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CORUS COLORS : CAB-I-NET
We live in exciting times…
It is not an easy life in U.K manufacturing industry these days. Challenging, yes. Exciting, maybe. Easy? Definitely not! The global competition is relentless, sterling shows no sign of weakening and commercial interest rates are still higher in the UK than in much of the rest of the world. Why do we do it then? Because we can, that's why! In responding to competitive pressures, Britain's industrial companies are using local creativity and global technology to reorganise, regroup, refocus and of course to reduce costs. One company who has done just that is CORUS, the merged companies of the former British Steel Corporation and Koninklijke Hoogovens, the Dutch steel and aluminium conglomerate. The CORUS COLORS division has recently implemented a CAB-I-NET browser-based document management, storage and retrieval system from tsaADVET, the U.K. design and document management solutions company.
...and challenging ones too!
The challenge that faced CORUS COLORS is the one that faced British Steel before it: how to work smarter at beating the global and sometimes state-subsidised competition. Innovation plays its part: new processes and new products for new markets. But so does cost and time reduction. With the scale of capital investment required for modern materials production, every penny must contribute to the ultimate success of the organisation. Money lost through errors and money lost through wasted time is money that could be spent on improving the business.
Paper, paper everywhere…
Since John Summers moved his business there in 1897, Shotton, in North Wales, has been home to the iron and steel industry. Now under the ownership of CORUS COLORS the site produces coated sheet steel for end uses such as automobile bodies and building cladding. The Process Technology Department is responsible for all plant capital expenditure. For large projects, special teams are created, but smaller capital projects and all non-capital projects are carried out directly. The drawing office at Shotton is responsible for all design, documentation and drawing publication. Not only does the office have to manage the release and provision of all new CAD drawings, it has to do the same for all existing drawings. Since use of the site goes back over 100 years, there were many paper drawings recording the changes to buildings, plant and foundations over those years - 100,000 to be precise.
…but not any more.
Up to the early 1990's, Shotton operated a totally paper-based system. All design work was carried out on drawing boards. Registration and indexing was manual. All master drawings were kept in a working archive. When changes were required, they were made to the original, which meant there was no way of returning to the previous version. Whilst CAD technology had been considered, it was not possible to adequately cost-justify the acquisition and use of the expensive and proprietary Unix-based systems that were the only choice at that time. PC-based CAD changed all that. Cost-justification was now possible with the result that a MicroStation CAD system was implemented, supplied by tsaADVET Limited. All new projects were designed on the system. However, current work was being completed manually and there was still the problem of the 100,000 paper drawings. The plant at Shotton runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year whilst the drawing office operates a single shift. The requirement for out-of-hours access to drawings was recognised and the emergence of affordable scanning and CD archiving technology was seen as one potential solution to making the drawing archive available 24 hours a day, all year round. The team called in their CAD suppliers, tsaADVET. The company looked at the problem as a whole, creating an innovative new solution. The result was a programme to scan 100,000 drawings, index them, create a set of CD ROMs and provide user access from 12 key locations. By providing the correct drawings at the correct release level, at the right location, any time of day or night, the risk of lost production because of delays in drawing availability would be all but eliminated. Without doubt, the solution worked, and worked well. So much so that there were more and more demands for access to the system, and delays were starting to occur. A way had to be found to provide more access points. Since there was already an intranet in place, why not provide access that way? If this could be achieved, the benefits would be tremendous. No more access problems, no special training to use the system, and only the minimum of extra hardware would be needed.
Making use of existing I.T. infrastructure.
CORUS and tsaADVET worked together to specify the system requirements. Access was provided through the CORUS local area network and the standard office desktop, using Internet Explorer, thus complying with company I.T. policy. The only extra hardware needed was a small number of A3 printers. A large-format printer was located in the engineering stores for 24-hour access from key locations. The system now comprises a raster-based component that handles the scanned drawings, and a vector-based system that handles the MicroStation drawings. The output of the system is subject to a formal publication-to-intranet process so that only the latest and approved drawing releases can be accessed, issued and printed. The dated print header on each printed drawing validates the life of the paper drawing at 30 days and ensures compliance with company QA procedures. Only in emergencies are drawings marked up by hand on site. In that case they are then returned to the drawing office for the master copy to be amended.
Spreading the benefits through the organisation.
There are already some 50 users of the system, with increasing demand for more. CORUS COLORS now has a system that has all but eliminated the risk and therefore the cost of errors through unavailability and loss of drawings and the use of the wrong release. Does the system work? Derek Wilkinson, manager of the Process Control and Automation Section of the Process Technology Department at CORUS COLORS comments " Yes, it most certainly does. The proof comes if the Intranet stops for some reason. Then the Drawing Office phone never stops ringing. Whist there were just 12 users before the intranet implementation, there are now over 50, with a current request to add eight more. There are additional benefits. The quality of the drawing stock is improving. The emergency changes that have been made to some of the drawings over the years are now being captured and recorded, preventing future errors and delays through the use of outdated drawings.” Wilkinson records further benefits: "We have greatly reduced our plant delays in 3 years, and CAB-I-NET has played a part in this, by giving our engineers access to engineering drawings 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. " The complete solution was designed by tsaADVET to the Shotton team's requirements. It is scaleable, and is already installed at CORUS locations at Scunthorpe, Teeside, Trostre, Ebbw Vale with other sites about to follow.
browser-based system gives round-the-clock round-the-globe access
CAB-I-NET integrates a browser-based user interface with document management, storage and retrieval technology and internet technology. It is a custom-built web application that uses Microsoft Internet Information Server and com components. Raster viewing is provided through CPCView from Cartesian Products Inc. It is a fully customisable solution that can extend document access to a wide community of users with the minimum of extra investment on hardware and I.T. infrastructure. Because it can run over existing intranets or suitably secured, over the internet, it is very easy to learn and use, and can be made available wherever a connection can be made. Site staff can access the system from a laptop and a mobile phone. It is that easy. CAB-I-NET is a vital tool for organisations needing to reduce costs and errors and meet project deadlines. CAB-I-NET provides easy-to-use 24-hour global access to accurate and up-to-date drawings and documents and avoids the potential problems associated with the current vogue for vendor-run project hosting sites. This makes it of particular value to companies that need to control their own costs, data and destiny
More information :
Telephone: +44 1244 680207
Author: John Marchant