At Astrium (www.astrium-space.com), one of Europe's leading aerospace companies, engineers regularly collaborate internally using the same Catia V4 database simultaneously with HP Visual conferencing (similar to NetMeeting, but for the Unix operating system). And the company shares files in standard formats with large subcontractors.
But Astrium found it needed a lighter format that could support a variety of CAD systems when collaborating with its small- or medium-sized subcontractors.
"You can't ask a company with 30 employees to have the same resources as a company with 500 employees," says Bernard Foch, head of Information System Astrium-France. "So we looked for an off-the-shelf system based on Microsoft standards that was easy to use and required minimal administration by the subcontractor." Foch chose Centric Software because it has a complete management system integrated into the tools, and it supports all the CAD systems the company uses, including Catia V4 (www.3ds.com), Pro/ENGINEER (www.PTC.com), and I-DEAS (www.eds.com), plus all the standard Microsoft Office software used for the technical specifications.
"Centric's approach was very practical, with a modular solution that allowed us to start with a very small installation and build upon it," Foch says. There is a dedicated server at Astrium (required for Astrium security reasons). The subcontractor runs Centric Software on a PC, which includes an independent database to work locally, and then publishes on the Astrium server database. The architecture consists of an ISDN connection.
Astrium now uses Centric Software to collaborate with one subcontractor and plans to connect two other subcontractors by the end of 2003. "Currently, it is used to share files and processes," Foch says, "but we may implement Centric Software's collaborative session capabilities in the future. It's possible that we'll eventually implement it for other activities."