Amplifying the Utility of Engineering Knowledge

Most of the articles I contribute to the Synergis blog tell how the use of Engineering Data Management (EDM) made a significant difference for a particular company. Or I write about a specific tool or procedure in Adept that can make improve an engineering group’s workflow. Today I want to step back and look at the basic ideas behind why EDM is so important.

Let’s start with an organizing idea: there are three kinds of knowledge in engineering:

  • Know-What (facts)
  • Know-How (processes)
  • Know-Why (explanations).

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Improving Oil and Gas Industry Safety With Better Data Management

After a series of high-profile accidents involving gas transmission pipelines, in 2014 the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) commissioned a study to see what could be done to lower the incidence rate. The report, “Integrity Management of Gas Transmission Pipelines in High Consequence Areas” included an analysis of how pipeline quality data was gathered, used, and shared. A close look at the report offers some interesting insight into engineering data management issues.

The NTSB report on Integrity Management (IM) published 33 findings; seven of the specifically mention data management issues. Following the findings, the report listed 22 recommendations to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, seven of which specifically mention data handling. Read More

Making a Positive Impact on Time to Knowledge

It is easy to get bogged down in details when discussing topics like engineering data management (AKA product data management or PDM). Sometimes it is good to step back and look at the big picture. For me, the details of PDM are the bricks in a building; the building is Time to Knowledge.

I define “Time to Knowledge” as the time it takes someone to get the specific accurate information needed to answer a question. The typical day in engineering has hundreds of moments which trigger a Time to Knowledge event. Such questions as “What is the status of yesterday’s engineering change request?” or “Which document is the right revision, and where is it?” are specific questions that require specific answers available in your existing engineering data. If the answer is quickly accessible, productivity is enhanced. If the answer is an uncertain quest away, the human tendency too often is to find an imprecise workaround or to avoid the subject completely. Read More

How Well Does Your Engineering-Driven Company Protect Intellectual Property?

There is a lot of talk these days about cybercrime. News of large-scale IT security breaches are not unusual. Blame is often assigned to the sinister motivations of rogue governments, terrorists, or anarchists. But those closest to the problem say the root cause behind most data breaches is lax internal security, not the skills of cunning hackers.

A recent survey by the Ponemon Institute claims 71% of employees have access to data they should not see, and more than half say this access is frequent or very frequent. Other findings from the survey point to lax internal security as a serious problem in organizations of all sizes:

  • 4 out of 5 IT practitioners (80%) say their organizations don’t enforce a strict least-privilege (or need-to-know) data model;
  • 73% of end users believe the growth of emails, presentations, multimedia files, and other types of company data has very significantly or significantly affected their ability to find and access data;
  • 76% of end users believe there are times when it is acceptable to transfer work documents to their personal devices, while only 13% of IT practitioners agree;
  • 67% of IT practitioners say their organization experienced the loss or theft of company data over the past two years, while only 44% of end users believe this has happened;
  • 43% of end users say it takes weeks, months or longer to be granted access to data they request access to in order to do their jobs, and only 22% report that access is typically granted within minutes or hours.

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Securing Engineering Documents in the Cybercrime Age

These days no company should consider itself immune to the possibility of cybercrime and data theft.  Engineering documents hold the company’s crown jewels; data must always be kept secure. With careful planning you can still take advantage of the latest cloud and mobile technology; security does not mean lack of accessibility.

Outdated approaches to data management are the most vulnerable systems. There is nothing that says “STEAL ME” more than important documents just sitting naked in a file folder on the network. Once the external firewall is breached, these files become easy pickings.  A comprehensive IT security solution for engineering/manufacturing data will include the user, the data management software, and the network, as well as application layer interfaces and interconnecting systems (such as PDM to SCM).

Older PDM/PLM systems were built with data, speed, and functionality in mind; security was a minor concern limited to user access rights. Today’s global networks, dispersed workforce, and cloud and/or mobile access to engineering data completely changes the security scene. Read More

Five Stars: Why You Need to Plan Ahead for Adept Experience 2017 Conference

In 1992 I went from being a full-time employee at a CAD software company to a self-employed consultant with my former employer as my first client. Several projects were on the list, but the one that I still recall with great fondness was organizing the company’s first user conference. This was before the Internet was a universal resource; less than half of the company’s customers had email addresses. So we reached out through a newsletter and with phone calls (a lot of our business was direct sales on the phone).

We expected 20-30 attendees, mostly regional. We were blown away when close to 100 people from all over the US and several foreign countries signed up. By the end of the first session, everybody in the room realized they were surrounded by friends. They all shared the same enthusiasm for the software and had the same questions about customization or the product roadmap. Over breaks and meals, they shared tips and swapped stories about how the software solved problems or created new opportunities. It was two days of high energy and excitement for everyone there. Read More

Greene, Tweed’s Winning Recipe for Synergis Adept/SAP Integration

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. Read More

Transmittals are a Pain in the Ask

Does anybody actually enjoy creating and sending engineering transmittals? Possibly. But in most companies, for most people, transmittals are a tedious pain.

It starts with gathering up all the documents, making sure every document is the correct version, and making sure all the XREF images and part files are included. Even when assembled with painstaking care (a time-consuming task) there is still high risk for overlooking key components. Once the transmittal is sent, there are still the issues of tracking, managing content, and controlling access. And then, what if there is an audit?

If the most automated aspect of creating and sending transmittals in your company is dragging files around on the screen, it is time to take a look at exactly how much of a drag on productivity transmittals can be. Synergis Adept user Stan Jancovic of Taggart Global figured out once just how painful transmittals can be to the bottom line. “When we added up the cost for our engineers’ time and labor, we were spending $400,000 a year just to send transmittals.” 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

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. Read More