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. 

The Synergis Adept User’s 10 Points of Thankfulness

In the United States this is the week of Thanksgiving Day, an annual holiday for pausing from the routines of life and reflecting on what inspires a sense of gratitude and thankfulness. I’ve been posting occasionally here for just over a year now, and I think I know some of the things Adept users will be thankful for this week. In no particular order:

Your unstructured data no longer hides like mice in the walls

Before Adept, if you didn’t know who created it, where they put it, and what they named the document, then finding any kind of information hidden in CAD files or text-based documents was more a game of hide-and-seek than a business task. And good luck if there are several people who need that same information.

Transmittals don’t bring your department to its knees

Before Adept, you had to gather up all the documents. You had to make sure each document was the current version. You had to check xrefs, assemblies, and part files. You had to create a cover sheet. And you had to hope the whole package stayed current long enough to reach the client. Now with Adept, it’s pretty much push-button. Read More

Transmittals are a Pain in the Ask

Does anybody actually enjoy creating and sending engineering transmittals? Possibly. But in most companies, for most people, transmittals are a tedious pain.

It starts with gathering up all the documents, making sure every document is the correct version, and making sure all the XREF images and part files are included. Even when assembled with painstaking care (a time-consuming task) there is still high risk for overlooking key components. Once the transmittal is sent, there are still the issues of tracking, managing content, and controlling access. And then, what if there is an audit?

If the most automated aspect of creating and sending transmittals in your company is dragging files around on the screen, it is time to take a look at exactly how much of a drag on productivity transmittals can be. Synergis Adept user Stan Jancovic of Taggart Global figured out once just how painful transmittals can be to the bottom line. “When we added up the cost for our engineers’ time and labor, we were spending $400,000 a year just to send transmittals.” Read More

Global Design Teams Rewrite the Rules of Collaboration

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. Read More