Change Does Not Have to Be Hard Redux

In my 25+ years of attending engineering software user conferences, there is one consistent theme whenever users gather: how to gain “buy-in” from colleagues or employees for a major software upgrade or new product. Over time I have observed how the ability to embrace change varies with the nature of the new endeavor.

It seems to be easier to get users to embrace specific, individual productivity features than to get a group of users to adopt new workflow methods that affect the team. I credit this to instant gratification. If you now use five clicks and two key-ins to modify an existing door (or weldment or whatever), and I can show you how to do it in two clicks and one key-in, you can immediately put that to work. It is a small bit of learning with a quick reward.

Compare learning one new CAD command to learning how to use a new engineering document management system like Synergis Adept. It doesn’t matter whether you are upgrading from a vaulting system or from using shared hard drives, there is a considerable amount of workgroup change taking place. There is less opportunity for instant gratification. The benefits of using the new EDMS are more about workflow and department processes, and less about clever little techniques.

CAD managers are usually the ones called upon to introduce new workflow solutions like Adept. After years of teaching people tips and tricks, the challenge of teaching a team how to use EDMS may seem daunting. That’s why there is nothing like getting some expert advice.

At the 2016 Adept Experience conference in October, one such expert shared his insights. Robert Green has provided CAD management consulting, training, and related services since 1991. He is perhaps best known for his long series of articles in Cadalyst Magazine, The CAD Manager’s Newsletter. He is also the author of “Expert CAD Management: The Complete Guide.”

Green often writes and talks about the keys for effective team leadership among CAD users. The ultimate goal is, as always, to give senior management what it wants. Green says you please senior management when you provide three essential resources:

  • Support, so current projects are completed on time and with high quality;
  • Leadership, to help users grow in productivity and efficiency over time;
  • Guidance, as the company adopts new software, hardware, and work method.

In his Adept user conference presentation, Green began by proclaiming, “Document management and workflow automation problems are psychological not technological!” He went on to describe how engineering teams can be guided systematically into greater levels of team productivity, using a pyramid analogy. The base is Security and Search, the two easiest things about Adept to appreciate and understand. (To which I would add, Search has the ability to provide the instant gratification moment for positive reinforcement.) One level up from the base of the pyramid is Workflow. “Stress that consistency makes work easier,” said Green, noting the need to deal head-on with the “extreme power of human laziness.” When Workflow is establish, the next level up on the pyramid is CAD and Editing. Learning to use EDMS and CAD as an integrated system will help each user understand the ultimate goal — the capstone of the pyramid — Collaboration and Integration.

Understanding how to guide team productivity using the pyramid analogy was just one of the many insights from Robert Green’s presentation. It was a highlight of the recent Adept user conference. If you missed it, you can still listen; the presentation (now available in two parts) is on the Adept website: Part 1   |   Part 2


Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.

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time-for-change

Change Does Not Have to Be Hard

In my 25+ years of attending engineering software user conferences, there is one consistent theme whenever users gather: how to gain “buy-in” from colleagues or employees for a major software upgrade or new product. Over time I have observed how the ability to embrace change varies with the nature of the new endeavor.

It seems to be easier to get users to embrace specific, individual productivity features than to get a group of users to adopt new workflow methods that affect the team. I credit this to instant gratification. If you now use five clicks and two key-ins to modify an existing door (or weldment or whatever), and I can show you how to do it in two clicks and one key-in, you can immediately put that to work. It is a small bit of learning with a quick reward. (more…)

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A Better Interface for a Better Adept Experience

When Synergis Software Vice President Todd Cummings introduced Adept 2017 at the company’s first user conference last month, he said the mission for the development team was “to deliver more power to users in an easier and more accessible way.” He and fellow presenter Chris Fabri then showed how the transition to web services technology did more than provide a faster “under the hood” experience, but also transformed how users get their work done.

Much of the work to create the user experience in Adept 2017 was about simplifying the way people worked within the program. The web-based clients were recreated from the ground up, with an eye to simplify every aspect of using Adept. The desktop client was simplified and makes users more productive in their every day tasks.

The Desktop Client has an all-new user interface, replacing the original toolbars and menus with a new Ribbon and Tab interface. This approach reduces the number of clicks required to perform tasks. In testing most common tasks were increased by a factor of four, and some by much more. (more…)

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A New Platform for a New Adept

For the past 14 months Synergis Software has been hard at work creating a new version of Adept. This isn’t the typical software update with some new features and various bug fixes. This is a serious reworking of the product from its foundation up, designed to make Adept the best possible engineering document management solution. As Scott Lamond said at the launch webinar attended by hundreds of Adept users, “Our mission is to free you from operational chaos, so you can make the difference in the world you want to make.”

For Adept 2017, delivering users from “operational chaos” meant big changes to the inner working of the product, and to the user experience. In this article I want to take a look at the new platform technology of Adept 2017. In my next article I’ll take a close look at how the user experience (UX) in Adept 2017 has improved.

Development of both the new foundation and the new UX were guided by the Synergis mantra, “simple, fast ways to find documents anywhere.” The goal is always to make it as easy as possible for engineering companies to work with one version of the truth, keeping everyone in sync and on schedule. Documents remain secure, collaboration is enhanced, and manual workflow processes are automated. (more…)

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How to Reduce Costs with Engineering Document Management

It never ceases to amaze me how many engineering companies still believe they are doing just fine using the same document management methods they used when Windows replaced DOS in the 1980s. Talking to my colleagues, users, and software vendors leads me to believe a majority of engineering firms in both product development and construction are not using modern document management. Instead, they rely on creating operating system directories for document management in shared networks or on individual users’ computers. This is unacceptable business practice in operations, finance, and other divisions of a company; why should the inefficiencies and lack of security inherent in using naked OS folders be acceptable in engineering?

I call it document management on the honor system. It is not much more advanced than printing every electronic document on paper and then arranging them on shelves, where anybody has access to any file. Until one of those shelves is in somebody’s private office and they are gone for two weeks… when you really need that information now. Or until when somebody takes a file folder home for the weekend, but misplaces it and doesn’t bring it back on Monday. (more…)

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Making Configuration Management a Better Watchdog

The Bill of Materials (BOM) is the gospel for product development and an important element of configuration management (CM). But in many organizations the creation and use of BOMs and the existing paper-based configuration management workflow places a stranglehold on efficiency and prevents innovation.

The idea of configuration management is to have a watchdog process, driving consistency in product definition and manufacturing execution. Done right, configuration management provides visibility into the functional relationships in a product’s definition. If changes are required, the CM becomes the guide to final reconciliation of consistency. CM ensures that every person on the team shares a common understanding of what is being designed, approved, ordered, built, sold, and serviced. (more…)

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Five Stars: Why You Need to Plan Ahead for Adept Experience 2017 Conference

In 1992 I went from being a full-time employee at a CAD software company to a self-employed consultant with my former employer as my first client. Several projects were on the list, but the one that I still recall with great fondness was organizing the company’s first user conference. This was before the Internet was a universal resource; less than half of the company’s customers had email addresses. So we reached out through a newsletter and with phone calls (a lot of our business was direct sales on the phone).

We expected 20-30 attendees, mostly regional. We were blown away when close to 100 people from all over the US and several foreign countries signed up. By the end of the first session, everybody in the room realized they were surrounded by friends. They all shared the same enthusiasm for the software and had the same questions about customization or the product roadmap. Over breaks and meals, they shared tips and swapped stories about how the software solved problems or created new opportunities. It was two days of high energy and excitement for everyone there. (more…)

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Making Configuration Management a Better Watchdog

The Bill of Materials (BOM) is the gospel for product development and an important element of configuration management (CM). But in many organizations the creation and use of BOMs and the existing paper-based configuration management workflow places a stranglehold on efficiency and prevents innovation.

The idea of configuration management is to have a watchdog process, driving consistency in product definition and manufacturing execution. Done right, configuration management provides visibility into the functional relationships in a product’s definition. If changes are required, the CM becomes the guide to final reconciliation of consistency. CM ensures that every person on the team shares a common understanding of what is being designed, approved, ordered, built, sold, and serviced. (more…)

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CAD Secret Agent Finds a Soulmate

I’ve been covering the CAD industry since PCs were called “microcomputers” and a math co-processor was a must-have accessory for CAD users. There have been winners and losers in the CAD market: anyone out there still using VersaCAD? At one time it was bigger than AutoCAD.

Among the survivors from the early years of desktop CAD is Kubotek KeyCreator, originally called Cadkey. KeyCreator was a three-dimensional modeler at a time when most CAD was 2D only. Over the years KeyCreator has developed a devoted following as the go-to tool when models arrive on the desktop in need of repair. It can read and write most 3D CAD formats, and uses direct editing technology to simplify the editing of 3D entities, even if they were created by a parametric modeler. KeyCreator is the CAD equivalent of a secret agent, called upon to quickly, quietly, and efficiently eliminate a problem.

When a CAD program is used to edit models created by other products, there is a lot of collateral to deal with. Editing somebody’s model means there must be an Engineering Change Order. There are revisions to track, supporting documents to amend, and an audit trail to worry about. Usually the job is not about one CAD model but many. It all adds up to a big data management headache if not addressed upfront.

Recently Kubotek has been hearing from some of its larger customers how they need a product data management (PDM) solution to help ensure accurate revisions and complete control over supporting documentation. It came as no surprise to me when Synergis and Kubotek announced a partnership for using Synergis Adept in the KeyCreator environment.

Adept is no stranger to multiple CAD environments as well as all the non-CAD document types used to create products. By working together on a KeyCreator plug-in for Adept, KeyCreator users now have access to the Swiss army knife of PDM products. It will be easy for engineering teams to find and reuse design content, secure intellectual property, automate change and approval processes, and comply with relevant standards. Add to that the best file viewing technology in the industry (based on Oracle’s AutoVue), and you have a CAD-PDM match made in heaven.

The KeyCreator plug-in for Adept is expected to be ready for implementation in the next one to two months. In my opinion, the CAD secret agent has found its soulmate.


Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.

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Securing Engineering Documents in the Cybercrime Age

These days no company should consider itself immune to the possibility of cybercrime and data theft.  Engineering documents hold the company’s crown jewels; data must always be kept secure. With careful planning you can still take advantage of the latest cloud and mobile technology; security does not mean lack of accessibility.

Outdated approaches to data management are the most vulnerable systems. There is nothing that says “STEAL ME” more than important documents just sitting naked in a file folder on the network. Once the external firewall is breached, these files become easy pickings.  A comprehensive IT security solution for engineering/manufacturing data will include the user, the data management software, and the network, as well as application layer interfaces and interconnecting systems (such as PDM to SCM).

Older PDM/PLM systems were built with data, speed, and functionality in mind; security was a minor concern limited to user access rights. Today’s global networks, dispersed workforce, and cloud and/or mobile access to engineering data completely changes the security scene.

Using modern engineering document management software means you are using modern security. Companies who have not upgraded from management by file folders to a modern EDM system like Synergis Adept generally do not have modern IT security in place. These companies are also more likely to treat engineering IT as “their problem” and not include it in more general IT oversight of security issues.

Creating a data immunity system

Security experts say good IT security can be compared to the multiple levels of immunity in the human body. Skin is just the first of several protection layers. Each organ and functional system has separate immunity barriers and “protocols.” The brain has its own separate security protocol, the blood-brain barrier. Engineering IT security should operate in a similar fashion. If the “skin” of your company—the firewall from the outer world—is breached, the engineering data inside should still be secure.

A recent survey of 4,506 IT professionals found that an estimated 49% of an organization’s worth is derived from the information created inside the company. Security is not just protecting this information from the outside; those with access inside the company often are found to be the source of data theft.

Proper security for engineering data does not mean one more module in a PDM/EDM system. Security should not be an overlay; it should be embedded into in all systems at the lowest possible level. Security should never be separate from every aspect of using, managing, and storing data.

Synergis Adept provides built-in secure, controlled access to documents from any location. Whether you need a centralized vault or distributed vaults at each location, Adept’s unique smart vaulting maintains native folder structure and file names without scrambling or moving files. Yet at the same time it wraps documents in a tight layer of protection beyond that provided by your existing IT infrastructure. Adept becomes that extra layer of immunity beyond the skin provided by IT.


Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. More information is available at https://www.linkedin.com/in/randallnewton.

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