Justifying New EDM Software to the Stubborn

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.

Engineers are also devoted to method. They like to find a process that works and stick to it. That bit of stubbornness is great when it means products work right and adhere to established norms for safety and cost. But sometimes stubbornness rears its head when engineering companies take a look at improving their workflow with modern product data management (PDM) or engineering data management (EDM) software.

What should a company do when resistance to engineering process change comes not from above (top management) or beyond (accounting or operations), but from within? I suggest a focus on the practical benefits of installing modern engineering management software like Synergis Adept. Consider these aspects pulled from a variety of user experiences.

Change management

When change management moves from a paper trail process to a digital workflow, it becomes easier and faster to track, manage, and deliver more accurate information. Sounds nice, but how do you get buy-in from staff? Explain how the new process puts change management information “at your fingertips.” When Visa Lighting updated its engineering workflow with Adept, one of the big benefits was improved change management. “Now we have a streamlined change control process that is paperless and automatically routes files so we don’t have a huge paper trail traveling around the building. We can find the change document and pull up all related drawings, images, and everything else we need in a couple of clicks. All the information is at our fingertips,” says Visa Lighting’s Scott Hastings.

Audits

Want to instantly fill a room full of engineers with a sense of dread? Just say the word “audit” out loud. Whether the purpose is regulatory approval, defending against a potential lawsuit, or due diligence for an acquisition, engineering process audits are a necessary evil. If all the documentation is already cataloged and searchable inside your PDM system, gathering information for an audit becomes a simple task. The time you save and the quality of the information you can provide is a sure step in reducing exposure to expensive risk. And you can chase the auditors out sooner.

Transmittals

This is a process specific to construction-related industries. Every project has stages where all the data must be gathered and sent to the client as one neat package, the transmittal. In organizations without automated data management, this can take days. And nobody wants to be the person put in charge of preparing the transmittal. With Adept, the process is as close to “push a button” as it can get. The chance of errors is greatly reduced; any search for documents is an automated process; and there is a relationship established between the transmittal cover sheet and the documents being sent. Best of all, the whole process has an audit trail. If the client can take the transmittal as a set of PDFs, even more time and money are saved.

Playing nice with others (AKA collaboration)

It is increasingly common for engineering departments to collaborate on projects. It might be with another engineering unit in the same company, or it might be as a subcontractor on a larger project. It is easier to collaborate when your internal information management is running at peak efficiency. If collaboration is a sore point in your organization, tell your team about Dow Chemical, a long-time Adept user.

Dow Chemical standardized when, after years of acquisitions, they realized engineering data management was being handled by no less than 25 different software platforms or ad-hoc workflows. The result was better than expected. Dow says the use of Adept increased the speed of projects, and it changed the way it does business because of increased flexibility in unusual document management situations. One of the unexpected benefits of standardizing on Adept was insight on creating new best practices for planning, deploying, and measuring effectiveness of their engineering management practices. Engineers might be stubborn, but most of them like the idea of creating and adopting new best practices — it goes back to that “tweaking” gene.

The ultimate tweak your engineers should appreciate is how Adept works with your existing system. Adept uses a unique “smart vaulting” approach to data management. It provides security and control without encrypting or scrambling the existing documents or file folder structure. And it does not move documents into a new database. The smart vaulting can be for one site, or across multiple locations. If something terrible happens and Adept is not available (as in a remote location losing its connection to the corporate network), the original documents are still where they were originally placed.

All in all, even the most stubborn engineers usually come on board with new EDM software when shown the practical, day-to-day benefits. Just give them a chance to scratch their tweaking itch.

If you’re considering how to better manage your product, facilities or plant data, contact us to learn more about how Adept can impact your organization.


Randall S. Newton is the principal analyst and managing director at Consilia Vektor, a consulting firm serving the engineering software industry. He has been directly involved in engineering software in a number of roles since 1985. 

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

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

How Joy Global Tamed their Global PDM Monsters

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. 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

Best Practices When Using EDM Vendor Services

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. Read More