The manufacturing industry is in technological transition. It is experiencing two distinct trends to overcome workflow processing challenges. The first is the need to move from paper to electronic documentation. The second is the need to implement engineering document management (EDM) systems to help streamline business processes throughout the enterprise.
Ferrotec (USA) Corporation, based in Nashua, New Hampshire, is a perfect example of a manufacturer that is addressing both challenges while empowering its users through the use of document management advancements. It employs more than 100 people in the United States and 3,000 worldwide in the design, manufacture, sales and marketing of vacuum feedthroughs, magnetic liquid, thermoelectric and other products, which are used in the processing of silicon wafers and raw materials.
Ferrotec began using Adept software in 2002. It currently has 30 licenses that are used by Engineering, Documentation, Sales and Customer Service, Purchasing and Planning, Manufacturing and Manufacturing Engineering, the Assembly Floor, Quality Control and Repairs.
The company recently conducted its own ROI analysis to determine time saved through the implementation of Adept. They calculated the time employees spent in a variety of tasks, including looking at microfilm; searching for printed out documents; checking on the status of work; emailing documents to individuals who do not have access to their network; and in general, searching for information. All totaled, these tasks accounted for about 160 hours per week.
“Using Adept, we reduced these tasks to 40 hours per week. That’s a 75 percent savings,” said Dave Anderson, CAD supervisor, Ferrotec. “In speaking with our Engineering, Purchasing, and Documentation Groups, we estimated that 80 percent of the manual work is gone.”
Corporate Merger Drives Investment in Document Management
The engineering process was very different prior to Adept. According to Anderson, the department was paper dependent and used paper distribution methods. They also depended on microfilm and approved all drawings manually. Through a merger, the company obtained some overseas manufacturing facilities in China. The challenge was how to get engineering documentation into their hands.
Anderson explains, “We knew it was time to implement a document management system. We first formed an EDM committee (management from CAD, IT/IS, Manufacturing, Engineering, R&D, and Documentation) to discuss all the options to make sure that the needs of different people from different skill sets and responsibilities were going to be met. During a two-month evaluation process, we looked at everything from doing it ourselves with an Access database and FTP sites to something out-of-the-box like Adept.”
“We went with Adept because it met or exceeded all of our requirements. The cost was relatively low compared to having someone do it for us from scratch and it was a lot less support intensive. Adept’s capabilities in addition to its CAD integration with Autodesk Inventor and Mechanical Desktop offered the most value. For us, it was key that the system supported Autodesk products.”
Adept Helps Manage Inventor 3D documents
For CAD design of everything from the layouts to 3D models of completed assemblies, Ferrotec uses Autodesk Inventor Series, including AutoCAD Mechanical and Mechanical Desktop, as well as a few licenses of Inventor Professional. Prior to implementing Adept, Ferrotec managed all the CAD documents in a filing structure using the parent/child relationship. Anderson created all the parts and assemblies in one folder. When the approval process began, Anderson would take documents based on their functionality and split them up between 10 to 50 different folders.
“The assembly doesn’t like that too much. It wants to know where all its children are. I had to go through all the folders and move all the parts; open the assembly and tell it where the locations for the parts were, before anyone else could open the assembly without it failing. I was doing all of that manually, spending probably 5-10 hours a week doing that type of work,” said Anderson.
“As subscription customers we get copies of Autodesk Vault, but Vault alone couldn’t give drawing access to the remote users that are not on our LAN,” said Anderson.
A Four Phase Plan Takes Only Six to Nine Months to Achieve ROI
To achieve its ROI as quickly as possible, Ferrotec rolled out Adept in four phases over six to nine months. Phase 1 was designed to give the Engineers who create most of the documents comprehensive training in Adept. Additional document creators were then trained during Phase 2. Phase 3 was for people who just wanted to view or access the documents without editing permissions, within the United States. The fourth and final phase was to give access to all other global locations.
Ferrotec recently merged with a competitor in the UK that manufactures a similar vacuum line product. The two companies perform repairs on each other’s systems, which, in turn, require that they have access to each others’ documents. The plan calls for one central repository for Nashua and the UK. Ferrotec’s subsidiaries all over the globe, including Germany, Japan, China, Singapore, Texas and California, can view the documents.
Eliminating Paper and Reclaiming Real Estate
Synergis Software developed a custom application for Ferrotec to further improve its processes. Ferrotec had some particular forms that were sequentially numbered. The purpose of one of these forms was to allow a part or product to be shipped with a modification before Ferrotec obtains an ECN or ECO for approval. It serves as an “advanced deviation request.” Those forms used to be carbon copied and then distributed four times through departments in order for the request to be fulfilled. Adept’s Next Number Generator application automates the system so Ferrotec employees no longer need to get up and distribute anything.
Explains Anderson, “I can’t tell you how many times the Quality Control Manager says Adept has saved the department time. In fact, he’s introduced his documents into the system such as procedures and processes for rejecting parts that they’ve automated electronically. They deal a lot with the parts that are made in China. He’s real happy with the system. Now they don’t have to store paper drawings. It adds up when you are making 10 copies of a released design and those 10 copies go to 10 different departments that all manage them and store them with paper. That’s all gone now├â┬│as are the file cabinets and paper drawings. Not only was it a huge time saver, but we reclaimed all that office space. Instead of having to walk around and get a drawing approved you can mass email people and let them know it is available in a matter of seconds.”
Improved Project Management Processes
On average the five designers and drafters work on two to three projects simultaneously for a total of 12 projects at any given time. Moreover, the six engineers could be working on more than that, because they are more involved at the quotation level as well as involved in the production and document creation for their particular customers. Anderson says, “Adept mainly expedites our design time and our ability to get documents into Manufacturing’s hands.”
“Adept makes it so easy to sign parts out and change information on the fly,” said Anderson. “I’ve been real happy with the Viewer as well and have discovered many interesting uses for it. Some people come to us and ask the weights of parts or weights of assemblies and I show them right from the Viewer the mass properties. I show them how they can get the volume and calculate the weight on their own. It opens their eyes to a lot of possibilities.”
Advanced Planning Contributes to Successful Single Weekend Implementation
The Data├é┬áCards for cataloging the documents were all setup the weekend of implementation. “By the time the Synergis Software Account Manager left we had everything buttoned up. Documents were in place, all the drawings, parts, and assembly relationships were intact and we were ready to go live that Monday,” said Anderson.
Anderson explains the need for advance preparation. “A lot of the reason for our speedy implementation was that we had all our ducks lined up in a row here. We weren’t in a state of disarray when we started out. We had a very rigid structured system in place. And we’ve got processes and procedures for just about everything internally and a lot of that facilitated the ability to get Adept up and running. We had a real good understanding of what we wanted to do and how we wanted to implement it. We pretty much turned on the switch and it started working that weekend.”
The training time was minimal-just one day with a Synergis Software Application Engineer. Within a week, people were proficient. As a result, user acceptance is 100 percent.
Ferrotec uses the Adept Data├é┬áCards for the approval process. They use a forced workflow where they assign documents to people who would be involved in the sign off loop. They use the Batch update feature to electronically assign all the drawings. Then they use the Routing feature to assign the workflow. For example, if one person did not get a set of documents from the right person then they know there was a step missed along the way. Ferrotec can see who the previous owner was so everyone knows who should be given the documents. Anyone can type their name in an individual Data├é┬áCard, but they use designated people to serve as the credential mechanism. Only that person is able to send a drawing to another particular individual.
Looking Ahead to Remote Vaults and MRP Integration
Ferrotec uses Oracle as an MRP database. In the future, they would like for the Adept and Oracle systems to automatically exchange information. In the near term, they plan to establish some remote vaults for the UK office.
“Every time some opportunity comes up, I try to look at how Adept will be able to automate the process. A lot of it is trying to get people to change their views on how to do things. I’m a firm believer of leveraging the technology you have. Our goal in moving to Adept was all about empowering the user. That’s what we’ve achieved by giving them the ability to do things for themselves,” concluded Anderson.