SOLIDWORKS Manage, customized by TriMech, helps Phil Mauer & Associates improve processes company wide
Using SOLIDWORKS Manage, Phil Mauer & Associates were able to improve processes so that communication between engineering and the shop floor happens in real-time and is easily traced.
In the job shop environment at Phil Mauer & Associates, custom is king. They design and manufacture material handling containers and racking. Customers provide data for a part or assembly, then the designers use SOLIDWORKS to create a container for that unique product.
“Our custom-build environment requires a solid workflow to keep processes on track. SOLIDWORKS Manage meets our needs for building out processes with the BOM at the centre. You don’t have to limit your thinking to just managing CAD files – you can expand to company-wide business processes.”
— Mike Taylor, Product Development Manager, Phil Mauer & Associates
“Jobs are similar, but with different details,” said Mike Taylor, Product Development Manager. “With each project being unique, and a couple dozen projects on the go, having SOLIDWORKS Manage has been particularly good for us.”
What is Manage?
Organizations like Phil Mauer plan each stage of a project, assign resources and tasks, and attach required documentation – all within the same ecosystem they use to design. When users complete their tasks, project progress updates automatically and is displayed on a real-time dashboard.
While PDM looks after CAD files, Manage contains and connects other data, such as bills of materials, what manufacturing station drawings should go to, and finishing details like paint codes.
From paper to digital
Mike explained that before having Manage, if they noticed that a step in the process didn’t happen, they didn’t immediately know why.
“ISO procedures, for example, were in binders and not handy. Someone had to go look up a form or a flowchart of a workflow. Today, it’s no longer a paper exercise. The ISO form is right there on screen, being filled out as you move through the process, and data from the forms can be mined to look for trends and statistics.”
Designers once carried stacks of paper from engineering to manufacturing. When they had to make changes, they had to print new drawings and take them to each station, making it difficult to track changes, as well as risking errors and rework.
Using Manage, communication between engineering and the shop floor happens in real-time, digitally, and is easily traced.
Turning ideas into workable options
Mike and his team laid out a detailed plan of what pain points they wanted Manage to solve. TriMech’s technical specialists, with their deep knowledge of the software, translated that wish list into workable options.
“I wouldn’t recommend trying to use Manage ‘out of the box,’” he said. “It’s powerful and flexible – that’s its strength. To get customized workflows, you will want a partner who knows how to implement your ideas into Manage objects and processes.”
Phil Mauer’s people, systems, and departments (including engineering, manufacturing, quality, sales, and purchasing), are now tied into the workflow, or digital thread. Some examples:
- In manufacturing, an export into Excel gives the production supervisor the labour data he needs to make his resource plan and production schedule for the job.
- Upon release of the BOM, purchasing staff can clearly see what materials need to be ordered and when.
- When a project is noted as complete, Manage triggers a customer satisfaction survey. A notice lands in the salesperson’s inbox, so he or she knows to call the customer to check in.
- Mike makes great use of the Manage Live dashboard by showing the real-time status of projects at weekly meetings. Outstanding and upcoming to-dos are discussed.
Another benefit is having clear information about performance against metrics. The quality manager used to enter any design changes made (after production started) into a Microsoft Access database. Now, distribution of the change document happens in a Manage workflow that automatically logs statistics, including how many changes are being generated, the reasons behind them, cost impacts, and the time spent making each change.
Continued evolution and growth
Phil Mauer continues to find new ways to work collaboratively with TriMech. As Mike said, “I have been the champion for Manage, but it’s not just my ideas anymore. Other people have ideas to improve on existing workflows, create new process workflows, and generate new dashboard reports. TriMech knows what we built, and why, and is always there to say, ‘Did you think about doing it this way?’”
Mike explained that overall, Manage is a project management tool that filled a gap between PDM and their ERP system, all brought to life by TriMech.
“It can be hard to get buy-in for a new platform,” Mike said. “But I can tell you that no one here is still asking why we need this. Everyone is informed. No one scrambles. If you want to do more projects with the same people, you have to keep improving processes.”
And speaking of those people, Mike emphasized that he is continually impressed by his team.
“We are always busy, but they are all willing to do what’s necessary to do quality work and grow. Everyone is proud of their work and wants to be better and faster for our customers.”
Phil Mauer & Associates is online at philmauer.com