Engineers are tinkerers by nature. They love to tweak things to see if they can “fix them” in some way. Perhaps engineers have a “tweaking” gene others lack.
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.
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.
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.
Joy Global (now Komatsu Mining Corp.) 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.
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.”
The old adage “to fail to plan is to plan to fail” is certainly true when it comes to something as important as installing engineering document management (EDM) software. Research by Jim Brown of Tech-Clarity shows it is possible to achieve EDM implementation benefits rapidly by following a few key rules:
- Use preconfigured best practices for security, part numbering, and other common information standards;
- When possible, use standard workflows such as “release to manufacture” and “engineering change control;”
- Limit initial customization; evaluate customization needs after full initial implementation and training.
As important as it is to minimize initial customization, no EDM system out of the box will offer an exact fit for every company. Many companies have workflows which evolved over years or decades; these processes do not need to be eliminated just because of automation. Other companies need customization to help unify far-flung engineering offices and long supply chains.