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.
Greene Tweed (GT) is a Pennsylvania-based manufacturer of thermoplastics with offices and factories on three continents. The business side of the operation had been using SAP for enterprise resource planning (ERP) for several years when the decision was made to automate engineering data management. One of the requirements was to create a system that eliminated rogues and stowaways. As Steven Danasko of Greene Tweed explains, their goal went beyond installing a more centralized data management repository. GT wanted improved workflows between engineering and operations, including a direct tie from engineering to the company’s SAP system.
After researching alternatives, GT chose Synergis Adept. Once in place, Danasko’s team created a customer approval process, to “capture exactly who checked approved drawings as they went through the workflow,” says Danasko. The values associated with the drawings were populated onto an Adept library card, to control future access and to create a record of the transaction.
Anyone who participates in the review process has to enter a password; there is no rogue access. The review information is pushed back to the SolidWorks drawing, and Adept automatically creates a complete record of the transaction.
When there is final approval, data is moved to the Adept PublishWave server. PublishWave is an Adept add-on that generates high fidelity PDF files from the native CAD and Office files and manages them in a controlled environment. GT uses PDFs and also creates XML files which can be imported into the SAP system. PublishWave makes it look as if the native software application (in this case SOLIDWORKS) published the document. This allows publishing to be an auditable event. No stowaway files can wander from department to department on emails. The creation and sending of XML files to SAP is also a trackable event. Integration with SAP is automatically triggered by specific events, also controlled, managed, and documented inside of the Adept environment.
Better Shared and Tracked Data Flow
Because both SAP and Adept have built-in review tools, there was no need to acquire additional software for non-CAD user review and markup. Now engineering and operations continue to use software they are familiar with, but both gain the benefit of shared and tracked data flow. The rogues and stowaways are gone.
Learn more by checking out Steve Danasko's recorded presentation explaining Green Tweede's integration of Adept and SAP in more detail.
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.