3 Tips for Crushing Information Silos at Work

When you hear the word silo, you might picture the tall round buildings filled with grain. But silos have another meaning in the business world. Virtual silos exist when information is not openly and consistently shared between people or among departments. They are a huge and costly hurdle for any organization that needs to be nimble and competitive on a global scale.

While you may have software tools (like Synergis Adept engineering information management) to manage and organize your information in a centralized repository, your organization may still be lacking the cultural and social skills to make a bridge across disparate teams and global sites.

Crushing Silos

At last year’s Adept Experience, keynote speaker Brian Cristiano, founder & CEO of BOLD Worldwide, a fast-growing media and marketing company headquartered in NYC, brought a fresh and inspiring perspective to crushing silos in the workplace.

Cristiano recently announced a bold goal over the last year: To grow his marketing agency to revenues over $100 million. During this journey, he’s encountered many virtual silos that have hampered growth and collaboration. In his keynote, he shared his real-life tactics on how to crush these silos. Here are his key tips: Read More

The Top 11 Mistakes to Avoid During Engineering Document Management Implementations and Upgrades, Part 1

Rolling out an enterprise-level document management solution across your organization can be a daunting task. While there’s no be-all, end-all method to implementation, setting up enterprise software does require several layers of planning and cross-communication. In fact, the success of the solution often relies as much on the implementation process as it does on the technology itself.

To better understand the do’s and don’ts of implementing your engineering document management system, we asked our Applications Consultants to compile a list of the top 11 mistakes they see companies make during Adept implementations—as well as suggestions on how to prevent these errors.

This installment covers the first 5 of the eleven mistakes to avoid. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll cover the final 6 tips for a successful implementation.

Mistake 1: Assigning too many administrators

One way that organizations stumble early out of the gate is in determining user rights. All too often, our Applications Consultants see companies grant all users Administrator-level access, or give individuals or departments admin rights when they really need low level access.

Limiting the number of Administrators helps to establish a clear line of control and eliminates conflicting approvals. After all, the last thing you need is for someone’s work to be undone by another user. We recommend that you start small and only elevate rights on an as-needed basis.

It’s best to assign one primary administrator and to assign lower level permissions, such as Library Administrator or Workflow Administrator, to designated users.

Mistake 2: Over or underestimating the number of user licenses

There are several layers of investment to consider when deploying a new engineering document management system across your organization—including how many user licenses you’ll need for optimum performance. Shortchanging or overestimating the number of user licenses can directly impact the success of the software.

In order to determine the right amount of user licenses, we recommend scheduling a focused meeting with an Adept expert to thoroughly review the different types of users you have, the level of access each type requires, and the frequency of access needed. The perfect ratio of user licenses varies from customer to customer; therefore this comprehensive consultation will analyze and determine what would fit best for your organization.

Mistake 3: Cutting back on implementation onsite training days to “save money”

It’s not enough to roll out software and expect all the end-users to automatically adapt to new software. One of the recurring problems our Applications Consultants see onsite are customers not taking full advantage of their implementation training days.

The Synergis Technical Applications Consultants have over 40 years of experience installing and implementing Adept across the globe. The training and implementation time spent with them is of extremely high value and will ensure that your system is setup successfully to your specific needs and requirements. Often, companies who cut back on training need more assistance earlier in the adoption process. For example, being overly reliant on resources such as Helpdesk causes them to be less efficient than if they were well trained from the beginning. We recommend prioritizing training—either on-site or at our offices—to get the most out of Adept from the start.

Mistake 4: Opting for manual file migration vs. custom file migration

Now for the nitty-gritty part of implementing engineering document management—migrating your data into Adept. While both manual and custom file migration can get the job done, consider the pros and cons of each before you make a decision.

Manual file migration provides an opportunity to clean files during the migration process; however, it requires users to be locked out of files for manual cleanup. Programmatic custom migration occurs off-site and therefore, doesn’t cause as much downtime. Make sure you carefully review your data with our data migration experts before you make a decision.

Mistake 5: Becoming stuck in the “old perceptions”

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of implementing new software is letting go of “perceived requirements” and embracing the new challenge to think outside-the-box. For example, one perceived requirement can be an out-of-date workflow process that you’ve been using forever, but you know isn’t really efficient. It’s not always easy to change or tweak “the old ways of doing things” when adopting a new system.

In order to become the productivity powerhouse you’ve always hoped for, you’ll need to be flexible and open to new, innovative automation methods. We strongly recommend leveraging Adept to find better workflows and ways of working—even if this path can initially be uncomfortable or different. Ultimately, your team will work more efficiently.

 

Having a thorough implementation strategy in mind is crucial to making Adept a success. Avoid these common mistakes, and you’ll be golden. Subscribe to our blog and check back next week for Part 2 of our series.

3D Printing Takes First Steps Into Serial Manufacturing Production

[Editor’s note: Guest blogger Randall Newton continues his occasional series of articles on trends in engineering with this report from the recent FORMNEXT 3D printing conference in Germany.]

Automobile manufacturer Audi is using its A4 Limousine, a low-production model, as a proving ground for process innovation research. One large steel frame section of the A4 has always been difficult to manufacture, so the research team decided to try 3D printing. Audi engineers optimized the design for improved cooling and a 50% weight reduction, and then used Selective Laser Melting (SLM) to create 10,000 pieces.

For a generation, 3D printing has gradually gained acceptance as a useful adjunct to product engineering and manufacturing. In recent years, a few manufacturers have created end-use parts; GE Aviation recently celebrated the 3D printing of the 30,000th jet engine fuel nozzle. Now companies are looking beyond prototyping and limited editions and toward the day when 3D printing can produce final parts in the hundreds of thousands.

The Industrialization of 3D Printing Technology

In November, 3D printing vendors showed their newest products at Formnext, a fast-growing annual conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Martin Boch of Audi was a keynote speaker at the Formnext executive conference. “The main goal is the industrialization of 3D printing technology,” says Boch, the project lead for metal additive manufacturing at Audi. His company currently has three basic uses for 3D printing. R&D occupies about 20% of the company’s use of 3D printing; 60% is for prototyping; and another 20% is for creating spare small parts and tooling. Before Audi can move into serial production of small parts, Boch says it must define standard processes for sourcing both printers and materials. Read More

Pushing the Creative Buttons

Structural and mechanical engineering brings realization to design ideas. Just because engineering is grounded in physical processes and materials doesn’t make it less creative than any other design process. And therein lies the rub.

The research literature on creativity in engineering can be summarized simply: creativity is notoriously hard to objectify, quantify, qualify, and otherwise manage. There are various creative techniques organizations use to aid the creativity process, most notably brainstorming. Various role-playing scenarios are occasionally used, but most engineers are loathe to engage in such practices. Creativity at the requirements stage is considered particularly painful because engineers want to move on to what is perceived as the more useful and productive processes.

Yet the creative aspects are necessary. When a team suddenly sees a radically different way to achieve a goal, it challenges the organization to make sure the new idea is not just different, but better. Properly managed, creativity can become the catalyst to innovation. Read More

The Dirty Little Secrets of Engineering Document Management

Do you always turn slightly to the left when someone takes your picture, because you think you are showing your “good side”? (I don’t turn my head, but I do lift my chin just a little.) It is human nature to try to put ourselves in the best possible light. Software vendors also do that, so to speak. Every product on the market has strengths and weaknesses. It requires careful study to select the right product when there are competing solutions.

For managing engineering information, three types of programs are competing for market share: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Product Data Management (PDM), and Engineering Document Management (EDM). PLM companies love to talk about how they integrate all product information into one database to deliver “one version of the truth.” PDM companies extol the virtues of managing access and use of all CAD data. EDM companies talk about streamlining enterprise business processes and making all engineering documentation secure, shared, and accessible. There is considerable overlap between the functions of the three, as well as distinctive elements in how each type of program operates.

I have seen companies come and go during my 30 years in the engineering software industry. Some of them disappeared because they were terrible at marketing. Some died because technology changed and they didn’t. And some died because too many users found out the hard way there are flaws and limitations that the product vendors don’t reveal. Like the right pose for a photo, companies do their best to avoid revealing those dirty little secrets.

What exactly do I mean by dirty little secrets? They are embarrassing facts, troublesome bits of information someone — or in this case, some software company — would rather keep hidden. In the world of engineering, I see three dirty little secrets haunting the industry. Read More

How to Foster Innovation within Your Organization

Published by Kristen Tomasic, President of Synergis Technologies, Inc.


“Innovation happens at the meeting point of different disciplines. When silos of disciplines are broken down, innovation happens.”  Valerie Gervais, Sr. VP HR, Saint-Gobain

I had the pleasure of attending the Delaware Valley Industrial Resource Center (DVIRC) Manufacturing Summit on October 12 at The Fuge in Warminster where Valerie Gervais was a featured keynote. Of all the presentations, I was most impressed and inspired by what she shared.  From someone whose primary role was in HR, it was illuminating to hear the importance of innovation in all departments and to consider what we can learn from different disciplines inside and outside of an organization.

To give you an example of how she’s leveraged different disciplines in her role, Ms. Gervais sent an anthropologist into a factory to interview employees to help her team to understand the people and their needs. As we all know, anthropologists study people, but how many companies have considered applying their study of humans, norms, and values of societies to better appreciate and understand their employees?

Anthropologists, by practice, start with a blank page when studying new cultures or peoples. They are curious by nature, and are typically experienced in interviewing people about their backgrounds, histories, and experiences. By employing anthropologists to study their factory workers, Valerie and her team were able to adjust employee benefits, policies, and practices to retain skilled factory workers.  The “skilled workforce” issue is a major challenge for many manufacturing companies today, and St. Gobain has cracked the code to improving factory employee retention.

Many people associate the application or study of human sciences like anthropology, sociology, political science, and philosophy with research and education. It’s often difficult to appreciate how a business can benefit from the experiences and expertise of a poly-sci major. But, have you ever been in a meeting where the most innovative idea comes from the person who isn’t living the problem every day?

Consider the insights or solutions we might gain by putting engineers and philosophers and marketers and financial analysts in a room to solve a business problem or develop the next revolutionary product.  I want to be part of that team. Understanding diverse perspectives, getting outside of your own business or industry, and breaking down the divisional or departmental silos can lead to amazing things for your team and your organization, and leads to a much more energizing and interesting culture and work experience.

I told our leadership team recently that I was going to dedicate more time in the coming weeks, months and years to “getting outside of our business.”  That’s how I ended up at the Manufacturing Summit in the first place.  And, if you’re reading this, I’d encourage you to consider the same.  We all have so much we can learn and share if we break down the siloed thinking, working and doing. Valerie said it best, “When silos of disciplines are broken down, innovation happens.”  Count me in!

Probing the Future of Augmented Reality

For the past three years, I have been living a double life. No, I’m not a spy or hiding a second family. I gave in to my midlife crisis and went to graduate school in Germany. I didn’t give up my day job writing about engineering software and doing consulting. By the time you read this, I will have defended my thesis — like a mother bear defends a cub — and graduated.

I’m not sharing this so my social media will fill with congratulatory notes. I’m telling you this as a setup to the topic of this blog post, the future of augmented reality. My new degree is in Media and Communications Studies, a discipline that uses scientific research methods to explore the wide range of human communications, from journalism to selfies.

(Side note: If it seems like I’m going off topic for a Synergis Software blog post, allow me to explain. Synergis has asked me to occasionally use this form to talk about trends and the larger issues in engineering. Let us know what you think.)

For my culminating research project, I took a look at the future of augmented reality (AR). Specifically, I explored what experienced technology marketing professionals think about the near-term future of augmented reality. This means my study was not technical in nature, but my results provide insight into what members of a professional, technical community think about this intriguing new technology. My preliminary findings revealed a complete lack of empirical research on using AR for business and professional marketing, so my project was able to provide information other researchers could use. This is called an ex ante exploratory study. Read More

Is Blockchain Technology In Your Company’s Future?

It is hard to pay attention to the flow of news today and not hear about Bitcoin. Every segment of the news media — even celebrity gossip — seems to have an interest in this radical remake of value exchange. Bitcoin gets the headlines, but the underlying technology — blockchain — is the real news. It is a quintessential foundational technology, and it will have a big impact on engineering, manufacturing, and construction processes.

Blockchain’s Fundamental Capabilities

Before I get into how blockchain will be a game changer, let’s review the technology’s fundamental capabilities. Blockchain is a peer-to-peer network sitting on top of the Internet, just as the World Wide Web or the email protocol does. It took 30 years for the set of technologies we call the Internet to transform our business and personal lives. I believe it won’t take blockchain as long, because it isn’t starting from scratch; the Internet it needs has already been deployed. Read More

What’s Next in Engineering Technology? Part 3

In the two previous articles in this series, I’ve taken a look at short-term trends regarding design tools, and explained how I look for what’s next in IT. In the third and final part, I want to share my current observations about the next big wave of innovation.

I use the ideas of “stacks” as my metaphor to understand how specific technologies interact to create new rounds of innovation. I see a new stack coming together that will drive innovative new applications in a variety of fields. The current innovation stack — CAMS — has four “big idea” technologies (cloud, analytics, mobile, social); this new one has five: real-time processing, operational trust, autonomy, distributed processing, and intelligence. The initials seems to be a good title (ROADI), since the poster child for this next wave of innovation is the self-driving car. ROADI will turn product and services into autonomous discrete agents.

Self-driving cars must possess intelligent and autonomous behavior. They must always respond in real-time to the environment. Their actions are based on a refined notion of trusted operational behavior. The necessary computation and connectivity can’t be centralized in a server or even a cloud; it must take place in each vehicle and in every other object on or near the road. Read More

What’s Next in Engineering Technology? Part 2

In a previous blog post I wrote about near-term technology trends affecting Adept users. Today I want to discuss how I identify and track such trends. I thought this would be a two-part series of articles, but I’ll need a Part 3 to share my thoughts on long-term technology trends affecting the larger world of engineering.

As a point of reference, consider how the Internet became so important to daily life. The original plan didn’t call for it to be used for engineering or data management, or even commerce. The first developments were driven by the military and academia. Today, Internet technologies like email and the World Wide Web are the technical backbone for almost all social, commercial, academic, governance, and industrial activity.

Internet use exploded when four key technologies were exploited as a unit. Those four were the Linux operating system, the Apache web server, the MySQL open source database system, and the trio of lean programming (scripting) languages Python, PHP, and Perl. Each of these technologies were useful alone, but when used together they ignited the tech equivalent of the Cambrian Explosion. Developers started referring to the four technologies as a unit, the “LAMP stack.” Read More