Tips for Evaluating Effective Engineering Document Management

Every so often I like to take a look at research coming out of universities regarding the engineering issues and technologies I write about. It is good to step back, so to speak, and take a fresh look from a different perspective. A recent journal article summarizes the pitfalls and potentials associated with the use of a good engineering document management system (EDMS). The study by Prof. C.S. Devanand is specific to construction projects, but the results have wider relevance.

In the absence of a comprehensive engineering document management system, Devanand says there are specific and consistent negative impacts on cost, time and quality. He organizes them by action, then notes the result and the impact. Read More

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

How Joy Global Tamed their Global PDM Monsters

Joy Global is a world-class manufacturer and services provider for high-productivity mining equipment. Customers around the globe use are using Joy Global products and services on the very largest mining projects in energy, industrial, and hard rock minerals. Over the years it has grown both organically and by acquisition, to the point where it how has eight major brands, 12,000 employees, and offices in 20 countries. With each acquisition came new data, new data management systems, and new challenges for creating, storing, using, and sharing engineering data.

In 2009 the company decided it must standardize on a single product data management system (PDM). “Our access and files were out of control,” says Joy Global’s Norm Kopp. Research on how to proceed started with a simple step. The small team assigned to the job looked at only 10 shared directory folders on the corporate network. More than 675 users had access across the 10 folders, with no tighter level of access control. In one directory alone, there were more than 1 million documents, taking up more than 2 terabytes. “We knew there just had to be a better way,” recalls Kopp. Their engineering data had become an uncontrolled monster hiding inside the organization. Read More

Dow Chemical Deploys Synergis Software’s Adept Engineering Information Management to Support Global Operational Excellence

Synergis Adept provides a single, global portal to quickly access as-built and capital project engineering documents via high quality, searchable metadata

Synergis Software, developers of the Synergis Adept Engineering Information Management (EIM) solution announced today that The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) has selected and deployed the Adept EIM solution to over 4,000 users across the global enterprise. Dow’s five key objectives for Adept EIM include: Quick access to as-built and capital project engineering documents; improved global collaboration; greater protection for intellectual property; robust auditing and compliance; and accelerated post-project data handover.

“Dow Chemical has in excess of three million engineering documents around the world that were in at least 20 different information management systems,” states Gregg Schuler, global manager of collaboration for Dow Engineering Solutions. “Many of these systems were either unsupported, homegrown, outdated, or had poor usability, which could have resulted in documents being misplaced, incorrect documents being used, and projects being delayed. It was Dow’s Six Sigma process that recognized this issue and set us down a path to select a commercial document and information management system.” Read More

Don’t Forget the Big Picture

Engineers are detail-oriented; it’s the nature of the job. But there are times when it is good to think about the bigger picture. Whether the “big picture” is establishing best practices, launching a Six Sigma review of engineering or business processes, or calculating return on investment (ROI) for new products or services, establishing the big picture first is a very good way to make sure the right details are being accomplished.

Despite having computers in the workplace for more than a generation, there are still many aspects of business where the full utilization of digital technology is not happening. Many businesses, not just engineering businesses, are discovering new ways to fully realize digitalization in their businesses.

Google Chief Economist Hal Varian recently wrote an article for the International Monetary Fund on the importance of continually looking for “big picture” ways to increase and improve the use of computer technology in business. His audience was economists and politicians — definitely a “big picture” audience — but there are good lessons in his ideas for all of us.

Varian focused on five themes. Let’s take a look at his themes from the viewpoint of engineering data management.  Read More