How Unifiller Systems Uses Adept Engineering Document Management to Streamline Workflow, Slash Delivery Times and Keep Everything in OrderCase Study
Unifiller Systems, Inc. (www.unifiller.com) designs and manufactures custom food portioning equipment, including cake decorating equipment, cookie machines, fill machines and transfer pumps for many of the largest companies in the food processing industry.
With hundreds of custom projects, from little machines up to $1.5 million production lines, the sheer number of files required is astronomical. Unifiller needed a system to organize, control and find files fast. In the “bad old days” of Windows file management, this was “a nightmare”.
Documentation manager, Ian Spencer explains, “Before we used SolidWorks we were using Inventor. We were very quickly getting into a file management mess. We would finish a project and it would be saved as a “Project record”. Later on we would try to open it and there would be a numerous parts files not found. Somebody had moved them or renamed them. We had a lot of projects where we built the machines, we had all the drawings and part files, but the assembly models for the project were basically useless.” Adds Spencer, “Then we moved onto SolidWorks and we could see the same thing was happening there. We just had no control over the amount of files that are created by using 3-D software, assembly files, parts files, drawings, etc. We just realized that it is not humanly possible to keep control of all of these thousands of files, and references that were being produced.”
“When we got Adept it kept everything in order.”
- When assemblies are signed in, they all have the correct relationships and there are no missing children from them With the naming conventions that we started using, we can now find anything we want.
- There is no more loss of files or production issuing the wrong files, to send out to vendors.
- With everything in Adept, we know that outside CNC machine shops and laser cutting shops always gets the latest signed off drawing file.
- With Adept’s workflow, drawings get signed in, rejected or approved and then put into the vault. Then purchasing selects the drawings they want from Adept and emails them to vendors.
- With the audit trail’s accountability we know who has done what with the file and how long they have had and who made what changes to it.
- Having all our documents (engineering, health and safety, business process, sales, operations and projects) in Adept. This file managment positions us well for when we apply for certification by the Safety Alliance of British Columbia.
Explains Spencer, “Being able to go back and get that information when the customer needs spare parts or troubleshooting and being able to find that information really quickly is really important. Otherwise, it’s a manual effort to try to find old drawings, schematics etc. The file naming convention we use on our projects now means everything has to have the sales order number in front of it. That is really enforced all the way through. Everything is unique. We know exactly where to find it and using the search functions of Adept we can find information really quickly. It was a nightmare beforehand, trying to find it.”
“We are able to go back versions when new designs have not worked for us. And we can use Adept to roll back the version all through Adept. With SolidWorks, that would have been a bit of a nightmare.”
“Freezing” the Process to Improve Customer Service
Often, after a machine has been delivered to a customer, Unifiller engineers will update the machine, making changes, or adding customizations for new customers. In the past, this posed quite a challenge for customer service because, when the original customer called back requesting a part, customer service had to sort through all the various versions and updates and modifications, sifting back through all the files to make sure they sent the correct part to the customer based on the original design the customer had received.
Ian Spencer explains how Unifiller solved this problem by “freezing” projects with Adept:
“What we like to do is keep an as-shipped assembly model of that project. By using Adept and using a procedure that Synergis Software came up with, we freeze that project, so that even though it is using standard parts that are currently in use on other machines and they will keep getting updated, we freeze that whole project so we know exactly what went out on that date that the machine was shipped. Nothing ever gets updated to the latest revision. It is all frozen.”
“For our customer service people, when the customer calls in with a question or they want a spare part, our customer service can go into our project folders that are now frozen and look at the machine. They can dig down through the assembly using the viewer, and find the part. They know exactly what the part should be at that particular time it shipped with that machine, and not send them the latest version of the part that may not be exactly correct for what they have.”
Why Adept? Flexible, Affordable…and The “Secret Weapon”
Flexible Because Unifiller has found Adept so easy to implement, they’ve rolled it out to more than just manufacturing.
Spencer: “It started with the engineering department. Then the purchasing and customer service were really quick behind them. That was one of the things for getting Adept, that purchasing would make sure they issued the correct drawings to vendors. It did not take very long to train people. What I normally do to get them up and running is a quick 45 minute training session. I have some training documents that I created and knowing their function within the company I can tailor what they need to know to and they are up and running using Adept.”
Affordable “I had looked at other programs earlier. They are very expensive compared to Adept, and complicated. Adept is affordable, and very powerful. Other programs are just too expensive and do not have the features of Adept.”
And the Secret Weapon Spencer, who has been with Unifiller 16 years and remembers what it was like in the “bad old days” before Adept, finds it almost impossible to put a precise ROI value on Adept. Why? Because Adept has been so easy to use, so simple to implement and so powerful in its benefits that it now effects almost every facet of the day-to-day operations at Unifiller in some way.
“I think it is sort of a behind-the-scenes-program. We have eight project engineers who all have Adept running at the same time. It has become part of the daily use now. They do not even realize it is running and what it is doing behind the scenes in keeping everything in order. It has saved us many thousands of dollars in production costs that would have resulted if wrong revisions of parts had been issued to vendors and made incorrectly. Internally it has made a huge difference to us.”