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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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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The KISS Guide to PDM Implementation

Sooner or later, engineering and design companies realize they need to take control of their rapidly growing collection of data files. There are many solutions on the market, with varying approaches to product data management. With more than 20 years of experience, Synergis has settled on a KISS approach. Not KISS as in “keep it simple, stupid!” but as in “keep it simple for success.” Instead of creating a large proprietary database management system just for engineering, Synergis Adept offers a file-based approach that makes sense to users and administrators alike.

Once a company has decided to go with Synergis Adept, it is time to plan the implementation. Again, the motto “keep it simple for success” is the best approach. From start to finish there are straightforward ways to keep everyone affected by adoption involved, motivated, and informed. Read More

Practical PDM Destroys Hidden Monsters

Every night as a small child I made the long trek down stairs and through a section of unfinished basement to my bedroom. I never saw monsters lurking in the dark corners behind the furnace or in the storage room, but I knew they were there. Were they vampires or werewolves? Giant space aliens? The Blob? I didn’t know but I was convinced my life was in danger every night. (For some reason the morning walk upstairs was calm; I guess I believed monsters slept in the daytime.) I never told anyone I was afraid of monsters in the basement; the fear-filled tip-toe run to my room was a private matter. If only I had thought of carrying a flashlight, I could have avoided years of self-inflicted anxiety. Read More