Software keeps global teams on track

Aug. 5, 2004
OneSpace Designer has functions and features that include zoom, rotate, and measure.

Control can be passed around at online meetings so each participant can point to areas that need attention.

In a mold design review, designers can explain the need for tooling changes. Pictures and comments can be saved as part of the project., a software tool for online project collaboration, lets team members access well-organized project information, communicate in a secure environment, and conduct real-time online meetings without fuss, bother, or disrupting our design and engineering processes. The software is easy to use and learn, and easily deployable within design teams. It lets us share ideas and resolve problems over the Web regardless of an individual's location.

Our company manufactures plastics, rubber products, and injection molds, and it provides related design, engineering and supply-chain services.

We originally deployed to directly share mold designs with customers. Prior to that, solving even simple design problems took longer than it seemed necessary. For example, team members spent time creating prints and sketches for clients, or making screen grabs and marking them up in a paint program. These files were mailed or e-mailed to customers to start an iterative process of design changes. For each question received, we spent too much time creating new markups and sending them back to customers.

In contrast, the software applicationsharing tools slashed the amount of time spent communicating design changes by at least 50%. It lets users view, rotate, and mark up 2D and 3D designs directly within the software. Any meeting participant can be given permission to mark up and rotate data under review, and entire sessions can be recorded to document design changes and discussion points.

Instant Messaging in the software gives our teams the flexibility to get quickly into “meetings” or answer questions that don't necessarily need a meeting. Once a customer signs on to, it takes only an instant message to initiate a meeting. They click a Join button to enter and are immediately connected. The software uses secure-socket layer encryption, so we can discuss designs and intellectual property without fear of eavesdroppers.

Application Sharing, another feature, has made a significant difference in our operation. It lets everyone within a meeting see and view an application, such as a CAD program, running on just one system. This means live, real-time design changes can be made within meetings, and viewed and understood by all involved. For instance, after finishing a custom mold, the customer wanted to change a part that affected other parts of the mold. But none of us, customer or ATP, were certain the proposed changes would work. So we fired up our CAD system during the meeting and tested the proposed changes in real time. By the end of the session, we resolved the design issues and everyone went away satisfied. Previously, resolving proposed changes would have taken at least twice as long.

On other occasions, customers do not understand why we are putting certain features into a design, such as a shutoff area, or a core or cavity pull. The software lets us show them why such features are necessary, and they immediately understand.

The software has a straightforward implementation and shallow learning curve. A simple Web download lets anyone quickly use the tool. It is also easy to learn and use which means our entire design team started using “on the run.” A day of training was not necessary and simply would not have fit the demands of our business.

Documentation and online help is also good. I used the New User Guide to start online tutorials for specific functions. The product does not have a User Guide — a manual normally expected with engineering software. I realized partway through implementation that such a guide was simply not necessary. I did, however, have a couple of questions that required a call to the Support Team. Their response was fast and accurate.

The only criticism I can offer is toward other engineers' hesitation to change the way they work. If they would only try the software, they'd quickly see its advantages. We must learn to work effectively with virtual teams in this era of outsourcing. ( $995/license or $120/month as needed) comes from

CoCreate Software Inc.,
3801 Automation Way, Suite 110, Fort Collins, CO 80525,
(970) 267-8120,

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