Greene, Tweed & Co. may be a major player on the global stage, but for most of its history, its engineering data had a decidedly local footprint, tucked away in different file shares around the world and typically painstakingly difficult to find and share.
That is until the manufacturer of high-performance elastomeric and thermoplastic materials embarked on a journey to deploy Synergis’ Adept Product Data Management (PDM) system to centralize its critical engineering assets, including SOLIDWORKS CAD files, and to automate approval workflows on a global scale. But Greene, Tweed wasn’t content to stop there. Its vision was to integrate the Adept PDM platform with its core ERP system to make engineering data accessible to a much broader audience.
Greene, Tweed, like many companies, sees value in syncing its core enterprise systems rather than fostering silos that prevent groups like engineering and manufacturing from readily exchanging data and working off the same page. That’s according to Steven Danasko, SAP Solution Specialist in Greene, Tweed’s IT Center of Excellence, Product Lifecycle Management, who was the key orchestrator of the project. Danasko says that beyond a desire for more centralized data repositories and integrated workflows, the Adept/SAP integration made sense from a financial standpoint because it opened up access to critical engineering data to existing ERP users without requiring investment in additional software licenses.
“We wanted the solution to integrate into ERP because users already use that software daily to access information like planning data and quality requirements,” Danasko explains. “We wanted consumers of the data to have one central location to find all the documents they required.”
After evaluating several major PDM systems, Danasko choose Synergis Adept, in part because of the ease of integration with SAP. Adept’s Data Exporter feature funnels metadata associated with SOLIDWORKS CAD drawings (information like drawing numbers, applications details, and product dimensions) directly into SAP for use by downstream users, while the Synergis Adept PublishWave module converts native SOLIDWORKS CAD files to a neutral PDF file format, so they can be accessed in SAP. Based on the integration developed in-house, upon approval of a CAD drawing, a trigger is created, which sends the CAD file to the PublishWave server, converts the native SOLIDWORKS drawing to a PDF, and links that PDF file to SAP Materials. With the information provided from the Adept Data Exporter, the in house program will create the material in SAP, and establish a direct link from the material to the approved PDF drawing within the Adept vault so it can be retrieved by users anywhere throughout Greene, Tweed’s global footprint.
The integration with SAP has eliminated lots of painstaking manual work that introduced the risk of data entry errors. Not only that, but Greene, Tweed engineers are finding design IP treasures they might never have before. “Before someone in the United States had no idea that Europe created a product design similar to what they did independently,” he explains. “Now they can search in Adept for a design the same size or application and find something similar they can use as a starting point.”
While the integrated Adept-SAP systems are now running like clockwork, Danasko acknowledges there were a couple of lessons learned along the way. For one thing, the strategy to roll out Adept in a big bang approach to all its locations simultaneously really pushed the limits of change management and would have been easier to conduct on a rolling basis, region by region, Danasko says. Same story with pushing for ERP integration in the initial roll out. “We should have focused on getting Adept up and running as a central repository for CAD files before trying to do the SAP integration at the same time,” he muses. “That might have made more sense.”
Creating a sandbox environment for users to get their hands dirty and see the benefits of a centralized system was also important to rallying the troops, he says. In the end, all’s well that ends well, and Greene, Tweed is humming along quite nicely with the system.
“Having everything in one environment for manufacturing has decreased costs, increased our productivity, and allowed to speed up the engineering design and change process,” he says.