How Joy Global Tamed their Global PDM Monsters

Joy Global (now Komatsu Mining Corp.) is a world-class manufacturer and services provider for high-productivity mining equipment. Customers around the globe use are using Joy Global products and services on the very largest mining projects in energy, industrial, and hard rock minerals. Over the years it has grown both organically and by acquisition, to the point where it how has eight major brands, 12,000 employees, and offices in 20 countries. With each acquisition came new data, new data management systems, and new challenges for creating, storing, using, and sharing engineering data.

In 2009, the company decided it must standardize on a single product data management system (PDM). “Our access and files were out of control,” says Joy Global’s Norm Kopp. Research on how to proceed started with a simple step. The small team assigned to the job looked at only 10 shared directory folders on the corporate network. More than 675 users had access across the 10 folders, with no tighter level of access control. In one directory alone, there were more than 1 million documents, taking up more than 2 terabytes. “We knew there just had to be a better way,” recalls Kopp. Their engineering data had become an uncontrolled monster hiding inside the organization.

Identifying the Key Issues

Following the revelation of such widespread, uncontrolled access and unchecked document proliferation, Kopp and his team moved ahead, guided by six leading questions:

  1. Why are those folders on the network?
  2. What files are in those folders?
  3. Who are the users?
  4. Why do they need access to these files?
  5. How do they find the files they need?
  6. How do they know they have the latest file?

It turned out they were not the only ones with this problem. In a presentation at the recent Adept Experience user conference, Kopp shared results from a Tech-Clarity survey of more than 2500 engineering companies. More than 40% agreed that three key issues were serious design management challenges:

  • Sharing information with other departments
  • Finding the right information
  • Managing change

Bill of Materials (BOM) Process

Many manufacturing companies start to bring order to document management by designing how to manage the Bill of Materials (BOM) process. But Joy Global decided to bring in one level of abstraction above the BOM, calling it the Bill of Information (BOI). Two ideas guided the decision to start with the BOI, regarding the common industry terms PLM (product lifecycle management) and PDM (product data management):

  1. PLM is not a piece of software; it is a definition of a business approach and the process of managing the complete set of product information through its life.
  2. PDM is the backbone that supports PLM processes.

At Joy Global, the new BOI “completely defines the product,” says Kopp. A BOI includes both relationships and definitions. Definitions can include specifications, certifications, and other critical documentation about the product. The relationships can include:

  • Part-to-part;
  • Process-to-document;
  • Part-to-document;
  • Document-to-Document.

Another Monster Lurking in the Shadows: Adoption

After a long selection process, Joy Global standardized on Synergis Adept and started rolling it out across the organization office by office. After a few months, the team noticed how some groups were not taking advantage of all the features provided by Adept. So they asked a few questions, summarized as “Why aren’t you using Adept more?” The responses can be summarized in five ways:

  • “We didn’t know Adept had this functionality.”
  • “We never thought about using Adept to manage files other than CAD.”
  • “I thought about it, but these are my files.”
  • “If I share, I could lose my value to the company.”
  • “Management will not support the process and additional time.”

Installing Synergis Adept was only the first step in monster control. It turns out attitudes were also a monster lurking in the shadows. Kopp and his partners in monster control started reaching out, telling employees who offered any of the excuses above to talk to their manager. “Talk with your manager about managing other engineering documents and relationships to a design project,” is how Kopp described the conversations. He also said the implementation team always sought to remind everyone about the six key benefits Joy Global was gaining from its use of Synergis Adept:

  1. Standardized file control
  2. Managing access
  3. Shared product knowledge
  4. No data re-creation
  5. Improved quality with lower costs
  6. More time for innovation.

Norm Kopp’s presentation at last year’s Adept Experience also went into detail on how to set up a BOI, how to create relationships to CAD files, reorganizing parent-child relationships among CAD files from within Adept, and how to integrate Adept to other software platforms in use. It was a great presentation, packed with tips and encouragement. If you want to watch the presentation, you can find it on our YouTube channel here.

If you’re considering how to better manage your product, facilities or plant data, contact us to learn more about how Adept can impact your organization.


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. 

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