ROI? Process Improvement? KISS!

When engineering companies start to talk about improving engineering processes, it isn’t very long before someone mentions ROI — Return On Investment. When this happens, it is important to understand the motivation. Is there truly a desire to make sure spending on process improvement is valuable? Or is it a way to delay inevitable changes? Some people are resistant to change; they find it easy to wave the “ROI” flag with a subconscious hope it means Run Off Immediately.

In the classic guide to software-based engineering improvement, ROI of Software Process Improvement, D.F. Rico works through the internal processes that always seem to take place when companies re-examine workflow. Rico wants the reader to realize the metrics of software-based process improvements don’t have to be complicated. In other words, if you are looking at ROI, be sure to KISS! (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

Rico says the initial assessment is the key, and if a company follows three simple rules the assessment will go smoothly and offer meaningful insights:

Step 1

Define goals before measuring. Too often, engineering departments struggle to establish well-defined goals that work for both senior management, and the technical managers and staff. Read More

A Culture of Flexibility Helps Space Age Electronics Transform Itself with Engineering Document Management

For more than 50 years, Space Age Electronics has built custom and short-run life safety and fire protection electronics products. Such a specialized, narrow focus has served it well. The company has developed a wide range of specific business processes that help it build quality components within specified budgets, taking advantage of its depth of experience and market knowledge.

Willingness to embrace change is a strong part of Space Age’s company culture. The company has a deep team of multi-discipline experts to move from customer support to design to manufacturing or even IT, as needed.

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A Disaster Recovery Plan Doesn’t Need to be Scary

Your company has insurance covering its buildings and equipment, because everyone knows the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If a natural disaster happens, your physical infrastructure can be repaired and replaced. But too often the same cannot be said for the information infrastructure; at some companies, another old adage is in play: “out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunately, some disasters that hit information infrastructures are hardly “natural” in nature, yet can be more devastating to a company than an earthquake or fire.

Engineering departments using Adept should have their own disaster recovery plan in place. In many organizations, the Adept installation flies under the IT radar, so to speak. Precautions and backup serving enterprise IT will not necessarily provide the safety net your engineering team requires. Read More

The New EDM Secret Sauc(e)

Here it is 2018, and there is still hang-wringing and skepticism about the value of cloud computing for many aspects of Engineering Document Management (EDM). Some of the complaints sound right out of the late 1980s when engineering companies started wiring together each engineer’s computer into a network. Loss of privacy, loss of security, slower access to data, and other canards were tossed about then, and they are tossed about today when the discussion turns to using cloud technology for EDM.

The hand-wringing continues because interest is rising regarding the potential value of EDM cloud computing. Adoption of cloud-based solutions is up, as awareness of the benefits and advantages of cloud computing become more widespread. As Synergis Software’s Todd Cummings told the audience at last year’s Adept User Conference, “The private cloud is the new WAN.” Read More

3 Steps to Understanding Workflow Process Improvement

Many Adept users acquire the software to improve document storage and retrieval processes. As we have reported here before, researchers have shown how up to 30% of an engineer’s time is spent looking for the right information. All too often, the right information is somewhere, on some server or colleague’s hard drive, but no one is quite sure where.

But there is more to Adept than automated document storage and retrieval — much more. Adept includes powerful tools for drawing- and document-based workflows. Organizations can use Adept to automate simple or complex engineering and business processes. Automating as many steps as possible in your existing processes helps you get products to market quicker, and get projects completed on time and under budget.

Workflow automation is all about increasing efficiency. Remove the barriers to more efficient practices in the organization, and you increase the organization’s ability to be more innovative and agile. You also lower costs by decreasing the time it takes to do important tasks. And, you set the organization up to be more receptive in the future to such “Industry 4.0” innovations as model-based engineering, digital thread, and digital twin. Read More

Solving User Push Back Issues When Implementing Engineering Document Management

Resistance to change is a near-constant theme in engineering software. From the first generation of computers in engineering to today, people become familiar with routines and processes, and are reluctant to change without either significant external motivation or proof the benefits clearly outweigh the effort to learn new skills and adopt new workflows.

The engineering team at Eastern Shipbuilding Group (ESG) is familiar with this theme of reluctance. They were the leading candidate to win a major contract from the United States Coast Guard (USCG), but winning the contract required a significant upgrade of their data automation processes. After a thorough search of alternatives, ESG decided to replace its existing document management system with Synergis Adept.

Before Adept, ESG was using Microsoft’s SharePoint technology to manage engineering documents and connect team members. SharePoint is a technology rooted in 1990’s file management practices, with file size limits that seem quaint by today’s standards, and rudimentary search technology unable to exploit metadata or take specific advantage of CAD and related data types. SharePoint for engineering is usually a requirement placed upon engineering by the IT department, and significant changes are required to make it functional in engineering. Read More

A New Generation of Decision-Makers for the New Year

In the past engineering groups made decisions about product improvement software internally. A CAD manager — often just another one of the engineers who got stuck with double duty — would read about a file manager or a CAD add-on that offered a bit of increased utility. The decision to purchase would be localized to the department, and the productivity gains were limited to which employees installed the new utility on their workstation.

For the most part, those days are gone. There is general consensus that software purchases are an organizational initiative. Productivity improvements are purchased to impact more than just one group or department. PDM (Product Data Management) software is now recognized as an enterprise automation solution, not a departmental file manager.

Product development leaders now hold their software to higher standards. There has been a change in thinking from individual achievement to a focus on enterprise business initiatives surrounding all of product development, not just engineering and design issues. To make the cut in this era, a PDM system must be able to:

  • Manage file relationships for parts, assemblies drawings, configurations;
  • Control access (check-in/check-out) of all design data, both in 2D and 3D;
  • Perform complex versioning and revisions;
  • Control access (check-in/check-out) of all design data, both in 2D and 3D;
  • Integrate with CAD tools and other technical and graphics-based software;
  • Unite the wider enterprise document management functions with engineering;
  • Provide an automated and robust audit trail.
  • Play nice with other enterprise systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and supply chain management (SCM);
  • Guide and protect key business processes including quality management, approvals, and regulatory compliance;

Today’s PDM decision-makers want software that creates a competitive edge. They want to streamline business processes and automate existing workflows. Eliminating wasted time searching for all kinds of product data is also essential. They want a high return of business value for their investment, and are willing to take enough time to find the right solution. Read More

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