Have you wanted to use Vault to track things like engineering tasks or processes? You might be thinking you already do. Maybe you're putting PDFs or Office documents into Vault that represent a process like NCR’s or maybe you’ve tried Vault ECOs. These are both valid options, however, files are still single objects in Vault and in the case of ECOs, maybe too nuanced to be easily adopted. Often neither option is fully representative of a particular process.
Perhaps your engineering team has to deal with non-conformance reports or corrective action requests and other similar design engineering issues. You need to track the process of an NCR and include affected files and close it out when completed. This could be where Vault custom objects play a valuable role. They use behaviors you already know and are easier to manipulate than ECO’s.
Vault Custom Objects
Let’s use the non-conformance report as an example. This is a common example of a process often related to engineering and design. We can issue and track non-conformance reports in Vault by creating a custom object to represent them. This is done in the Vault Settings dialog box on the Custom Objects tab. Way at the end and often misunderstood since there isn’t much there to configure.
Here I have created a Non-Conformance Report custom object with a custom icon and no security. ACL (access control list) security can be applied here if desired so that any custom object of this type will be accessible to the group or users specified (similar to folder security). Once finished, users will see the new custom object panel in their Vault Explorer the next time they log in.
Note: For custom icons; Vault uses an ICO file containing four icon sizes: 16x16, 32x32, 64x64 & 128x128.
The great thing about custom objects is that you can apply a category to them with a lifecycle scheme and properties, through the Behavior tab, in Vault settings. In my example I’ve added an NCR category that has a lifecycle scheme for an NCR process with OPENED > WIP > REVIEW > CLOSED states and added properties pertinent to an NCR process such as Description, Contract Number, Supplier, Priority, Issue Type and Disposition. System properties are automatically included to track who created the NCR and when it was created.
To start using the new Non-Conformance Report custom object; select the button in the sidebar to see the – currently empty – list of NCR’s. Press New in the Vault toolbar or right-click on the Non-Conformance Reports node in the sidebar to create a new report and give it a name.
I’ll call mine NCR001 and use the standard Change Category command to change it from the Base category to the NCR category. This will place it in the OPENED state and add all the property fields. Once created, lifecycle states can be changed and properties edited in the same way as any file in Vault.
Those are the basics and perhaps that is enough to issue, track and report on some processes in Vault. However, an NCR might affect the design of some parts, so the next thing to do is link any affected files to the NCR. This can be done to a custom object in any state that isn’t a released state (as long as a user has permission to modify the object). The thing about linking files is that there is no ‘Link File(s)’ button. Linking with custom objects is done by either dragging-and-dropping files from the Find dialog box or copying (CTRL+C) and pasting as a link (CTRL+ALT+V) using the keyboard or the Edit menu drop-down. You can put a link of the custom object into a file folder this way (perhaps the NCR belongs to a specific project) or you can select files and link them into a custom object this way. Once files are linked to a custom object you will see them in the Contents tab of the NCR.
Note: Some limitations of custom objects to watch for are that linked files always reference the latest version in Vault, custom objects have no revision or version history and they cannot be viewed from the Thin Client.
If you are using Vault Professional with out-of-the-box configuration settings, this covers most features of custom objects. Very useful on their own but there is more to be had if you use Vault Data Standard, a free add-on from Autodesk, available in your manage.autodesk.com page. Data Standard can do a whole lot of things with Vault but let’s focus in on custom objects.
Custom Objects with Vault Data Standard
Using my Corrective Action Report custom object (already configured) with Data Standard I can preset the category, then set property values, and even use Vault numbering schemes when creating a new corrective action object.
Editing property values in an existing object is just as easy through a similar looking dialog box. Both creating and editing custom objects are accessed by right-clicking on a custom object and using new menu options.
Finally, Data Standard will also add a Datasheet tab to summarize the custom object for quick reference.
As an administrator you can also force users to enter key properties during object creation. If the required values are not entered, the object cannot be created. This is optional but the completeness of information is important for a full record and the ability to track and report on objects; A theme throughout Data Standard.
Using custom objects is almost like being able to customize an ECO process to have any workflow scheme you like. They can even check that all linked files (or linked custom objects) are released before being able to be released itself and send publish jobs to the job processor. Custom objects are very similar to working with files so adoption is quick and easier than implementing an entire ECO process.
If the prospect of adding more engineering process capabilities to Vault has peaked your curiosity, perhaps your next Vault upgrade is the time to implement custom objects or even Vault Data Standard. Alternatively, if you're thinking 'This is great, but what about my non-engineering staff who don't use Vault?' Then perhaps an alternative like Fusion Lifecycle might be a better fit.