CLEAR PRODUCT INFORMATION – QUICK AND AGILE NEDAP
Ten years ago things were getting a little too noisy at Dutch company, Nedap, manufacturer of intelligent technological solutions for some of society’s most pressing problems.
While the 174 million-euro, 700-employee company doesn’t use official titles – they value individual talent over rigid hierarchy – Bart Willemsen essentially served then as the ICT administrator (he is now the Product Lifecycle Management administrator). He recalled the times last decade, when product information was stored in different information systems, and how hours of valuable time was spent directing people to vital but hard-to-access information-over and over again.
No more wasted time and energy
In most systems – be they mechanical, chemical, or organizational – excess noise means wasted energy. The information-hungry buzz at Nedap was no different. All that hustle and bustle precluded optimal use of time and resources. It was, effectively, the sound of grinding gears in Nedap’s otherwise welloiled business machine. The sound Willemsen and his colleagues prized was the smooth hum of Nedap’s ten autonomous market divisions
working seamlessly towards applying their leading edge software and technology solutions to important real world issues, such as their market-leading identification systems for security systems, livestock management, libraries, and transportation solutions.
Nedap set about achieving that Zen state of quiet ten years ago upon hiring leading Finnish Product Data Management (PDM) software solution company, Modultek, which is now part of Roima Intelligence, to install their Aton PDM system. This PDM database is continuously updated throughout the project planning and product development processes, consolidating all the information needed to place orders and to create and obtain documents. Moreover, the systems are agile, readily accessible, and easily updated to suit the fast-changing nature of global software and IT solutions.
All Information in One Place
The results have been significant. While the company expanded, its inefficiencies, costs and time expenditures contracted.
Willemsen said Nedap’s business mission is to be highly adaptable and immediately responsive to customer needs. While the burden of documentation required by various bureaucracies can make that mission challenging, the Aton solutions were up to the challenge.
“In a way, Aton helped us be more like what we wanted to be,” Willemsen said. “It helps us be more like ourselves when the information is all in one place. We can be quick and agile. The system is not holding you up. It is helping you.”
As a result, the beehive buzz of confusion softened to the pitter-patter of fingers tapping on keyboards. This serenity affects the lives of many, as Nedap is tackling some of the greatest challenges facing society today, from healthcare delivery, clean drinking water, and sustainable food production to security, transportation, green energy and sound environmental practices.
“A few years ago, all the business divisions at Nedap came together to look at what we were doing as a company and what became clear is that we are focused on technology that matters, technology that is important to people’s lives,” said Willemsen. “Our slogan at this moment is: Technology that matters. We are developing technology to do things that matter, such as clean drinking water, helping make agriculture and the environment better for getting food to people. It was quite eye opening. It made us realize our real focus. It made for a very positive work environment. And Aton helps us focus on things that matter.”
A complex international company like Nedap, with its 700 employees and ten market divisions, requires as transparent and agile a PDM database as possible, explained Willemsen. Each division – Energy Systems, Healthcare, Identification Systems, Library Solutions, Light Controls, Livestock management, Pep, Retail, and Security Management – operates virtually as its own business with its own R&D and sales departments, when relevant, while sharing technology and resources. This business model provides enough agility to stay at the leading edge of each division’s respective field, because products can consequently be developed and launched more quickly. Furthermore, the company’s financial portfolio stays diverse enough to weather the economic trade winds. But without a single information database, that diversity also can make organizing all the units’ documentation a bit like herding cats.
The multiple governments and subcontractors with whom Nedap works each have individual regulations and documentation requirements. All this documentation must be produced and reproduced in Dutch and then translated, usually to English. Without a database agile enough to handle the task, multiple days are lost in a grueling process of manually formulating, managing, translating, and organizing said documentation. Willemsen recalled, for instance, how difficult it once was to put together a documentation package for outsourced manufacturing. “Creating a documentation package is
quite a lot of work, so we needed a system that could hold all the info in one place and create a documentation package quite fast,” said Willemsen.
Moreover, stocking mistakes can be woefully inefficient without a single information system. For example, division B could order fifty office chairs when those same chairs were already overstocked in division A.
The redundancy could happen for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the item number did not clearly correspond to the desired item; or maybe both divisions had different codes for the same item. It could be that one division itemized the chair as R-007, while another division itemized Christmas decorations as R-007; just imagine the confusion upon expecting to open a box of chairs and getting Santa suits instead.
“Before Aton system, it was not quite fast or efficient enough, and now we have the clear status of if that item is related to that documentation or not,” said Willemsen. “The information is more clear, so you don’t have to bother your colleagues with questions.”
Customer comes first
The thing that sets Aton PDM package apart from competitors, said Willemsen, is the company’s responsiveness to problems and their ability to find solutions tailored for Nedap’s needs. Nothing is lost in translation between the Finnish and Dutch companies; they speak the same business language and share the same customer-first values. “They help us quite quickly,” said Willemsen. “We trust in them to not only do their job but also to help us do ours. That has great value. They make an effort to try to understand our problems, and then solve them. It is more or less fitting our culture, because we are trying to help our clients in the same way they are helping us.”