native CAD file cannot be used for the Engineering Deliverable"

In a nutshell, this was the downfall of effective, standardized engineering.


Take a look at these two fellows debating System Engineering and PLM. Both of theses programs are basically what we used to call project management. Actually they seem to show an incredible a lack of applicable knowledge of the engineering process of the past.

Systems Engineering and PLM: Future or Fool’s Dream?

Both of these fellows have BSME degrees but neither have done any engineering, even in the basic sense. They moved directly into the InfoTech side. Now they talk in terms that can they can only consider abstract. I use these fellows because they seem to be somewhat opinion leaders in the PLM industry. Trust me they are not the only ones. I find the PLM PHDs and System Engineers talk in terms of acronyms only they can understand. Like I said this seems to an obscure and non-standard form of project management.

But we have to look at what is happening.

In the past engineering was based on a standardize process. I could go from company to company and be productive in a couple of days. Today? You have to have an engineering degree and experience on the company CAD system.

"Standardization is the basis of engineering continuity"

Why is engineering so chaotic?

PLM is based on one 3D CAD paradigm, PTC Pro/e (Creo). This CAD paradigm is very convoluted. It has separate part, assembly and drawing. It is a document control nightmare.

But the folks in charge were not engineering professionals, draftsman, designers, lead engineers, supervisors or VPs of engineering. They were now InfoTech people that were actually trained on the PLM systems on the job. The only thing that was engineering was their degree that they never used. Engineers were never in charge of engineering documentation. It was the drafting groups responsibility.

Sadly, virtually all of the current popular 3D CAD systems are based on the Pro/e (Creo) paradigm, with these three separate associated files.

The current standard engineering release for smaller companies is a model and a drawing in a PDF format. Very simple. But for some reason in the large companies these InfoTechs thought they should use the native CAD file for the engineering deliverable. This was out of complete ignorance on what engineer documentation was in the past and what manufacturing needed.

They could not do this with the drawing being associated to the model. It became impossible. So they developed the PMI based on the MBE.

I can prove this was only due to the CAD system. I sell ZW3D CAD that has the drawing integrated in the part file. If the industry would have standardized on this system there would be no PLM or MBE. It is funny. Boeing was using PC based 3D CADKEY that also has this capability. Yet, they settled on Catia. But Catia 4 was actually a good program. Catia 5 is by far the worst program they could have ever settled. They only moved to Catia in the beginning because it ran on IBM. The other CAD systems at the time ran on unreliable mini-mainframes. Catia 5 was probably the result of Boeing looking at Pro/e with "history based design" (Buzz Words) and Dassault filling their needs. I am sure this was why Dassault bought Solidworks.

CADKEY or Catia? Boeing’s Billion-Dollar 3D CAD Mistake!

Sadly, Boeing suffered with expensive workstation software for another 15 years before moving to the PC with Catia 5. They could have used PC based 3D CADKEY (which they had 1500 seats) and led the world to PC based CAD. Imagine what the 3D CAD engineering world would look today? I supplied all of the Boeing suppliers in the NW with CADKEY to talk to Catia 4.

I have worked with Boeing and Catia for over 30 years. Dassault is responsible for keeping Boeing, and I suppose Airbus, a couple of the most ignorant and isolated manufacturing companies. Their lack of interoperability is beyond belief.

The Worst to Best 3D CAD System and Why Expanded


MBE is by far the silliest concept I have ever seen. It is costing the industry millions, if not billions, in an extreme lack of compatibility. Sadly, the inmates are in charge of the asylum. Engineering is now being run by a bunch of InfoTech pedantic know it all's with advanced degrees.



This concept makes the model the design authority. The above articles give the clear reasons why this concept will fail.

Can the 3D Model Be Used as the Design Authority?

So we need to eliminate PLM and put in a good standard project management program. We have to get the control of InfoTechs under knowledgeable engineering management. I just hope "Knowledgeable Engineering Management" is not an Oxymoron.

We need to start delivering our engineering documentation as a model and PDF as a complete drawing and put it back under a separate Document Control Group. It is bad enough the design engineer now has to be the draftsman, but to also make him/her as data management expert is just too much.

The Death of the Drawing

The below article shows a large aircraft manufacturer attempt to utilize the PMI as the engineering deliverable. It is a mishmash of information, obviously not thought though.

Where is engineering management?

PMI vs AID (Associated Information Document)


In this article I show the concept of using an Onshape type document control. We deliver the solid model and documentation in what can only be called a documentation bucket.

The Embedded Title Block! A PLM Solution!

Onshape! A View from the Clouds

The Ultimate Document Control System

Here is GrabCAD Workbench, another cloud based product that ties the files to your local drive and the cloud. We are almost there!

Cloud Based Engineering Document Control

CAD is not digitized engineering. It is nothing more than an easier way to create our engineering documentation. Digitization shows up in defining the form and how we deliver that documentation.

The problem I see with PLM is they confuse configuration management with engineering proper. They are two completely different stages in product development. Yes all departments are involved in the beginning but the configuration management should be complete when handed over to engineering project management which manages the different engineering groups. The same goes with the hand off of complete engineering to manufacturing. These a very separate steps that are very difficult to digitize and from what I see the attempt to digitize has cause a mass of confusion.

Engineering to Manufacturing is very easy. You give the complete engineering documentation to manufacturing. From that documentation they will create their own documentation and inspection process. Once that is done the original engineering will hopefully be locked away in some electronic vault never to be seen again. That is the InfoTech persons biggest misunderstanding engineering: it is not live data. The faster it dies, the faster the product gets to market or in operation.

The Space Between Engineering and Manufacturing

Data is not documentation!!

And that is it.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this subject, feel free to give me a call.

Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

With 54 years of experience in engineering, 17 years in manual board design as a contract engineer, 37 years in 3D CAD sales, support, training and providing engineering services, I have a high level of understanding of today's 3D CAD engineering world. For many it is in chaos. If you are having problems or just interested in this subject please feel free to call and we can discuss them. There are so many simpler solutions available that will save you time and money.

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

For more information or to download IronCAD or ZW3D

This the first a in a series of articles that introduces a career defined by the introduction of 3D CAD into industrial/mechanical engineering.

My First 17 Years or "How did we do it without 3D CAD!"

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Joe Brouwer