Machine Design

Software Review: Software Helps Build Better Toys

Our company, Funrise Toy Corp., makes toys that entertain kids of all ages.

Edited by Leslie Gordon

These include Tonka trucks, Gazillion Bubbles, Shelcore Pre- School, and ZOOOOS Interactive. To make great products, we need to connect our design team in Los Angeles with our manufacturing teams in Hong Kong and China. Because time-zone differences have us awake while our overseas colleagues are asleep, we needed an effective way to communicate project status. So we turned to Web-based project-management software called Project Insight.

Our previous project management software had us e-mailing individual schedules around, a confusing process at best. And schedules were not centralized. Instead, they were scattered among numerous file folders, making schedules difficult to coordinate. Our team usually works on several dozen new toys at a time, sometimes up to 100. Managing that many jobs simultaneously with the desktop application just wasn’t working well. Tracking information such as milestones, resource allocations, and times and budgets was a real struggle.

Project Insight, in contrast, is easy to use and provides a good way to keep track of projects. An Outlook interface “look and feel” helped everyone rapidly get used to the software. Because product development is similar from one toy to the next within each brand, we created project templates in the software. Project managers now reuse these templates with just a couple of mouse clicks.

Additionally, a document repository with predefined folders is created automatically with each template. This helps standardize processes and methods because everyone is familiar with the folder structure. The documents repository posts all project comments in a discussions folder. This keeps our project communication centralized and attached to the correct project. In contrast, the old way would have had us sending numerous e-mails.

After just a few weeks, we had 50 team members using Project Insight in the U.S. and Asia. We now have about 200 simultaneous projects in the software that are accessed and used daily. A big improvement has been our capability to maintain project timelines. Currently, six product managers are each simultaneously working on 20 to 30 toys.

With the old method, a project milestone might slip by. Not realizing this, the U.S. project manager would not call Hong Kong to check on things for weeks. Now, Project Insight shoots off milestone reports to each task owner. We can, therefore, maintain timelines in a way not possible before.

Another benefit: An executive dashboard lets management easily keep an eye on projects. For example, executives can get a high level view of all projects and their status, then drill down or get a timeline of projects susceptible to failure. They can look at 200 projects at a time and see the red, yellow, and green traffic-light status-indicators to understand project portfolios.

The software comes from Metafuse Inc., 17320 Red Hill Ave., Suite 270, Irvine, CA 92614, (949) 476-6499,

—John Meyer

A Funrise template in Project Insight Web based project management software lets managers create new projects with just a few mouse clicks.

An example schedule shows how the software communicates project status.

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