Ever since the invention of the fire pump, firefighters have been plagued with the difficulty of obtaining correct nozzle pressures for fire hose nozzles. Based on a simple and reliable design, Task Force Tips’ (www.tft.com) nozzles solve this dilemma by constantly adjusting to the varying pressures of the hose line.
“Our products are used in life and death situations so reliability is of utmost importance in allowing firefighters to do their jobs and return home safely to their families,” said Scott Akins, vice president of New Product Development, Task Force Tips (TFT). “As with most manufacturing companies, being able to deliver products quickly is important to our customers.”
Akins oversees the design engineering team in the development of new products from initial product requirements and specifications to the finished product available for sale.
TFT turned to Adept document management from Synergis Software (www.synergissoftware.com) for the increased efficiencies it could bring to their business –¬†better document control, change management, and approval processes. TFT also does a significant amount of custom modifications for specific customers. “This customerization gives the company a competitive advantage,” added Akins. “Adept helps us make product modifications quickly while keeping control of the documentation.”
While TFT uses SolidWorks as its primary 3D product development tool, it also has thousands of legacy drawings in AutoCAD. The Design Engineering and Manufacturing Engineering departments use these tools to create new product designs and modify designs of existing products. As TFT transitions from AutoCAD to SolidWorks, Adept offers integration with both design platforms so all its current and legacy documents are easily controlled by one system.
TFT faces similar document management processes and challenges as other manufacturers. Akins explains, “We need to keep accurate drawings and be able to track the changes to those drawings, including the bill of materials, relationships and how they go together. Adept really helps speed up the processes and gives us more confidence that the document we are dealing with is the right document. It helps us on the workflow knowing when things are approved and allowing teams to collaborate with a clear ‘Check In’ and ‘Check Out’ system for documents.”
Adept Offers Unique Capabilities to Meet TFT’s Needs
When evaluating document management solutions, TFT’s selection criteria were clear. “We looked for a full-featured, reliable product at a reasonable price with good service and support,” said Akins.
“Our selection was weighed heavily by three criteria: First, Adept does not encrypt our documents. As an engineer, I believe that things can break – so if all our documents are encrypted and something in the PDM system would have a bug or break, it’s still possible to get to the documents. Second, Adept’s API gave us the ability to develop an integration with our custom MRP system. And last, Adept could handle a wide variety of documents – not just CAD documents,” said Akins.
TFT currently uses Adept in Design Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering, and its Tool Room to manage its solid models, parts and assembly drawings, product designs, and modifications. “Adept gives us the ‘Where Used’ part information for the bill of materials, which comes in very handy. In the past, when we looked for a solid model, it would take the team awhile to locate it and make the correct links. With Adept, you can easily keep track of all the parts and their related documents.”
“We have plans to add our ISO procedures to Adept in the future. We’d also like to include our marketing and product literature, such as operator manuals. Our current manual routing process for literature is slow and tedious. Adept would be very beneficial here,” said Akins. “We have thousands of documents in Adept, including 1400 SolidWorks documents as well as AutoCAD, Word and other documents.”
Planning Drives a Smooth Implementation
When it came to implementing a document management solution, TFT had a solid, organized plan in place. Once Adept was purchased, TFT sent key people to Administrator Training at Synergis Software’s headquarters in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. TFT then challenged themselves with a thorough in-house file cleanup. “We had thousands of SolidWorks documents with multiple drawings contained in a single file. This worked well for our old system because related drawings were all in one file, such as a raw casting, machined casting, hard-coat anodized machined casting, and powder-coated machined casting. But to successfully migrate these documents into Adept – or any other PDM system for that matter – we needed to have only one file per drawing. While it was challenging, it gave us a good opportunity to improve our CAD standards and best practices.”
Next, TFT added an additional server and set up the client installation. The last step was user training, which was done in house. The system went live the same day user training was completed.
Drastically Improving Efficiencies
TFT is taking advantage of Adept’s flexible, standard database to further extend the capabilities of the solution. Akins explains, “We integrated Adept with our custom MRP system so that when a document changes in Adept, related information in our MRP item file is automatically updated. This saves extra steps and eliminates the possibility of mistakes when manually copying the same information into two locations. Engineers can now do most of what they need to do in Adept rather than having to jump back and forth between two different systems. We didn’t need to use API programming; we simply looked directly at the Adept database fields to get the information for our system.”
All current projects are being managed in Adept and Adept has helped with the document control efficiencies. Specifically, TFT is now able to expedite its search for parts in assemblies and its print approval process. There is less redundant work and better control of prints. Adept software shows TFT where parts are used and it provides audit trails to track the history of a document. Most important to TFT, it has made the shift to √É¬¨paperless√É¬ģ prints, eliminating the need to track down signatures on paper.
With everything well controlled in Adept, TFT can go back to the critical work at hand – designing innovative products that help firefighters and other first responders save lives.