The Top 11 Mistakes to Avoid During Engineering Document Management Implementations and Upgrades, Part 1

Rolling out an enterprise-level document management solution across your organization can be a daunting task. While there’s no be-all, end-all method to implementation, setting up enterprise software does require several layers of planning and cross-communication. In fact, the success of the solution often relies as much on the implementation process as it does on the technology itself.

To better understand the do’s and don’ts of implementing your engineering document management system, we asked our Applications Consultants to compile a list of the top 11 mistakes they see companies make during Adept implementations—as well as suggestions on how to prevent these errors.

This installment covers the first 5 of the eleven mistakes to avoid. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll cover the final 6 tips for a successful implementation.

1. Assigning too many administrators

One way that organizations stumble early out of the gate is in determining user rights. All too often, our Applications Consultants see companies grant all users Administrator-level access, or give individuals or departments admin rights when they really need low level access.

Limiting the number of Administrators helps to establish a clear line of control and eliminates conflicting approvals. After all, the last thing you need is for someone’s work to be undone by another user. We recommend that you start small and only elevate rights on an as-needed basis.

It’s best to assign one primary administrator and to assign lower level permissions, such as Library Administrator or Workflow Administrator, to designated users.

3. Cutting back on implementation onsite training days to “save money”

It’s not enough to roll out software and expect all the end-users to automatically adapt to new software. One of the recurring problems our Applications Consultants see onsite are customers not taking full advantage of their implementation training days.

The Synergis Technical Applications Consultants have over 40 years of experience installing and implementing Adept across the globe. The training and implementation time spent with them is of extremely high value and will ensure that your system is setup successfully to your specific needs and requirements. Often, companies who cut back on training need more assistance earlier in the adoption process. For example, being overly reliant on resources such as Helpdesk causes them to be less efficient than if they were well trained from the beginning. We recommend prioritizing training—either on-site or at our offices—to get the most out of Adept from the start.

4. Opting for manual file migration vs. custom file migration

Now for the nitty-gritty part of implementing engineering document management—migrating your data into Adept. While both manual and custom file migration can get the job done, consider the pros and cons of each before you make a decision.

Manual file migration provides an opportunity to clean files during the migration process; however, it requires users to be locked out of files for manual cleanup. Programmatic custom migration occurs off-site and therefore, doesn’t cause as much downtime. Make sure you carefully review your data with our data migration experts before you make a decision.

5. Becoming stuck in the “old perceptions”

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of implementing new software is letting go of “perceived requirements” and embracing the new challenge to think outside-the-box. For example, one perceived requirement can be an out-of-date workflow process that you’ve been using forever, but you know isn’t really efficient. It’s not always easy to change or tweak “the old ways of doing things” when adopting a new system.

In order to become the productivity powerhouse you’ve always hoped for, you’ll need to be flexible and open to new, innovative automation methods. We strongly recommend leveraging Adept to find better workflows and ways of working—even if this path can initially be uncomfortable or different. Ultimately, your team will work more efficiently.

 

Having a thorough implementation strategy in mind is crucial to making Adept a success. Avoid these common mistakes, and you’ll be golden. Subscribe to our blog and check back next week for Part 2 of our series.

The Dirty Little Secrets of Engineering Document Management

Do you always turn slightly to the left when someone takes your picture, because you think you are showing your “good side”? (I don’t turn my head, but I do lift my chin just a little.) It is human nature to try to put ourselves in the best possible light. Software vendors also do that, so to speak. Every product on the market has strengths and weaknesses. It requires careful study to select the right product when there are competing solutions.

For managing engineering information, three types of programs are competing for market share: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), Product Data Management (PDM), and Engineering Document Management (EDM). PLM companies love to talk about how they integrate all product information into one database to deliver “one version of the truth.” PDM companies extol the virtues of managing access and use of all CAD data. EDM companies talk about streamlining enterprise business processes and making all engineering documentation secure, shared, and accessible. There is considerable overlap between the functions of the three, as well as distinctive elements in how each type of program operates.

I have seen companies come and go during my 30 years in the engineering software industry. Some of them disappeared because they were terrible at marketing. Some died because technology changed and they didn’t. And some died because too many users found out the hard way there are flaws and limitations that the product vendors don’t reveal. Like the right pose for a photo, companies do their best to avoid revealing those dirty little secrets.

What exactly do I mean by dirty little secrets? They are embarrassing facts, troublesome bits of information someone — or in this case, some software company — would rather keep hidden. In the world of engineering, I see three dirty little secrets haunting the industry. Read More

What’s Next in Engineering Technology?

For nearly four years, I have been a guest writer here on the Synergis blog, commenting on the state of engineering document management and highlighting innovative uses of Adept. While I will still be doing that until I wear out my welcome, over the next few months I will also occasionally comment on engineering technology trends. Not just EDMS/PDM issues, but all the digital tools engineers need, and the products they will make with new technologies.

In this column and the next, I will touch on several trends. In future columns, I will explore these ideas in more detail. This article will start with trends more familiar to Adept users; the next one will gaze further ahead.

2D CAD remains essential

3D CAD is a powerful technology, but just as television did not kill radio, 3D CAD did not and will not kill 2D CAD. Rich, descriptive visual languages have evolved over the years, all based in 2D drafting. No less a 3D proponent than Dassault Systemès (Catia, SolidWorks) estimates that for every seat of 3D CAD software in use, there are between four to ten seats of 2D CAD software supporting the same mission. The differences are by industry: Construction uses more 2D seats than automotive, which uses more 2D seats than aerospace and defense. This ratio of 3D to 2D won’t be changing anytime in the near future. Read More

Guiding the PDM Conversation Requires a Steely-Eyed Gaze

get-chekclistThe decision to invest in a modern engineering document management system is a big deal. A variety of questions arise, from the financial (What’s the budget?) to the logistical (How do we deploy and not fall behind in our work?) and the practical (Who is in charge of random issues?). Sometimes the answer comes from within the organization, and sometimes the answer is more like, “We’ll solve that with the software vendor.”

When the answers require a joint venture, it is important to enter into the conversation with the software vendor as an equal partner. Every vendor of product data management (PDM) and/or engineering document management (EDM) software wants a happy customer—but they prefer happy and compliant. If you let the vendor drive the conversation, you may not get what you really need from your new software. Read More

The Three Rules of Better Engineering Data Security

Occasionally cyber-security incidents make the news, but most go unreported. The numbers are staggering. The US Department of Homeland Security says US critical infrastructure experienced a 20% increase in cyber incidents in 2015 from the year before. Manufacturing was the most commonly attacked sector, representing 33% of all critical infrastructure cyber-security incidents. Manufacturing sites were attacked twice as often as the second-most attacked industry, energy.

Security experts says the most common approach to security—the IT equivalent of a single door with a strong lock—is a terrible idea. As cyber-security expert Kevin Mahaffey explained at the 2016 CeBIT Security conference in Hannover, the fortress of protection approach is not secure. “Big walls on the outside and nothing on the inside” is how he described it. Unfortunately, this is how many companies approach data security. But once that initial password screen is breached, the whole of manufacturing IT is there for the snooping or taking. Read More

What is Your Company’s Risk in the New Data Management Age?

“No matter how smoothly your data management systems may work today, the savvy CAD manager should keep in mind that things change constantly, and a new set of data management challenges are always on the horizon. The question is, how can you proactively plan for them?”

That’s Robert Green’s advice in his latest article on Data Management.

  • Data is exploding at an alarming rate…especially in the CAD environment.
  • IT is not always fully-attuned to the data management needs of CAD professionals…and that’s getting more and more dangerous every day.
  • Cloud storage is raising a whole new list of questions…many of which are going unasked and unanswered.
  • New standards and security measures must be implemented…but are being ignored at most companies.

What is your company’s risk in the new data management age?

Robert Green provides you with all the questions you should be asking and 6 crucial action steps you must take to reduce your company’s exposure in his article, A Data Management Wake-Up Call for All CAD Managers. Check it out to get his key takeaways.

Goodbye Rogues and Stowaways

To say “engineering creates a lot of data” is to utter the understatement of the year. The complexity of information seems to rise exponentially when manual processes become digital. A problem occurs when a business automates different job functions and divisions independently. It is not uncommon for a business to automate business processes before engineering processes.

Business operations need engineering data, but without a plan in place to coordinate how the data moves, troublemakers can sneak in. Someone can print a file and send it to another department. Or a file can be attached to a CAD document without authorization. I call this kind of ad hoc data sharing as creating rogues and stowaways. These new files or metadata documents sneak around in the network, hiding their intentions and moving through the system without detection. You can’t audit rogues and stowaways, and others can’t use them if they aren’t registered as part of the data management system. Read More

An Adept Action Plan for Enterprise Integration

Integration is one of those hot topics that has everyone in IT buzzing. Even so, most companies don’t practice anywhere close to what they preach when it comes to syncing up enterprise systems.

The reason is that integration is hard. For most companies, it’s far easier to find manual workarounds to share data between siloed systems than to spend precious time and resources slogging through the technical details of integration. Professionals convince themselves that it’s no big deal to screen hop between an ERP system and a document management system like Adept to track down a maintenance record for a particular piece of machinery and then initiate a separate search to examine the corresponding 2D or 3D engineering drawings. They rationalize those extra few minutes of search time and believe it’s okay to task engineers with manually rekeying of data. No harm, no foul, right?

Wrong. The problem is that these common workarounds, done on any kind of routine basis, introduce unnecessary inefficiencies and human error into core business processes. Conversely, by integrating key systems like ERP and Adept, or Adept and Microsoft SharePoint, for example, organizations stand to gain a number of clear advantages. They can benefit from faster access to critical data. They can streamline product development cycles, even enjoy better overall productivity. It’s difficult to argue with such a potential upside, but it always circles back to the question of how to handle the hard work of integration. Most companies table the possibility, believing the scenario is out of reach, especially those smaller shops with little to no dedicated IT support.

The truth is integration is not out of reach and it doesn’t have to be hard. Not by a long shot. Adept supports a variety of options that allow companies of all sizes and technical skill levels to reap the benefits of connected systems without the heavy lifting typically associated with integration.

3 Key ways to integrate Adept with core systems:

  • The most basic level of integration is to keep Adept data synchronized with other core systems like ERP. Companies can set up key intervals for an XML or text output file to be automatically generated and sent to the Adept system for synchronization. This method is somewhat generic so it can be used to integrate Adept with any business system as long as it can provide or accept text or Excel files.
  • If the business requires a higher level of integration, perhaps to view a PDF of a particular product in the context of some other business information, the simplest approach is to use Adept’s PublishWave. This add-on generates a PDF of the 2D or 3D model and corresponding documentation and automatically pushes it to a folder where it can be accessed and viewed in other business systems like ERP.
  • Companies requiring more tightly-knit integration can consult with Synergis on a custom engagement. Working with Synergis experts, companies can build one-off integrations using Web services connections between Adept and ERP or another key business system. This approach eliminates the need to pass files back and forth making for a clean and higher performing connection. With one-button access, Adept is automatically launched within the context of another system, eliminating the need to screen hop or manually input data between systems.

Integrating enterprise systems is never a slam dunk. But Adept’s varied range of capabilities makes it easy for companies to reap the productivity gains without getting too bogged down in the weeds of integration. Interested in learning more about what Adept can offer? Schedule an one-on-one demo.

These Pain Points Seem Familiar? Integration Might Be The Rx

Bring up the subject of integration with most IT professionals and you’re likely to get an eye roll, maybe even a full-throated groan. Integration projects, according to conventional wisdom, are costly, overly complicated, and all-consuming from a resource standpoint. Trying to integrate two systems is frequently compared to falling into a black hole; say many who’ve tried, burdening IT with a lot of extra work and risk without delivering enough of an upside to the business.

While the knocks against enterprise integration projects may be true, the same can’t be said for attempts to establish smaller point connections between systems in the hopes of scoring targeted wins.  Connecting an Adept document management system with the email system of record, for example, can do wonders for establishing a centralized record of all interaction with a particular client. Similarly, syncing up Adept with a project management and scheduling tool or a contact management platform can streamline critical workflows and ensure everyone is working off the same information and meeting shared goals. Read More

Understanding the Business Value of Legacy Data, Part 2

In the first article in this series, I introduced the importance of clear thinking about legacy data when installing a product data management (PDM) system. I spent time recently talking to Todd Cummings, VP of Technology, about his nearly 20 years of experience helping companies of all sizes install and use Synergis Adept. One of the first things he told me was “If you haven’t worn that gift tie for several years, then it’s time to donate it to the Salvation Army.” Apply the idea to legacy data, Todd said, not as a hard-and-fast rule but “as more of a healthy challenge: don’t assume legacy data should automatically be put into the PDM/EDM system.”

It is all about the business value of the information. Todd advises clients to make business value the lens through which they review legacy data. If data created 10 years ago is still accessed by your field engineers and support team, it stays in.  When it comes to some projects—not all data is valuable. Every business is different. Read More