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.
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.
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 “Many of these systems were either unsupported, homegrown, outdated, or had poor usability, which could have resulted in documents being misplaced, incorrect documents being used, and projects being delayed.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.”
Large-scale engineering organizations constantly search for ways to differentiate their products from the competition. Many engineering-centric companies are using acquisitions as a way to increase their product line and market reach. As product complexity and variety increases, the smooth flow of data in the organization increases in importance. The sheer volume of product data increases, requiring not just the organization but its supply chain to spend more resources defining, translating, and transferring product data and solving technical problems associated with data management.
Ruhrpumpen is a prime example of this set of challenges. It is a global centrifugal pump technology company with a wide variety of engineered-to-order products for Oil & Gas, Chemical, Power, Industrial Applications, and Water & Mining. They also manufacture a wide variety of off-the-shelf centrifugal pumps for these industries and more. From its home base in Germany, it has grown by acquisition; it now has manufacturing and sales offices in 11 countries on five continents.
In most engineering organizations there is an uneasy truce between teamwork and solo endeavor. The contributions of many people are necessary and the interactive processes move ideas from concept to reality. But generally speaking, each team member works best not in a meeting but when he or she enters into their personal creative zone. Time seems to stand still; performance is at its peak. Alone with their ideas and their design tools, engineers and other team members create information that becomes products or assets.
And then the ethereal bubble gets popped by collaboration. Others need the engineering data, and they usually need it in bits and pieces that require searching, compiling, copying, and sending. The processes of sharing take precious time away from the creative. In this day and age of global connectivity the sharing happens not in one particular space but across ever-increasing distances. It can feel as if space and time are collaboration hobgoblins conspiring to steal the creative bliss of engineering.
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.