Sharing documents across a manufacturing organization – also known as document visualization – poses significant challenges, something Harris Corp. discovered in 2005 when it set out to improve its document visualization capabilities while implementing a new product lifecycle management (PLM)
“With the kind of business we’re in, we’re always pushing the technology envelope and we need our software to be up to date,” said Charles Davies, principal ECAE application engineer for Harris, who was involved in selecting both the PLM and document visualization software. “We wrote a fairly lengthy requirements document.”
Documents had to be easily accessible in various locations on the shop floor, where time is often of the essence for the Melbourne, Fla.-based communications equipment manufacturer. Readability was essential; documents had to be clear and easy to read to minimize the risk of production errors.
Harris eventually chose to implement Agile PLM, now an Oracle product. The company needed a document visualization suite that could be implemented at the same time as the new PLM system, and also integrated with it. According to Davies, the implementation team found that Oracle AutoVue best fit the bill. It would replace InterComm, the PTC software Harris was then using for document viewing.
“The major reason AutoVue was so attractive was that it offered integration right into our PLM system,” Davies said. “It also met a wide variety of document viewing needs, where [InterComm] was targeted at specific document types. Autovue had a much wider impact over a variety of document types.”
While AutoVue was closest to meeting Harris’ requirements and the Agile PLM integration was simple, the software was not a perfect fit. “We worked with the AutoVue team to address these deficiencies,” Davies said. Harris’ collaboration with AutoVue has been ongoing since the implementation. With the recent release of AutoVue 20.1, Davies and others are currently working with AutoVue to address the company’s newest needs and close gaps in functionality.
AutoVue browser simplifies document viewing across operations
One of Harris’ biggest document viewing needs involved sharing documents between a central location and the company’s smaller operations. AutoVue’s simple interface made the process less complex. “One of the things that we immediately noticed once we implemented AutoVue and got the gaps filled was the ease of viewability – all you need is a browser,” said Davies.
AutoVue is stored on a central server and can be accessed from other locations through the company intranet. The browser-based functionality also cuts down on the amount of server space needed to run and maintain AutoVue, which eliminates having to use third-party software management. “We do a lot of proprietary work for the government, so as a security precaution, we don’t outsource infrastructure,” Davies said.
Today, AutoVue is mostly used in Harris’ smaller prototype manufacturing facilities to assist in the building process. Product reviewers send data about the product to the next step in the manufacturing chain. After they’re built, parts are sent back to the customers, who make sure standards have been met. Harris’ reviewers then match the parts to the data sheet, approving or rejecting them.
Workers in these plants can easily view the product assembly data, which is in the CAB (Windows compressed archive) format, right in the browser. Before AutoVue, CAB data had to be converted to Adobe PDF format to be read, a process which can lead to information loss or corruption, according to Davies.
“Different people get involved in that development process based on its needs,” he said. “AutoVue is the vehicle by which the process is reviewed.”
While AutoVue has improved and streamlined the company’s document viewing procedures, there are still some items on Harris’ wishlist, according to Davies, including higher-level PDF reader features such as cut and paste and paragraph searching.
Browser viewing of CAB files is also somewhat limited. “While AutoVue can view to a reasonable degree the electrical design functionality of a document, it can’t go too deep into detail, and we have to go back into the original CAB for more,” said Davies. The Harris team has regular business reviews with AutoVue to go over needs such as these, and was also part of the early adopter program.
“We’ve developed a strong relationship with [AutoVue],” Davies said.