Tech-Clarity Insight: Managing Design Data with SharePoint. Improving Product Design and Development using Low Overhead Collaboration Infrastructure

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1 Tech-Clarity Insight: Managing Design Data with SharePoint Improving Product Design and Development using Low Overhead Collaboration Infrastructure Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

2 Table of Contents Executive Overview... 3 The Business Value of Effective Design Data Management... 3 Control, Access, and Share Design Data... 4 Avoid the Pitfalls of Unmanaged Data... 6 Leverage Existing Infrastructure to Centralize and Collaborate... 7 Pros of Managing Designs and Projects with SharePoint... 7 Cons of Managing Designs and Projects with SharePoint... 8 Explore SharePoint-based Design Management Solutions... 9 Conclusion Recommendations About the Author Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

3 Executive Overview Tech-Clarity research shows that effectively managing design data offers tangible business value. It helps manufacturers grow their business, respond rapidly to market changes, and control cost to improve profitability. Data management does this by helping companies better control, access, and share their designs and related product information. Unfortunately, data management solutions have been out of reach for some companies due to cost and lack of IT resources, forcing them to rely on less effective approaches like storing data on shared drives and folders. These unmanaged approaches are risky and lead to inefficiency and errors, often relying on designers to follow confusing naming standards and file storage processes. One alternative to an unmanaged environment is to use a collaboration and document management platform such as Microsoft SharePoint to manage designs. This helps organize files and make information easier for designers to access. SharePoint is an attractive collaboration platform for manufacturers because it has a very low total cost of ownership (TCO), leverages existing investments, and requires very little user training. Although SharePoint offers some level of control and collaboration, it does not natively support the complexity of product development and engineering data. But SharePoint is more than a tool. It is designed as a development platform that can be extended for special needs like engineering. Software vendors with expertise in product development and engineering have taken advantage of this, extending SharePoint to handle the unique needs of managing CAD files and their complex relationships. SharePoint-based solutions can offer the best of both worlds by combining the business value of better design data management with lower cost and less demand for IT resources. SharePoint-based design management solutions allow engineers to simplify data management so they can focus on designing products. They help designers view and make sense of the relationships between CAD files, specifications, BOMs, and other product-related information. With our SharePoint-based design management system we clearly see the links and inter-relationships between all of our designs and parts, we have more clarity, and it s easier to see where things are used and the effect of design changes, says Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech, We can see the whole ball of twine. Although they may not offer all of the advanced capabilities and scalability found in purpose-built PDM/PLM systems, SharePoint-based solutions can offer the best of both worlds by combining the business value of better design data management with lower cost and less demand for IT resources. 3 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

4 The Business Value of Effective Design Data Management Effectively managing design data helps reduce complexity for engineers and product developers. It keeps information such as CAD files, drawings, specifications, BOMs, and other product-related documents organized, secure, and accessible. It also makes the complex relationships between this information transparent so engineers can easily see the impact of their changes. This increases efficiency and helps make developing products less risky and error prone. But design data management is more important to the business than making life easier one engineer at a time, it provides significant benefits that impact top-line revenue and bottom-line profitability. For example Tech-Clarity s Best Practices for Managing Design Data compares business performance (quality, innovation, product development speed, and efficiency) to data management performance and discovered that Companies with world-class performance are more likely to have very effective data management capabilities. Specifically, the report shows that world-class manufacturers: Are more able to find the data they need, share it with others, manage their design projects, and provide the correct data to manufacturing Spend less time on nonproductive data management tasks The report also finds that those same world-class manufacturers are more likely to use data management solutions. In turn, they are more productive than poorer performing companies that spend (on average) 34% more time on nonproductive data management tasks. Marc Boom, the Manager of IT & Engineering and board member of advanced engineered products company Eurotech Benelux, shares his experience. Eurotech is piloting a SharePoint-based design management solution because, as Mr. Boom explains, a managed environment boosts productivity. In an unmanaged environment it takes me a lot of time just to control the files, he says, In a managed environment you can do double the work in the same time. In a managed environment you can do double the work in the same time. Marc Boom, Manager IT & Engineering & Board Member, Eurotech Benelux Improved productivity allows manufacturers to bring products to market faster and create more accurate quotes to capitalize on opportunities, drive sales, and support growth. Our turnover increased three-fold over last 24 months, says Theodore Turner, the Head of Design & Development for Theebo Tech, a corn and wheat planter manufacturer that has run SharePoint-based design management systems for several years. Without data management systems in place we wouldn t have been able to respond to demand and we would have had serious quality control problems and probably lost our sanity. 4 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

5 Effectively managing design data is more than a departmental efficiency tool, it offers strategic benefits to manufacturers at the company level. Control, Access, and Share Design Data How does data management provide the strategic business value discussed above? Tech- Clarity s The Business Value of Product Data Management concludes that effective design data management helps manufactures better control, access, and share their data (Figure 1), which in turn, helps drive efficiency, reduce cost, and improve time to market. For example, FPEE is an industrial manufacturer that migrated from a traditional PLM system to a SharePoint-based design management system. In the words of FPEE s R&D Manager, Erwann Delice, Data management technology helps us make better decisions thanks to impact analysis, search, collaboration, and team efficiency from better data sharing. Together, these capabilities help manage complexity, reduce risk, and prevent errors. Data management technology helps us make better decisions thanks to impact analysis, search, collaboration, and team efficiency from better data sharing. Erwann Delice, R&D Manager, FPEE Industries Figure 1: Tech-Clarity Data Management Framework Putting data under control helps make information and data relationships visible, leading to more data-driven decision-making and preventing errors that lead to costly and timeconsuming errors and rework. It is essential to manage the complexity of today s products and the 3D CAD files that define them, particularly to manage the downstream impact of design changes. Without data management, as Mr. Delice of FPEE explains, Any design change would have the potential risk to produce old or invalid versions. 5 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

6 Keeping design data under control opens up the opportunity to quickly find and reuse information. We need to be able to quickly search and find past items to develop quotations, says Marc Boom of Eurotech. Reuse further improves efficiency and prevents the introduction of redundant inventory and quality issues. Our strategy is to reuse and repurpose designs to be more efficient and stop recreating parts we have already made, explains Tad Feinstein, Engineering & Design Manager for Teledyne Energy Systems, a leading global provider of on-site gas and power generation systems that is currently piloting a SharePoint-based design management system. A file system is not conducive to that, he adds. Our strategy is to reuse and repurpose designs to be more efficient and stop recreating parts we have already made. A file system is not conducive to that. Tad Feinstein, Engineering & Design Manager, Teledyne Energy Systems Managed environments also make it easier to share information across departments and systems. You need a system in place for design management to make sure you have accurate BOMs and designs to provide to downstream production systems, says Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech. This ensures that others in the business have the data they need to do their jobs, and helps reduce disruptive information requests from others. Design management also streamlines sharing files across a global design environment and with customers and suppliers. We exchange data by s with outside companies. It is stored in SharePoint so everybody works on the same up to date data, explains Erwann Delice of FPEE Industries. This saves significant time during validation milestones as everybody speaks about the same product. Avoid the Pitfalls of Unmanaged Data Despite the benefits available from effectively managing design data, many manufacturers feel it is out of reach. They place their intellectual property (IP) at risk due to high costs or lack of IT resources. We chose a more full featured PLM system but the TCO compared to features we were using was overkill for us, says Marc Boom of Eurotech. In lieu of a formal system many rely on shared drives, folder structures, and naming conventions to keep things in order. This results in low productivity, as discovered in the best practices survey. Part of the reason is that it is difficult to find data, often resulting in starting from scratch instead of leveraging an existing design. As Eurotech s Mark Boom says, People and Windows have their limitations. People can t remember where everything is placed and there is a lot of hide and seek going on. Despite the benefits available from effectively managing design data, many manufacturers feel it is out of reach. 6 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

7 Poorly managed data also leads to costly and time-consuming mistakes. We have managed our data in the file system with as many as 10 designers, shares Teledyne s Tad Feinstein. It led to all of the usual problems including lots of duplications, file naming issues, and the same part stored under different names. These errors are common with these risk-prone, informal approaches. Hopefully these errors are caught before the data is sent to suppliers or manufacturers and incorrect parts are produced. We want to have no duplicates, says Theodore Turner, Theebo Tech. We need to know we are sending out the right information, the latest information, and not a different version on a shared drive or in a My Documents somewhere. A big difference between managed and unmanaged data is that you don t make unnecessary design mistakes. Theodore Turner, Head of Design & Development, Theebo Tech Informal, file-driven approaches don t allow designers to see the complex relationships between information to understand the impact of their decisions or of design changes. A big difference between managed and unmanaged data is that you don t make unnecessary design mistakes, explains Theebo Tech s Theodore Turner. When you want to understand the impact of a revision you need to do a where-used and see what else is going to be effected. That takes ½ hour compared to ten seconds in a managed environment. This leads to inefficiency at best, and more likely mistakes because manual where-used approaches are error-prone and often get skipped in order to meet deadlines. Designers have a hard time making effective decisions when they can t see the relationships between CAD files, documents, drawings, and other information. Manufacturing would be negatively impacted if we had inefficient data management, says Erwann Delice of FPEE Industries. They would have more defects due to compatibility errors that weren t identified by impact analysis, leading to manufacturing issues and lack of product quality. Manufacturing would be negatively impacted if we had inefficient data management leading to manufacturing issues and lack of product quality. Erwann Delice, FPEE Industries There are also technical disadvantages to manual file management approaches. When we open a big assembly in an unmanaged environment everything is saved to the server hard drive through the network. All other CAD users are effected, it s quite a performance hit, offers Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech. When we use SharePoint the local cache makes a big performance and stability difference for the whole environment. But the most pressing issue is that unmanaged environments are highly people-dependent. Information is frequently hard to find and when someone leaves their work is often lost. But some manufacturers simply don t have the IT resources to support a complex 7 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

8 solution. In the end, these problems typically cost the business more in direct cost than a data management solution would cost, even if you ignore the strategic benefits. But for many it still feels out of reach. Leverage Existing Infrastructure to Centralize and Collaborate Many companies look to existing or readily accessible tools to decrease negative impacts of unmanaged information. Collaboration and data management platforms are a natural choice to consider. For example, Microsoft SharePoint provides many of the basic capabilities needed to vault and share information. SharePoint can help make information available 24x7 across the globe via a browser, even for mobile employees. In SharePoint you can have more control of what users or a group of users can access and what they can do. Theodore Turner, Theebo Tech While SharePoint can help extend the availability of information, it can also provide selective access to protect IP. This helps ensure that information isn t shared with those that don t need access to it and helps prevent accidental data deletion. You are much more open and exposed in an unmanaged environment because it s very difficult to provide access control, explains Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech. In SharePoint you can have more control of what users or a group of users can access and what they can do. SharePoint offers more than control, it also allows collaboration within teams, across departments, and with others outside of the business as desired. It is even capable of managing workflows to coordinate activities across teams and departments. SharePoint also allows companies to offer self-service information to those without technical systems like CAD. SharePoint also allows companies to offer self-service information to those without technical systems like CAD. People from other services in the company are starting to consult data by themselves, says FPEE Industries Erwann Delice. This extends information to more people and allows them to get the information they need with having to disrupt designers. As Marc Boom of Eurotech says, People don t have to come to me or a colleague to search for information anymore. Pros of Managing Designs and Projects with SharePoint SharePoint offers a compelling opportunity to manage information. One of the positive factors of SharePoint is ease of use. SharePoint offers a familiar user interface that requires very little end user training. As Eurotech s Marc Boom explains, It s a user friendly environment. If people can browse the Internet they can browse SharePoint. 8 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

9 Erwann Delice of FPEE Industries concurs, People don t need any training to use SharePoint to search for data, view information, and download files. It has been extremely easy to deploy and user adoption has been instantaneous. It s a user friendly environment. If people can browse the Internet they can browse SharePoint. Marc Boom, Eurotech Beyond ease of use for users, implementing and supporting SharePoint requires less IT resources. Moving to SharePoint takes advantage of the Windows environment which requires no training and offers an easy deployment, says FPEE Industries Erwann Delice. SharePoint resources are relatively easy to find and many companies implement it themselves. From a practical side especially when you are relatively small you can t really afford to have a whole IT department or someone dedicated to support the system, says Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech. I learned just the necessary parts of SharePoint. We have project pages for all of our projects so project managers and team members can access key data like project scope, charter, project plan, resource allocation management, and cost tracking. Tad Feinstein, Teledyne Many manufacturers already use SharePoint and may be able to extend this infrastructure to manage design information. For example, Marc Boom of Eurotech explains, We have been using SharePoint since 2001 and already use it within Engineering. This is also the case for Teledyne who already uses SharePoint to manage their design projects. We have used SharePoint throughout the business for about three years, shares Tad Feinstein, We have project pages for all of our projects so project managers and team members can access key data like project scope, charter, project plan, resource allocation management, and cost tracking. Cons of Managing Designs and Projects with SharePoint Although SharePoint offers a lot of capabilities to manage information, it was simply not designed to manage the complexities inherent to design data and support the special demands of product development projects. We try to use what SharePoint has to offer. It has a lot of tools and it is very good at managing files and file revisions, shares Teledyne s Tad Feinstein. It has some key components, workflows, notifications, and subscriptions built in. But it doesn t have a relationship manager. But it is extensible. Marc Boom of Eurotech explains, SharePoint is basically a framework, a starting point. It s a tool that offers workflow, statuses, and security not just file storage. 9 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

10 Managing relationships is a significant requirement for effective design data management. SharePoint doesn t understand the complex file relationships inherent to product development. This makes it ineffective at managing configurations and BOMs or effectively managing complex 3D CAD files. This creates a significant issue in the change process. Making changes accurately requires the ability to recognize relationships and the impact of the revision on adjacent designs, downstream deliverables, and other related information. SharePoint would require significant programming investment to develop the capabilities to provide the appropriate visual context of designs and their relationships and manage the related processes and workflows. Making changes accurately requires the ability to recognize relationships and the impact of the revision on adjacent designs, downstream deliverables, and other related information. Explore SharePoint-based Design Management Solutions SharePoint offers a compelling opportunity but falls short in some significant ways. Fortunately, SharePoint is designed to be extended. SharePoint is actually a development platform, there s a lot more to it than most people realize, observes Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech. But closing the gaps would be a lot of work for an individual manufacturer. Fortunately, independent software vendors focused on managing product data and processes, the PLM vendors, have taken notice and leveraged SharePoint to create commercial, SharePoint-based design data management solutions. SharePoint is actually a development platform, there s a lot more to it than most people realize Theodore Turner, Theebo Tech Vendors can extend SharePoint s collaborative platform capabilities with design management and product development capabilities, giving them the ability to bring a low overhead solution to a segment of the market they aren t fully serving. For users, it offers a compelling alternative to unmanaged or more resource-intensive approaches. We have a lean IT organization which is one of the reasons SharePoint is so attractive to me, says Tad Feinstein of Teledyne. When we heard about a SharePoint-based solution from our CAD vendor we felt it was a good approach because we are undermanned and already had knowledge of SharePoint. When we heard about a SharePoint-based solution from our CAD vendor we felt it was a good approach because we are undermanned and already had knowledge of SharePoint. Tad Feinstein, Teledyne 10 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

11 SharePoint-based solutions offer some compelling benefits. Beyond controlling and protecting information, they offer better ways to access data. We are encouraging people to use search and favorites, to use different techniques to get to the files they want instead of relying on a folder hierarchy that made sense to someone at sometime, shares Tad Feinstein of Teledyne. They also allow companies to share information with non- CAD users. Our part information was only visible for those with our CAD package, now it s only a mouse click away for everyone, shares Marc Boom of Eurotech. It s a really easy way to access the information engineers create. Of course companies can integrate with existing SharePoint information related to products, customers, projects, parts, standards, customers, or other helpful information. Our part information was only visible for those with our CAD package, now it s only a mouse click away for everyone. Marc Boom, Eurotech Vendors have also extended SharePoint s collaborative platform with productdevelopment-specific capabilities. This enables workflows for change processes, engineering changes, revisions, configurations, release to manufacturing, and the ability to manage design projects. SharePoint can help implement and enforce best practices and automate some time-consuming tasks. Our CAD can be converted into STEP or DWG (file formats) and placed in the portal to be sent to our suppliers, explains Marc Boom of Eurotech. It keeps things going without disturbing people in other offices and without them being dependent on us. Sharing information with others in this way helps prevent costly and time-consuming mistakes. As an example, if a supplier worked with out of date documents the error is detected very quickly during a review meeting before changes are validated for production, shares FPEE Industries Erwann Delice. Relationship management provides critical visibility into the complex connections between CAD files, downstream deliverables, and other product data crucial to keep things in sync and prevent errors. Perhaps one of the most beneficial capabilities is that SharePoint-based solutions have been extended to provide a visual way to see information and data relationships. We need a link between documents and designs, not information filed away in a folder where someone forgets about it. It makes it more transparent, says Theodore Turner of Theebo Tech. Marc Boom of Eurotech also points out the importance of managing relationships effectively. Once you have a part and a report for the part, you can link them and see the relationship, it helps to keep things in line. Otherwise, you have different instances and it causes a lot of headaches to see if you have the right version. Relationship management provides critical visibility into the complex connections between CAD files, downstream deliverables, and other product data crucial to keep things in sync and 11 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

12 prevent errors. This capability complements the existing SharePoint capabilities and fills the gaps needed for effective design data management. Conclusion Most manufacturers design management needs focus on the basic requirements to effectively control, access and share data. We are very happy if we can simply share, reuse, open, and close files across our three different offices, concludes Marc Boom of Eurotech. Now we can use a single server for offices across multiple countries and work on one data set without having to send files back and forth. Manufactures can reap significant data management benefits from SharePointbased solutions that offer low cost and less demand for IT resources. These needs can now be met by leveraging the low-cost, less resource-intensive, easy to use capabilities of SharePoint. Although SharePoint does not offer all of the advanced capabilities found in a full PLM solution, the more comprehensive PDM/PLM packages may be out of reach and potentially overkill for some. Now that engineering and design software vendors have extended SharePoint with product-development related capabilities, a visual context, and relationship management, manufactures can reap significant design data management benefits from SharePoint-based solutions that offer low cost and less demand for IT resources. Recommendations Based on industry experience and research for this report, Tech-Clarity offers the following recommendations: Manage design data to control, access, and share information and improve business performance Simplify data management with a managed environment that allows designers to spend less time searching for data and focus instead on developing products Look to SharePoint for a low overhead, easy to deploy collaboration platform Take advantage of PLM vendors investments in SharePoint-based applications that help manage design projects and visualize complex relationships between design data 12 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

13 About the Author Jim Brown is the President of Tech-Clarity, an independent research and consulting firm that specializes in analyzing the business value of software technology and services. Jim has over 20 years of experience in software for the manufacturing industries. He has a broad background including roles in industry, management consulting, the software industry, and research. His experience spans enterprise applications including PLM, ERP, quality management, service lifecycle management, manufacturing, supply chain management, and more. Jim is passionate about improving product innovation, product development, and engineering performance through the use of software technology. Jim is an experienced researcher, author, and public speaker and enjoys the opportunity to speak at conferences or anywhere he can engage with people with a passion to improve business performance through software technology. Jim can be reached at You can read additional research, watch Tech-Clarity TV, or join Jim s Clarity on PLM blog at You can also follow Jim on Twitter watch him as a dueling analyst in the Tech4PD web show on Engineering.com, or find Tech-Clarity on Facebook as TechClarity.inc. 13 Tech-Clarity, Inc. 2013

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