To maintain company growth, Seahorse required a document management solution that would streamline collaboration between its two locations, be easy to implement without major disruption to internal systems and workflows, and provide the ability to scale up in the future.
From Slow to Almost-Real-Time Collaboration
Seahorse has two facilities: research and development in Billerica, MA, and consumables design, and manufacturing and instrument manufacturing in Chicopee, MA. When Bill Beard, engineering services manager, came on board in 2011, the Billerica engineering division had no document control system; files were simply archived into uncontrolled Windows folders. The Chicopee manufacturing division did add a workgroup-based product data management (PDM) system, but soon realized that design collaboration would require an enterprise system.
“The ability for real-time design collaboration became a need, not a want,” says Beard. “We took a hard look at what applications were available that would allow us to go from demo to go-live in a very short period of time.”
Three criteria were key:
- Replication — Seahorse has two geographical sites, so design collaboration was critical.
- Ease of use — A short learning curve was preferred.
- Scalable — The system had to accommodate a growing engineering staff.
Beard saw all these capabilities in Adept from Synergis Technologies. “Because Adept is a lightweight application, it places a less-strenuous load on our network bandwidth,” Beard says. “We don’t have to worry about inefficiencies that may possibly entice our end-users to bypass the system.
“We want our design teams working, rather than wasting time waiting for the application to perform,” he adds. “With Adept, our searches and retrieval times are within seconds.”
Today, both Seahorse locations have Adept. Each has its own document vault, and replication is performed nightly.
“When our Chicopee design team arrives at the office in the morning, they now have the most recent files that the Billerica design team worked on the previous day,” Beard explains. “That instant access is far improved over what we were doing before. We used to email files, or save them on a flash drive and snail-mail or courier them — it just wasn’t efficient. With Adept, our engineers are now able to see and access easily what was done the day before. It’s a huge boost for us.”
Ease of Use for a Change-resistant User Group
Seahorse was also seeking a short learning curve to minimize disruptions, and to gain user confidence in the ability of the system to scale up so as to achieve growth targets.
“The design teams and engineers are my customers, so I wanted them to be able to use this easily, and be productive quickly. Engineers can be resistant to change, but with Adept the learning curve was fast and the training was easy — less than two days,” Beard points out. “Actually getting people up and running, and enthusiastic, was a lot less effort than I originally thought.”
A Hero in the Hallways
Seahorse ran a pilot test program of Adept prior to the live installation. Feedback was immediate and positive, Beard says.
“Before we had Adept, we were losing one manhour per person, per day in inefficiencies due to not having an enterprise PDM application,” Beard reports. “Adept’s immediate impact had executive management taking notice. Chronic difficulties and delays were eliminated; projects were on schedule, and our design teams were now engaged in true design collaboration.
Can it Grow with Us?
Because Seahorse has aggressive growth and staffing targets, the firm needed to have confidence that the system it invested in would be scalable. The system would also have to integrate with other enterprise applications, thus allowing Seahorse to leverage the benefits of sharing document outside of engineering.
Seahorse is employing a two-phase implementation. Phase I was to ensure ease-of-use and adoption by users. Phase II will involve customizing Adept — leveraging it in enterprise-wide applications rather than just being “engineering-centric.” Currently, Adept is being used for mechanical engineering documents, but could also be used for electrical engineering, software engineering and even marketing applications, Beard says.
Beard envisions that Adept will become “information-centric.” Because the system is a file-neutral application, he says, this vision should become reality.
“As we learned in training, there are mechanisms in place that will allow Adept and our PLM system, Omnify, to talk to each other,” he explains. “We will be able to push and proliferate the data throughout our enterprise even more quickly. That’s something I’m very interested in seeing happen.”
One example scenario would be having part numbers that are generated in their product lifecycle management (PLM) system: They could simultaneously populate into Adept and into a title block in a SolidWorks drawing.
“The possibilities are almost infinite,” says Beard. “I’ve got a ton of ideas of what we can do. My vision is to have our PLM, PDM and [enterprise resource planning, or ERP] systems all communicating with one another, sharing information regardless of the stage and maturity of a product.”
A highlight of implementing Adept was how fast it was able to be done, Beard says. The data from the old system was converted by Synergis Software to be usable within Adept. “That process went pretty much without a glitch,” he notes.
Next was the pilot program, and from there it was smooth sailing. “I was expecting that we would encounter delays along the implementation curve,” recalls Beard. “The eight weeks from the time we signed the purchase order to go-live was very smooth, with no major delays.”
Once up and running, there were no additional weeks of testing required. “In fact, when we made the cut from our old system to Adept, we never looked back,” Beard says. “We burned the ships in the harbor, so to speak.
“Given the interactions we had with everybody at Synergis Software — the sales team, training, tech support, and developers — really gave me that confidence that I felt we mitigated all the possible risks,” he concludes. “Like I said, so far things are working out very, very well.”