Getting Everyone and Everything on the Same Page at Gloucester EngineeringCase Study
With over 50 years of documentation, customers in diverse and varied industries, and customized equipment that demands pinpoint accuracy, how does one keep everyone and everything on the same page and still manage to pull off a “great year” in the process?
Here’s how: Adept engineering document management. Adept helps companies find, manage, share and control engineering, CAD and business forms from start to finish. In essence, Adept is an organizer that has the unique ability to sync with popular programs such as SolidWorks and Microsoft Office. It was this program that played a strategic role in keeping Gloucester Engineering competitive and at the forefront even in a down economy.
Gloucester Engineering Co. (GEC) produces capital equipment for blown, cast, foam and sheet products for the plastics industry, covering a variety of applications such as food processing, medical, agricultural, construction, packaging, and automotive. The company takes pride in offering the ideal production line, people and processes to produce equipment with the precision and accuracy its customers demand.
Gloucester Engineering (www.gloucesterengineering.com) was a pioneer in developing the technology to expand polystyrene for food packaging applications. Today, Gloucester engineers continue to lead the way with advances that increase the quality, volume and profitability of their customers’ products.
The Problem: Mistakes Happen without Checks and Balances
Before Adept, GEC’s document control system handled the SolidWorks files and the AutoCAD files but there was no revision history.
As Mechanical Engineering Manager Dustin Weir explains, “If there was a mistake in modifying a print, the mistakes would stay there. There were no checks and balances for those raw CAD files. Getting updated drawings out to the company was difficult. If there was an update that an engineer was doing, the machinist might not know about it and there would be old documents out on the floor. And that’s never good.”
And the situation became critical when GEC made the switch to 3D CAD. The inter-relationships of drawings to parts and assemblies were just too difficult to manage and maintain without a document management solution.
“We definitely needed document management software to manage those relationships and to track those revisions,” says Weir. “Keeping those files separate and distinct and tracking them in SolidWorks is too difficult. We needed a robust system built to do that job.”
In addition to these concerns, GEC needed a solution to:
- Streamline its ECO process
- Enhance project management
- Stay compliant with internal best practices
- Digitize paper documentation for equipment built in the 1970s
- Protect its intellectual property
A tall order, to say the least.
The Solution: Adept has proven up to the challenge by meeting these six criteria and more:
1. Managing Configurations with Adept is “No Sweat”
In GEC’s capital equipment niche, the ability to customize for client requirements is a competitive necessity.
“You have to be able to meet what the customer is looking for — and that may not always be what’s readily available or pre-designed and ready to go,” explains Weir. “So, changing widths is the most common example. Somebody’s got a Nip, for example, that is 86-inches wide and another customer says, ‘I need a 92-inch version of that because I’m making a bigger and better machine.’”
Using Adept with SolidWorks has made managing these changing requirements fast and easy. GEC’s engineers simply edit one dimension, check out all the documents, run a print command to generate a PDF, check everything back into Adept and they’re done.
2. Streamlining the ECO Process: All Discrepancies Eliminated
GEC uses an “order verification” that lists everything the customer has purchased, including all the specs they’ve ever required. A copy of that order verification gets stored in Adept and any time it changes, the revisions are registered for all to see. A complete history of every file and document is always maintained. GEC always knows the most up-to-date specifications they are working on for every project.
“The entire department gets updated any time anything changes,” states Weir. “Any discrepancies between what we’re working on and what the customer actually ordered are eliminated because we’re able to work off the same documents that the customer is seeing.”
3. Enhancing Project Management with “Magic Links”
When working on revisions and customizations to equipment that may have been built 30 to 40 years ago, managing all the files from previous versions can be a nightmare. Adept’s .ALS links give engineers the ability to quickly and easily reference files outside the project file, without the hassle of copying and moving files back and forth.
“One of the really cool things Adept gives us is the ability to spin off .ALS files,” notes Weir. “Instead of sending the actual file back and forth between engineers, we send an .ALS file link. For example, we have a central server that safely keeps all of the revision-controlled documentation. We store our project files in a different location. If we want to reference a particular print or particular design from the central server, Adept lets us create an .ALS file link and place that link in the project file. When we put the link in the project file, we have direct access back to the latest revision of that particular print (along with the mechanical design notes and other supporting documentation) in the central server.”
Sharing file links instead of the actual document allows GEC engineers to simply click on the link and open up all the prints for the entire project with the confidence that they’re always going to be working from the latest revision back at the central server.
4. Adept as PLM: Keeping GEC Compliant with Internal Best Practices
Whether it’s for ISO certification or just staying compliant with internal standards, every company has rules for revision control, publication and documentation. Using Adept’s audit trail helps GEC stay compliant.
“It’s about making sure we’re always using the latest designs and the latest pieces of information — about how we build a product, how we manufacture,” states Weir. “We’re a manufacturing company. We make big machines out of steel. And when things change it’s absolutely critical that we’re accessing the latest and greatest revisions. As a system grows and matures, the specifications evolve over time for how the system performs. And Adept does a great job of making sure when we go to look for ‘the extruder today’ that it finds the most recent one in the system.”
“And when you’re required to service (and do design analysis) on equipment that goes back 50 years, having access to the specifications for every piece ever built right at your fingertips is a huge customer service advantage.”
5. The Next Step: Eliminating 50 Years of Paper
GEC has been around since before the days of CAD. The company’s print rooms still contain E-sized sheets of pencil drawings and GEC still services all that equipment. But paper is space-intensive and difficult to access quickly so GEC has embarked on a major digitization effort. Old work orders and specifications, old release sheets, and list of materials for particular serial numbers are all being scanned and put into Adept.
“We’re almost up to a terabyte of data handled by Adept,” notes Weir. “I have plans to archive all that old paper documentation, store it in a cage in the back of the warehouse, and basically eliminate it from any practical, day-to-day use. All of that is going to be managed and tracked by Adept.”
6. Securing the Company’s Intellectual Property
GEC’s executive team appreciates how Adept is helping to drive their initiatives. Securing intellectual property is important for any company. However, when in existence for over 50 years, and have gone through mergers, acquisitions and the selling of the company, information can get scattered. Thus, having a central location that is the “boss” of all of IP is visible, important, and appreciated by upper management.
“Intellectual property security is absolutely critical,” states Weir. “Adept allows us—especially through this digitization effort—to go to all these different places and collect all of the intellectual property and store it, organize it, and actually find that information when you need it.”
Everywhere You Look, Adept is Making Work at GEC Easier
Almost every department is benefiting from Adept. . .
“All of engineering (mechanical, electrical, the shop floor, machinist and assembly) guys — we communicate prints to one another through Adept,” says Weir. “We also communicate specifications for purchase components so purchasing is involved. Any time the sales department changes something engineering gets notified and vice versa. At this point, there are only two departments that aren’t using Adept—IT and Finance.”
And Adept is “hands off for IT. . .
The way Adept libraries and features are administered allows GEC to take the administration of the libraries and the administration of Adept off the shoulders of IT personnel. “Once the server is set up and your locations and your ports are set up, you don’t need somebody from IT to do it,” explains Weir. “It’s really a hands-off system for them.”
Looking Ahead: ERP Integration and a Banner Year of Business
GEC plans to integrate Adept with Infor SyteLine, its cloud-based ERP system. This will integrate Adept’s capabilities with bill of materials, inventory control routings, warehouse, purchasing, and finance — the whole company.
“Really, the goal with this integration project is to streamline the work process,” says Weir. “For example, right now, engineers have access to the SolidWorks files but purchasing doesn’t. This means that until engineering generates a PDF for purchasing’s use they are forced to rely on the old documentation. After we integrate SyteLine with Adept, the process will be streamlined so that anything purchasing accesses is the latest and greatest revision with one or two clicks. It syncs everything up and makes it less likely for data to get lost or skewed.”
With Adept’s help, GEC is looking forward to a banner year. “I think this year is going to be a really great year for GEC,” declares Weir. “We’ve sold a lot of blown foam business this year and we’ve definitely carried through most of the year with the amount of backlog that we got. We’re actually stacked up with a lot of business; it’s really good.”