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The Overwhelming Dependence on Dead Trees

The other day I had a pretty unnerving thought:

We carry around more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA when they put a man on the moon, yet 50 years later I can't manufacture or inspect parts without scribbles on a dead tree.

For a decade I've been pushing Model Based Definition as the smarter alternative to traditional 2D production drawings. Documenting a 3D model can take a quarter of the time as a 2D drawing, and is much easier to update and check.

Instead of having a static BOM printed on a drawing, I can provide a CSV or Excel file that someone can actually use for downstream processes like inventory and kitting.

Instead of Geometric Tolerance symbols on a sheet, I can give you a STEP file with semantic GTOL symbols and a Bill of Characteristics that a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM) can actually read and inspect to.

Yet every time I propose working smarter with more efficient processes, I hear the same objections.

  • Our vendors won't quote to anything other than a drawing.

  • We have to have a drawing because the drawing is the contract.

  • Our vendors can't open anything other than a PDF.

  • We have to have something that we can print out and write on.

  • Our incoming receiving department can inspect only to a drawing.

  • Our vendors can't look at a computer model when they are on a shop floor. (I heard this in a meeting and said, "If there was only some way I could hold a screen in my hands!")


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