Dow Chemical’s Best Practices to Plan, Deploy, and Measure a Global Document Management Solution

The Dow Chemical Company was an early leader in the use of Engineering Document Management (EDM) in the 1980s. But through the 1990s and 2000s it grew rapidly by acquisition. For data management, this meant the company acquired and continued to use more than 25 different homegrown and commercial EDM systems. An internal Six Sigma audit in 2011 revealed a variety of gaps and other inefficiencies in the use of engineering data; the wide variety of EDM systems in use was cited as a major factor. “All of them had some usability or supportability issues,” says Barbara Migl, CAE Technology Leader for Dow. “One system took 45 minutes to sign in a document.”

The problems found in the Six Sigma internal study are not that unusual, according to research by Dr. Mario Hirz, a leading research on engineering data and documentation management. Successful EDM is highly dependent on interdepartmental and interdisciplinary integrations of both data and workflow. His research notes key issues that large companies often struggle with when trying to gain efficiency through better EDM:

  • Insufficient transmission of knowledge;
  • The need for a systematic approach to the design and development of EDM processes and systems;
  • The complexity of implementation in large organizations;
  • Lack of unified processes.

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What Kept Document Management Pros Awake at Night in 2016?

As the semi-official guest blogger for Synergis Software, I was recently granted a sneak peek at the analytical data for this blog in 2016. What did I learn? I was a bit surprised to learn most regular readers of this blog read the entire article (measured by time on page). I get less time-on-page for my news articles elsewhere than for my commentary here. Such a stat tells me people who come here are passionate about engineering data and document management and are looking for useful information.

I also learned the most-read articles in 2016 can be organized into two broad themes:

How others use Synergis Adept

This could be characterized either as “best practices” or as “what the guy like me somewhere else is doing.”

Current risks and challenges

Engineering document management is not trivial, easy, or static; new challenges in the field are significant.

In tribute to the retired David Letterman and his nightly Top Ten lists (which we also paid homage to in 2016), here are the top ten Synergis Adept Blog articles for 2016. If you want to know what kept document management pros like you up late this year, here’s what they were thinking about:

Number 10: “Make sure you understand the risk of not having a solid data management plan” (What is your company’s risk in the new data management age?) Read More

Market Survey Says PDM Remains a High Priority

The 2016 edition of the Business Advantage Worldwide CAD Trends survey has been released, and product data management is forecast for strong growth in the next 12 months and remains a high priority technology among engineering-driven companies.

The annual survey gathers data from more than 600 managers and other leaders at engineering-driven companies, evenly split between the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa and Asia/Pacific. 78% of respondents are in small or medium sized businesses.

The survey says only 28% of engineering firms surveyed are now using PDM. But when asked about buying plans in the following months and years, PDM installations are projected to rise by 21% in 12 months and 39% within 3-5 years. (See chart below, republished courtesy of Business Advantage). Read More

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

Today’s Top Ten List: PDM Nightmares

In the US, late night talk show host David Letterman retired this May after 33 years. Famous for an eccentric approach to comedy, his lasting contribution to humor will likely be his nightly Top Ten lists. The subject matter was all over the map, from current events (“Top Ten Final Words of Osama Bin Laden), to family life (“Top Ten Signs Your Kid Had a Bad First Day at School”) or just straight up comedy (“Top Ten Rejected James Bond Gadgets”).

Despite hours of agonizing research, we are unable to confirm if David Letterman ever made a Top Ten list about engineering data management. This is obviously an oversight on the part of Letterman and his writing team, one which we are happy to rectify. So, here’s today’s Top Ten List, “You Might Be Having Product Data Management (PDM) Nightmares If…”  If you suffer from one or more of these nightmare scenarios, follow the associated link to the solution Synergis Adept provides.

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PDM and the Problem with Printing

One of the best reasons engineering companies invest in product data management (PDM) is process automation; you turn manual methods into a digital workflow. All your information has greater visibility and better, trackable management. But we all know that much of what is designed and approved in the digital world has to be printed sooner or later, or at least published to a PDF document. Once a document is printed/published, there is a break from the all the advantages inherent in using PDM. It is like taking an axe to a landline telephone cord (you still have one of those, don’t you?); The pieces are still there, but nothing’s happening.  Read More

The Goldilocks Approach to Data Management

The classic folk story (fairy tale) of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is often told as a morality tale about not being snoopy. After all, Goldilocks had no business making herself at home in the Bears residence, eating their porridge and breaking a chair. But I think there is another moral to learn from this story: Make sure you go with the correct fit.

In the wide world of data management software for engineering, there are Papa Bear, Momma Bear, and Baby Bear solutions. There are also companies that fit into the Papa, Momma, and Baby size patterns. When an engineering company realizes it is lost, wandering through a forest of data inefficiency, it becomes important to pick the right-sized solution to get its data management sorted out. In this age of fierce competition between technologies, it is important to sort through the issues carefully. Read More

Bending Space and Time: A New Way to Think about Collaboration

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. Read More

Greene, Tweed’s Winning Recipe for Synergis Adept/SAP Integration

Greene, Tweed & Co. may be a major player on the global stage, but for most of its history, its engineering data had a decidedly local footprint, tucked away in different file shares around the world and typically painstakingly difficult to find and share.

That is until the manufacturer of high-performance elastomeric and thermoplastic materials embarked on a journey to deploy Synergis’ Adept Product Data Management (PDM) system to centralize its critical engineering assets, including SOLIDWORKS CAD files, and to automate approval workflows on a global scale. But Greene, Tweed wasn’t content to stop there. Its vision was to integrate the Adept PDM platform with its core ERP system to make engineering data accessible to a much broader audience.

Greene, Tweed, like many companies, sees value in syncing its core enterprise systems rather than fostering silos that prevent groups like engineering and manufacturing from readily exchanging data and working off the same page. That’s according to Steven Danasko, SAP Solution Specialist in Greene, Tweed’s IT Center of Excellence, Product Lifecycle Management, who was the key orchestrator of the project. Danasko says that beyond a desire for more centralized data repositories and integrated workflows, the Adept/SAP integration made sense from a financial standpoint because it opened up access to critical engineering data to existing ERP users without requiring investment in additional software licenses. Read More