Best Practices When Using EDM Vendor Services

The old adage “to fail to plan is to plan to fail” is certainly true when it comes to something as important as installing engineering document management (EDM) software. Research by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity shows it is possible to achieve EDM implementation benefits rapidly by following a few key rules:

  • Use preconfigured best practices for security, part numbering, and other common information standards;
  • When possible, use standard workflows such as “release to manufacture” and “engineering change control;”
  • Limit initial customization; evaluate customization needs after full initial implementation and training.

As important as it is to minimize initial customization, no EDM system out of the box will offer an exact fit for every company. Many companies have workflows which evolved over years or decades; these processes do not need to be eliminated just because of automation. Other companies need customization to help unify far-flung engineering offices and long supply chains. (more…)

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Ruhrpumpen Realigns Global Engineering for Efficiency and Innovation

Large-scale engineering organizations constantly search for ways to differentiate their products from the competition. Many engineering-centric companies are using acquisitions as a way to increase their product line and market reach. As product complexity and variety increases, the smooth flow of data in the organization increases in importance. The sheer volume of product data increases, requiring not just the organization but its supply chain to spend more resources defining, translating, and transferring product data and solving technical problems associated with data management.

Ruhrpumpen is a prime example of this set of challenges. It is a global centrifugal pump technology company with a wide variety of engineered-to-order products for Oil & Gas, Chemical, Power, Industrial Applications, and Water & Mining. They also manufacture a wide variety of off-the-shelf centrifugal pumps for these industries and more. From its home base in Germany, it has grown by acquisition; it now has manufacturing and sales offices in 11 countries on five continents. (more…)

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Bending Space and Time: A New Way to Think about Collaboration

In most engineering organizations there is an uneasy truce between teamwork and solo endeavor. The contributions of many people are necessary and the interactive processes move ideas from concept to reality. But generally speaking, each team member works best not in a meeting but when he or she enters into their personal creative zone. Time seems to stand still; performance is at its peak. Alone with their ideas and their design tools, engineers and other team members create information that becomes products or assets.

And then the ethereal bubble gets popped by collaboration. Others need the engineering data, and they usually need it in bits and pieces that require searching, compiling, copying, and sending. The processes of sharing take precious time away from the creative. In this day and age of global connectivity the sharing happens not in one particular space but across ever-increasing distances. It can feel as if space and time are collaboration hobgoblins conspiring to steal the creative bliss of engineering. (more…)

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What Kept Document Management Pros Awake at Night in 2016?

As the semi-official guest blogger for Synergis Software, I was recently granted a sneak peek at the analytical data for this blog in 2016. What did I learn? I was a bit surprised to learn most regular readers of this blog read the entire article (measured by time on page). I get less time-on-page for my news articles elsewhere than for my commentary here. Such a stat tells me people who come here are passionate about engineering data and document management and are looking for useful information.

I also learned the most-read articles in 2016 can be organized into two broad themes:

How others use Synergis Adept: This could be characterized either as “best practices” or as “what the guy like me somewhere else is doing.”

Current risks and challenges: Engineering document management is not trivial, easy, or static; new challenges in the field are significant.

In tribute to the retired David Letterman and his nightly Top Ten lists (which we also paid homage to in 2016), here are the top ten Synergis Adept Blog articles for 2016. If you want to know what kept document management pros like you up late this year, here’s what they were thinking about:

Number 10: “Make sure you understand the risk of not having a solid data management plan” (What is your company’s risk in the new data management age?) (more…)

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Who holds the keys to your project data?

Ready to upgrade your engineering data management from Windows Explorer? There are plenty of choices available. Your CAD vendor probably has a PDM system, and there are CAD-neutral options including Synergis Adept. Each vendor has plenty of information available to share about their PDM product, in spec sheets, white papers, case studies, videos, webinars, and direct sales calls. The marketing teams at each company have worked hard to be ready with answers to questions customers might ask. But there is one question most of them don’t consider: Who holds the keys to your engineering data?

By “holds the keys” I am referring to what happens when your valuable data and documents get sucked into the PDM. Databases are complicated systems, and there are engineering trade-offs involved in how these programs operate. (more…)

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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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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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