Gillig Bus Manufacturer Accelerates Time to Market with Adept Document Management & WorkflowCase Study
Adept Replaces WorkCenter and Empowers Gillig Engineers
Gillig Corporation (www.gillig.com) began building buggies and carriages in 1890, in San Francisco. Today, the company continues its heritage of innovative design as the second largest producer of heavy duty transit buses in North America. You probably have recognized its regional transit buses across the United States or perhaps you’ve ridden in the Disneyworld, Hertz, Avis or Budget rental car buses at the airport.
Most of the buses Gillig builds today are powered by fuel-efficient diesel engines. Gillig knows technology does not stand still, so it is continuing to invest in new technology, looking for the next generation of Clean Diesel Technology engines to power buses. It recently built the country’s first production hybrid electric drive transit buses and has also provided coaches powered by CNG, LNG and Methanol fuels. Managing the designs for such complex projects is critical to the success of Gillig’s Engineering Department and the company as a whole.
Increasing business efficiency is always a goal. The company builds 25 buses a week. One key business objective this year is to increase production in the improving economic climate, while living up to its charter to be the most cost effective transit bus manufacturer in the nation. To achieve this goal requires improvements across the board, including building improved workflow to its newly acquired engineering document management (EDM) system, moving to 3D modeling, and streamlining the shop floor interface.
Finding a Stable and Scalable EDM Replacement
Gillig began using Autodesk WorkCenter software for document management in 1996, because its CAD design software was Autodesk-based. As Jim McKittrick, CAD manager and Adept systems administrator at Gillig puts it, “When Autodesk discontinued WorkCenter, Gillig needed to look for new solutions. Gillig decided to replace WorkCenter with a stable solution, designed for an engineering department that needed to track and store drawings across multiple design disciplines. Gillig evaluated many options before choosing Adept document management & workflow software.”.
“The Adept product was a better fit for our business processes. It gave us all the things we needed, including the scalability to grow with our business’ expanding needs and the workflow to develop streamlined engineering. The other solutions were too complex or offered functionally that we didn’t require,” said McKittrick.
“The encryption of file names was also a problem in the old system,” McKittrick explains. “There was always a sense of concern that if WorkCenter failed, we would be in trouble. With Adept, we don’t have the problem of scrambled file names. The Adept way of doing things is more attractive, as users can create Work Area folders for different projects and catalog their files.”
“We conducted an in-depth analysis of our business process and determined that Engineering, Accounting, Sales and Publications could all benefit from Adept,” added McKittrick. “We currently have 60 licenses of Adept in use across the company. Overall it is a very price competitive solution for us.”
Transitioning to Adept is Fast
Gillig’s Engineering Department uses a variety of CAD software solutions, including Autodesk’s AutoCAD, AutoCAD Mechanical, AutoCAD Electrical, Autodesk Inventor, Inventor Professional and SolidWorks. Adept’s tight “in the window” integration with these solutions makes it easy for Gillig to track and manage drawing revisions. The Adept database structure allowed Gillig to create Data Cards with multiple fields to use as search criteria, making it easy to find files by part number, designer, project name, and more. This Data Card structure was a direct mirror of what the engineers were familiar with in WorkCenter, making the transition to Adept smooth and pain free. Gillig, with help from Synergis Software, also developed a Data Card that shows all database fields from both the previous WorkCenter and the current Adept applications.
The design review process has become formalized to ensure accuracy and increase productivity. Says McKittrick, “As a Workflow Manager in Adept, I’ve saved time with the Inbox feature and have been able to keep everyone accountable for their work. It’s easy to go into my Adept Inbox and see everything that needs to be reviewed and released. I now have the flexibility and control to simply approve drawings or not. With Adept’s simple workflow, we eliminate the chance that designers might forget to sign in a document for approval and we carefully track document revisions and history,” said McKittrick. “Engineering can also review the Request for Engineering Information for each revision right on the Data Card tab.”
“The Synergis Software Services Team helped us identify exactly what we needed to do,” added McKittrick. “We leveraged Synergis Software’s in-house Application Development Team to create a one time customization of Adept, which included some of Synergis Software’s existing off-the shelf extensions, an automated part numbering extension designed for the company’s exacting specifications, and a ‘Check In Recorder’ extension that easily imports data from Adept into other business systems such as ERP/MRP. After training our WorkCenter users with a test Adept database, we migrated our WorkCenter data, set up Adept, and got all the custom extensions running in one weekend in April 2004. It has been live ever since. The product is very reliable and easy to administer. We plan to stay with Adept for years.”
Quite unique in the industry and not found among other software companies, McKittrick explains the relationship he has with Synergis Software. “Synergis Software treats its customers like family. It’s a company that is very responsive to its customers. Everyone at Synergis Software has been very helpful and supportive and, for me, having that relationship makes my job easier and worry free. I can contact any level of the organization and there hasn’t been a question yet that I haven’t had answered.”
Extending Document Management to Sales and the Shop Floor
Aftermarket and parts support is an important element in Gillig’s customer support. Gillig’s Parts Representatives submit parts for quotes to vendors. With Adept’s built-in visualization tool, non-technical staff, like Sales and Purchasing, can quickly and easily see, in real time while they are on a call with a customer, what part a customer has on a bus. Sales people can also use Adept’s redlining feature to place comments on a drawing before sending it back to Engineering. The Adept viewer is far superior, quicker, more stable and more friendly to what Gillig was using.
“Adept has virtually eliminated our print room as we have scanned most of our non-CAD drawings, eliminating the potential for lost files. The shop floor has gained instant access to the latest revision of files that are coming out of Engineering. It is saving the company enormous time and money in rework and scrap costs,” McKittrick admits.
“Time to market is faster both at the shop floor and during the design cycle. There can be concurrent work being done on projects and with Adept we can manage Inventor models much more efficiently. We can publish AutoCAD Mechanical and Electrical documents online and not have to make copies. We used to have a dedicated person to make and distribute copies. We are also eliminating Request for Engineering transmittal request sheets for tracking documents as we incorporate this information into Adept. Shop floor supervisors also use Adept instead of our ERP system to find and view parts.”
How Adept Will Contribute to Gillig’s Growth Plans
In the future, Gillig would like to expand the Adept solution to more people in other production and non-production departments, since as McKittrick puts it, “Everyone’s working to get the bus out the gate with the highest degree of quality and customer satisfaction.” First, he would like to involve other departments, such as Publications, Accounting, and Sales, that have vendor information. Each department aside from Engineering has the need to generate and track their own proprietary documents. Adept’s Library structure makes this possible. In addition, Gillig plans to use Adept’s Document Dashboard as a collection tool to catalog part kits for customer retrofits or installations.
“Knowing that we have a product like Adept and a partner like Synergis Software that can grow with us, will ensure we can continue to leverage technology to stay competitive,” concluded McKittrick.