Three Small Companies, Three Success Stories with Adept

Big companies seem to have all the advantages—more resources, better name recognition, and often lower buying and manufacturing costs. The good news is that small companies can still compete. Here are three that are outsmarting the competition with better agility, efficiency, and data leverage.

Thru Tubing Systems, Inc. (TTS)

Thru Tubing Systems, Inc (TTS) began providing specialized downhole services and equipment to oil and gas customers in 1997. Success came quickly to the small Oklahoma City-based company, and by 2002, TTS began expanding into new locations—Texas, North Dakota. Today, you can even find TTS facilities in Argentina and China.

But with all these dispersed teams, the company soon realized that it needed a more professional approach to managing documents. “We had numerous problems with files being stored in the wrong folders, causing manufacturing to order parts from the wrong revision, which cost lots of money,” says Glenn Walls, TTS mechanical designer & manufacturing supervisor.

Mis-ordered parts weren’t the only difficulty. A growing company needs central archiving and standardization so that important data is easy to reach  and use—no matter where you work and reside. And most of all, documents have to be safe! Read More

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

Innovating the Small Stuff Yields Big Results

In these days of highly complex markets, global competition, and rising customer demands, companies are faced with an imperative for innovation. The marching orders are to break the mold with new business models and release never-before-seen products, all in an effort to create some form of differentiation that keeps the business relevant if not on the cutting edge.

Innovation is so top of mind that nearly three-quarters of U.S. private companies are making it a priority, according to a report by PwC, “Growing Your Business: Innovation Imperative.” Within that group, roughly half of respondents expect innovation to have a significant impact on the way they do business over the next few years.

 While innovation is most often equated with the next, bright shiny object or practice, not all innovation is disruptive or a novelty. In fact, innovation is more often evolutionary, tied to the introduction of new processes and toolsets that reduce waste or create operational efficiencies and thus, end up having a dramatic impact on how a company does business.

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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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