Marriage of desktop and Web (sidebar)

Oct. 1, 2003
Driving collaboration @ Parker Aerospace

One of the benefits of .Net is that it allows companies to work in a collaborative environment. Parker Aerospace Group, in Irvine, Calif., needs to share files and applications with its suppliers and customers as it builds systems and components for jets. “We have many divisions producing components of aerospace, hydraulic, fuel and flight controls sysems,” explains Joe Caferro, senior systems engineer at Parker. “We have divisions that have to collaborate with each other, and we also have to collaborate on design with Boeing, Northup and Lockheed as we outsource aspects of production.”

The challenge for Parker is to share model-to-model information on complex mechanical interfaces. In order to save money on travel, translation and the shipment of models, Parker exchanges information over the Internet. This involves more than simply sharing computer-aided design (CAD) files. It means sharing applications. “If you’re looking at the model with engineers at remote locations, you need changes to be reflected back to the model,” explains Irv Christy, director of marketing at CoCreate Software Inc., a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company that provides the collaboration platform for Parker.

In design collaboration, engineers need applications that can move models back and forth over the Web while also integrating into desktop functions. Also, the changes that engineers make during the collaboration negotiations can span several meetings.

According to Parker’s Caferro, that means keeping all of the shared data in an accessible form and being able to access a wide array of data, from product lifecycle information to financial tools.

To accomplish this, CoCreate turned to Microsoft for help. CoCreate could have solved the problem of integrating the necessary applications by using J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) or .Net. “We picked .Net because Microsoft does a better job of providing rich applications,” says Christy. “We were interested in tying the desktop applications together.”

Loose plumbing

CoCreate designed OneSpace.net to help companies collaborate application-to-application. According to Christy, .Net allows CoCreate to “pour the applications though this loosely-tied plumbing.”

CoCreate’s .Net application-sharing tools allow Parker and its partners to make real-time design changes, rather than sending altered CAD designs back and forth. “There is a lot of motion that can be saved,” says Caferro. “Now we get all project management data recorded in real-time.”

See the story that goes with this sidebar: Marriage of desktop and Web