Hard core engineering is at the heart of all companies products and systems. Increasingly, success depends on how effectively globally dispersed individuals are able to work better together. In this article, I’ll review several CorasWorks solutions that we have delivered recently for the Engineering business function. I’ll look at 3 customers and cover 7 work management solutions that address the “soft side” of engineering – how you get the engineering function to work better together. The solutions are are all based upon the CorasWorks Solution Platform running within a Microsoft SharePoint environment.
Engineering Work Management Hub for Automotive Supplier
The customer is a 4,000 person division of a Top 100 Global Industrial company. This global division provides components and systems to the automotive industry. The Engineering function is a 250 person organization. The customer wanted to create a central Hub where engineers could go and access the core information and participate in key processes. Using CorasWorks on SharePoint they wanted the Hub to be a single place where the engineers could to access information and to do their work WITHOUT having to go to a different application interface. They wanted to avoid the app interface proliferation that they experience with the multiple legacy PLMs that they have used over the years. Accordingly, the specific applications were designed as “services” so that they all surfaced within the Engineering Work Management Hub. Below I will cover three specific applications that are part of the Hub. Each is a custom application created jointly by CorasWorks and the customer using the CorasWorks v11 Solution Platform.
Design & Engineering Work Standards (DEWS)
This is both a resource and a process. It provides engineers with access to the approved design and engineering work standards. In addition, it provides the full process to manage the creation and change control of proposed and published DEWS. This process consists of three core roles of Engineers, Document Control and Design Engineering. The system is automated to keep all parties informed of review update reminders, new updates, reviews, and newly approved items. All work is done within the Hub.
A key role of engineering is the maintenance of manufacturing equipment and the use of equipment for testing and calibration. This application manages all pieces of equipment used by engineering. It serves as the system of record for the Certificates of Inspection for all equipment. In addition, it includes check out processes for testing equipment and maintenance and calibration alerts. A nice feature is the inclusion of images of the equipment as part of equipment descriptions.
Engineering is responsible for a large number of purchase requisitions. This application supports the full process from request through final approval. The requestor receives constant updates via email and within the Work Management Hub.
Resource Planning and Demand Management for Electronics Component Manufacturer
This customer is an 11,000 person manufacturer of components for computers and consumer products with $5B in revenue. The engineering function was looking for a better way to manage their global resource planning and allocation process and to provide visibility into the project load for their product roadmap. Their standard planning cycle is 5 years ahead with a rolling quarterly estimate of engineering resources by technical function.
The customer had tried a number of approaches in the past to address this need ranging from spreadsheets to Microsoft Project Server. They wanted something in the middle that provided a structured work process but was highly visible and collaborative. They had found that the most effective estimating was a rolling solution where the more near term estimates should be very accurate, but, they are able to generally project the needs as far as five years out in order to manage the demand side of their project portfolio.
The CorasWorks-based solution provides a central place where engineers from around the world get a single view of all projects in the product pipeline. The function managers then make estimates of the required resources from their function and by team (skill) on a quarterly basis. This information is then correlated to provide resource estimates by projects, by function, and by skill (overall resource allocation). The solution integrates with Microsoft Project Server which is the system of record for the project portfolio and actual project activity.
They now have a single place where global Engineering management can collaborate and get a single view of the allocation of their resources. They have ongoing and historical estimates for each manager (which has become quite interesting as they can see how the estimates change over time). In addition, they have a robust. real time dashboard reporting system with drilldown into actual project work.
Idea Challenge Management for Engineering Function of Defense Systems Integrator
This customer is a 10,000 person organization providing advanced systems and services to the Federal Defense Agencies. The organization had been a customer of CorasWorks for a number of years. Over the last two years they had been evaluating third party Idea/Innovation Management solutions at the enterprise level but had made no decision due to cost and common lack of core process management capabilities. One of their business divisions is a 1,000 person organization with 550 engineers that provide systems services primarily on a cost plus basis. This unit wanted a solution that would enable them to drive timed, specific idea challenges out to the engineering group with a detailed downstream review and management process. They selected the CorasWorks Cim solution for Idea and Innovation Management for this purpose.
Their solution was implemented in a 3-month pilot. During this time they launched 6 idea challenges across the 550 engineers of their division. Three of the challenges were general to all 550 engineers and 3 others were specific engineering challenges for 3 different lines of business. The ideas went through a detailed initial management screening by their Engineering Management team including a Quadrant (Impact High-Low, Cost High-Low) to provide a quantitative approach.
An important element of their pilot approach was that they had a structured set of downstream activities to drive to conclusions. The resulting initial actions on the submitted ideas broke down as follows:
47% Deferred (largely not priority)
12% Requiring more research
26% Promoted to Line of Business
12% Process Improvements promoted to Working Groups
3% Approved for immediate implementation
The pilot was successful with ideas approved for immediate implementation and with subsequent Integrated Research and Development (IRADs) fundings being approved by the lines of business. Remaining ideas continue to be managed through the funnel. The customer has since moved up to an enterprise license of Cim for the organization. However, they envision a two step approach moving forward. First, they are working on cross-pollinating their challenge model across the engineering groups of the 4 other business divisions (a total of 3,500 engineers across the 10,000 employees). Then, they will open up the model to the broader organization managed at the business division level. The interesting part is that there is no definite commitment whether they would even role out enterprise-wide idea management initiative as they now believe that the greatest business value is a challenge approach driven by specific business needs of specific groups (a bottom up approach to innovation).
The Soft Side of Hard Core Engineering
Information technology solutions in engineering have tended to focus on the hard core aspects of engineering like their CAD/CAM diagrams. What you see above are solutions that address the softer side of engineering, the way that work is managed and how engineers are enabled to work better together across globally distributed organizations.