Moving Beyond the Mess: Five Ways Sussex Wire Rolls Past Competitors with Adept

When Sussex Wire, a company that designs and manufactures custom, cold-formed parts, deployed Adept software last year, the engineering team got more than a secure, centralized vault for product drawings. It got a significant edge on the competition. To understand how, it’s helpful to understand a little bit about Sussex and its business:

From Sole Proprietor to Private Equity Backed

Cold-forming is a manufacturing method in which fine gauges of metal and alloy wire are forged, upset, or rolled into complex, tight tolerance geometric parts at ambient temperature. You’ve probably seen cold-formed structural pieces in planes, automobiles and building technology (e.g., rivets, bolts, nuts).  But you’ll also find them making up the smallest manufactured products, like semiconductor leads, medical devices, relays, sensors and fasteners, and that’s where Sussex comes in.  The Easton, PA-based company specializes in designing and manufacturing micro-miniature metal components, producing parts with diameters as tiny as 0.0035 inches at rates of up to 300 parts per minute.  In a typical year Sussex Wire ships well in excess of one billion parts to dozens of Fortune 500 customers spanning four continents. Read More

Sussex Wire: “We Had a Mess on Our Hands”

Sussex Wire is a small, thriving company with a rich 40-year history of designing and manufacturing complex products to precise tolerances. A world leader in delivering custom, cold-headed parts in mini- and micro-geometries, the company looked forward to a bright future as new equity poured in and new acquisitions seemed inevitable.

Then a key employee left, and management faced a startling truth: In places, the company still operated very much like a Mom and Pop shop.

“We had a mess on our hands. It was crazy,” says Tim Kardish, President. “He (the departed employee) had been responsible for design, engineering, and tooling. When he left, we struggled to find what tool dye print went with what part for a customer. Engineering would spend up to a half hour trying to figure it out.” Read More

Taming the Vast Ocean Called Search

I participate in a rural business development roundtable. At our most recent meeting somebody mentioned they wanted to find the owner of some property near town. All he had was a name and a possible home town. He asked me what I would do. I said “just a minute” and reached for my tablet. In 30 seconds I told him the owner’s residence and business addresses and telephone numbers, and in which church he was active. And I never got beyond the first two lines displayed in the typical Google search, and it was all in the first page Google presented.

In this era of instantaneous web search, many still think the World Wide Web consists of millions of discrete sources of information, instead of seeing it as one comprehensive reference work. We have been conditioned by centuries of sorting information using encyclopedias, card catalogs, telephone directories, parts catalogs, city directories, drawing cabinets, Windows folders and more. If we remain stuck in the old model, we think we must search through these sources, one by one, and then combine the information to him in on the answer we need. Read More

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. Read More

Removing Fear From the Path of Progress

At a technology seminar for architects in the early days of the World Wide Web, I heard a speaker excitedly proclaim, “Change is changing!” He advocated “throwing out the rulebook” and embracing what was still very much The Wild Wild West online. For every architect in the room busily poking his Blackberry to send approving comments to the speaker in real time, there was another one who shuddered in dread and didn’t really get what was happening.

The speaker was describing change in terms of personal growth and embracing new values. But many in the room thought he was proposing radical changes to business practice. Turns out it is common in times of great change to cause confusion about the difference between personal values and business practice. Confusing practice for values in an organization, notes business philosopher Greg Satell, “is why success so often breeds failure.” He cites Xerox, when its culture of pride in technical excellence and great service was blindsided by the rise of cheap, simple copiers from new competitors Canon and Ricoh. If Xerox had been more nimble, they could have maintained their values, but changed their practice to meet the competition. Read More

Need a Little Help Shopping for Engineering Document Management?

At the risk of offending people who despise putting people into two groups, I have observed that when faced with a large problem possessing many variables and no certain solution, people fall into one of two groups. People in the first group get excited by the thrill of the challenge; people in the second group get a knot in their stomach and wish someone would ask them a simple one-dimensional question instead.

Most engineers fall into the first group, but the gung ho attitude often comes unglued when the topic turns from “increase the battery life” to “automate our engineering document management.” Let’s face it: nobody went to engineering school to learn how to streamline data and document management, that’s what business schools are for. Read More

Global Design Teams Rewrite the Rules of Collaboration

Collaboration in the product design space has never been easy, but it’s a whole new ball game today. Gone are the days when the engineer or domain expert central to a design problem or project task was just a stone’s throw away or even right across town. Today’s product development teams operate as a global business, yet there is still a need to communicate and share critical documents and design files just as easily as if everyone was working from a central location.

Not only does product-related data need to be easily accessible by multiple design centers around the world, it should also be available day or night across different time zones, affording engineering teams the benefit of 24/7 or “follow the sun” development processes. The data and materials must be served up in the native languages of each country so engineers have ready access to what they need in a format they can easily understand. Collaboration on a global scale has to work similarly to collaboration with local peers so design decisions can be made quickly, without misinterpretation and without taking a toll on critical project deadlines. Read More

Seahorse Bioscience Reins in Unruly Engineering Documentation Practices

Seahorse Bioscience is an American company that manufactures complicated desktop instruments to measure cell metabolism. Their XF Analyzers generate data used to study, diagnose, and treat several diseases including diabetes and various forms of cancer. After years without a coordinated product data management system, Seahorse decided to modernize their engineering document management.

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Synergis Support Gets High Marks for Customer TLC

Technology is well established as the high-octane fuel driving companies to go the distance to improve worker productivity, achieve operational efficiencies and to stretch the limits of innovation. But even the most sophisticated software can’t help organizations meet these lofty goals on its own. It takes a lot of hands-on TLC to keep the software engines running smoothly. That’s why companies shouldn’t overlook the customer service piece when they’re evaluating enterprise software.

Think about the fact that in both consumer and enterprise circles, customer experience has become one of those “next big things.” Delivering a top-notch customer experience goes hand in hand with a dogged focus on customer service and support, yet many large enterprise software vendors seem to be missing that piece as part of their DNA. Read More

From Dirt to Data

There is economic value in connecting people to information; improve the connections and you increase the value of the information.

Consider the analogy in which your manufacturing or construction project is a ditch, and data inside your files is water that will flow through that ditch. What sort of tool are you using to move the dirt and prepare for the water, shovels or backhoes? I would submit that Windows Explorer is the equivalent of a shovel, and product data management (PDM) software is the backhoe. Product Data Management (PDM) moves a lot of data fast. And it does much more than that. PDM also improves access, reuse, sharing, record keeping, and security that affect data files.

After digging the ditch, you have a nice place to store data. But that place to store data is not a static repository. It is a moving river, where data flows freely. Data is created by CAD users, deposited into the river, and then flows downstream to manufacturing shop floors, documentation departments, and customers, and other consumers of the data.

When your data management metaphor is a river, you can gain valuable insights into managing the data in your organization. These four V’s demonstrate things about the rivers of data that can help you understand and solve some of the data problems in your organization.

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