Clear Thinking About Cloudy CAD

Sooner or later when talking about EDM or PDM software, the subject turns to return on investment (ROI). But before measuring the ROI of any particular software purchase, one must be clear about what exactly is being measured. Recent trends in the engineering software industry are muddying the waters instead of making things more clear about the purpose of PDM. So, (spoiler alert), this article is not about ROI of PDM specifically, but about the clear thinking required to measure it correctly.

There is a new set of CAD and PDM tools on the market using cloud technology. They all have one thing in common: they are geometry-centric. Like their desktop predecessors, they are very good at helping people turn ideas into drawings or models. The new cloud-based CAD systems offer a better way to streamline design collaboration. Distance is no longer an obstacle for those who must work together to create geometry. However, the work output has not changed; geometry is created, refined, and submitted to a larger product development process. Read More

From Silos to Reservoirs

The phrase “information silo” is often used to describe when departments can’t or won’t play nice with sharing needed data. But I’ve never read of a similar metaphor to describe the opposite, when companies root out all the inefficiencies and everyone has the direct access they need to do their jobs. So let’s call it “information reservoir.”

Silos and reservoirs are two very different types of infrastructure. If the existing infrastructure is Windows Explorer or a product data management (PDM) program that only works on CAD drawings, then not only are you definitely stuck in silo mode, you have much to gain by investing in an engineering document management system (EDMS) that works equally well with geometry, words, and numbers. Read More

Do Engineers Fear Innovation?

If the question in the headline seems odd or even stupid to you, please let me explain. I know engineers embrace innovation; it is part of their very nature to get ahold of something and improve it or to build something new and different, something innovative. What I refer to is a fear of innovation when it comes to the tools and procedures they use.

Many engineers want to be inventive and clever but do it with tools and processes that remain familiar and comfortable. It is why after more than 20 years of 3D MCAD and BIM there are still millions of engineers and designers using 2D CAD to create three-dimensional objects and design buildings. It gets the job done and they can focus on the task instead of learning new tools and procedures. Never mind that study after study shows using 3D CAD technology leads to fewer errors and reduces time to market. The ones who stay with 2D CAD don’t want the cognitive and emotional load of learning a new way to do their job. The companies and supply chains involved collectively don’t want to make the effort either. Read More

Who holds the keys to your project data?

Ready to upgrade your engineering data management from Windows Explorer? There are plenty of choices available. Your CAD vendor probably has a PDM system, and there are CAD-neutral options including Synergis Adept. Each vendor has plenty of information available to share about their PDM product, in spec sheets, white papers, case studies, videos, webinars, and direct sales calls. The marketing teams at each company have worked hard to be ready with answers to questions customers might ask. But there is one question most of them don’t consider: Who holds the keys to your engineering data?

By “holds the keys” I am referring to what happens when your valuable data and documents get sucked into the PDM. Databases are complicated systems, and there are engineering trade-offs involved in how these programs operate. Read More

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