Manufacturers1 have used data in production and manufacturing since at least 3000 BC, when the oldest discovered cuneiform tablets were marked with pictographic words and numbers. It was production output that was collected and written – number of sheeps, bags of grain or output of spears. Back in that days, the information was only available for literate observers. Within time, data became an important element of manufacturing and design processes.
Initial product design activity was also purely paper oriented process. Engineers were creating drawings and passing them to manufacturing. When computer based design system was initially introduced, it was about replicating paper tasks and store information electronically.
From the standpoint of information management, design was first considered as an intellectual activity that needs to be supported by CAD operators. The role of CAD operators evolved from the role of drafts-people that converted sketches and mockup into computer based MCAD files.
Once completed design should be passed to manufacturing and production. Purchasing department should order parts and outsource work to subcontractors.
That was the first time data become critical for manufacturing. To manage design data and information flow between departments is not a simple task. It has to deal with lot of dependencies, dealing with variants of design and history of information.
All together it makes data one of the most critical element in manufacturing company. These days with an explosive growth of electronic information, to manage data about product, changes, dependencies, manufacturing activities and customers becomes the main priority of engineering IT organization in manufacturing company.