How we helped an engineering firm to automate processes and overcome bottlenecks.

Peritas Group is a structural and civil engineering company with headquarters in Perth and a recently-opened office in Melbourne. The Group is involved in major projects from residential estates and apartment towers to theme parks and ports.

Business Challenge

To maintain ISO certification, engineering firms need to document quality assurance processes, including peer review of technical documents. These important documents require sign-offs from all key personnel before implementation, with bottlenecks forming if anyone is taking too long to review and approve.

Chasing up people to sign off on documents was a time-consuming task and the opening of a second office on the other side of the country also necessitated a more sophisticated document sharing system.

The solution

Bremmar’s IT Consultant for Engineering and the Microsoft 365 Productivity Specialist met with key stakeholders from the Peritas Group. We then began carefully investigating processes and requirements in detail with the Peritas project champions, Karen Jordan and Kim Stanes, to identify the important wants, needs and pain points.

Our solution involved a combination of Microsoft 365 apps, including setting up advanced document management and cloud-based collaboration on the Microsoft SharePoint platform, and automation of the document review process using Power Automate, previously known as Microsoft Flow.

Bremmar migrated Peritas’ Project Delivery and Document Management Library to SharePoint. We worked with Karen to develop a relevant meta tagging solution for a more intuitive approach for staff to search and find useful documents.

Power Automate was also integrated to automate the approval/edit requests for document templates.

Power Automate sends automated alerts and reminders to action approvals, which saves the Peritas team a lot of chasing-up time and keeps projects moving swiftly.

The results

By automating several workflows, Bremmar removed as many manual processes as possible to save time and minimise human error.

Karen Jordan commented, “The automation has significantly cut our workload in the whole review process. After some hands-on brainstorming sessions with Bremmar, they also showed us how to tag documents, which makes searching much more intuitive and so much faster.” 

The SharePoint solution has increased data retention for Peritas and has improved version control within the organisation. As SharePoint uses meta data to help people find the file they seek instantly, it allows Peritas staff to be more productive and collaborate on the same documents simultaneously.

Karen added, “I found Matt (IT consultant for Engineering), Karl (Microsoft 365 Productivity Specialist) and the rest of the team a pleasure to deal with. As a bonus, Bremmar hosts free Brekkie Power Hour demonstrations to show how other Microsoft Suite solutions integrate with the SharePoint platform. Very handy to see how these could be adapted for our business.”

How can we help you?

If you’d like to know more about SharePoint, automation and productivity solutions, or to get a better understanding of our specialist experience in the engineering and mining industries, why not set up an introductory chat? Call us on 1300 991 351 to arrange a chat or email help@bremmar.com.au

To find out more about Peritas Group, visit https://www.peritasgroup.com.au

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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Key points out of Brekkie Power-Hour event: Office 365, OneDrive and SharePoint – Your cloud platform for the future.

On Wednesday 14/08/19, we had our Brekkie Power-Hour event called: Office 365, OneDrive and SharePoint, your cloud platform for the future which was focused on the Engineering and Mining industries.

We had a full house with many different companies getting together to explore how to get the most out of their Office 365 subscription.

The goal of the event was to present the main features within the Intranet and Document Management components of SharePoint. Eloise Claffey, our SharePoint and Power Platform guru, nailed it and got the information across through demos and real industry examples.

If you missed out or it was a lot to take in, it’s OK! We’ll dig into the main points covered today.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is not a single application that performs a primary function, like Dropbox. It is a powerful platform, providing many different and complex functions in a similar way that Google does. Some businesses use it for their website, for intranet, for their document management system, for their business knowledge base and so on.

At its heart, SharePoint is a website, or portal. It could be a single site with a homepage that links to different areas for documents, news or communications. It may be a site collection with several child sites underneath a parent site for separating the different areas of a business. In our experience, SharePoint works best when it reflects how your business works now or intends to work in their planned future.

Getting started…

Very often, staff will start their day at the intranet homepage. This landing page can be very simple, perhaps showing a search box and navigation to particular documents. Or it might provide company-wide information and communication, as well as commonly used links to things like policies and procedures, or web-based resources such as AutoCAD.

A good SharePoint design should be intuitive to move around and find things within. If it’s not easy to use, people will find a way not to use it. If it is well designed, it can also help staff, particularly new starters, understand the shape of your business, and how areas interact with each other.

What can I store in SharePoint?

SharePoint can store many different and complex types of information, such as office documents, images, audio, videos and links that are stored elsewhere on the web.

As you can see from the example above, there’s a Word document, A PowerBI report, a Visio diagram, a PDF, an e-mail and so on.

Lists

Another kind of information you can store in SharePoint is lists, so pieces of information that are not attached to a document file. A simple example is an asset register for the company or a specific project. Lists can also be used as calendar events or companies’ directories.

Tailored document management

There are two common ways to handle documents; using folders or moving towards flat files with metadata.

Folders

Folders are a familiar and traditional way to group and organise documents and they can be replicated in SharePoint libraries.

For business users, this makes it easy to look down into the deeper levels and find what they are looking for. However, it can also present a challenge for people from other teams, or new starters. They may not know the common paths or understand the meaning of the folder names that they are searching, and Windows Explorer can be slow and not produce the expected result.

In Bremmar-led projects, we have found that folders are more successful in the following situations:

  • When a business has a well-structured folder system where it is already very easy for everyone to find documents
  • When a business uses very few documents and it is suitably efficient to look through folders manually for information
  • When a business can adequately find their documents searching on well-structured title or filename

Folders can also be used as a temporary measure when:

  • Moving away from aging on-premise servers immediately to avoid an expensive replacement.
  • When taking an incremental approach to change because the business operations cannot support major change and training without affecting output. This is recommended for companies whose users can handle a healthy amount of technological change and adaptation, as this continuous change is spread over a much longer period of time.

Metadata

A more powerful way to use SharePoint is through metadata. By taking your files out of folders, you can label each document with extra information (metadata) to classify them instead of only having folder and file names. This approach gives you a lot of flexibility in seeing your information, whereas folders is a set configuration.

The pieces of metadata are not a part of the document content but are extra pieces of information that provide more clues on what the document is about and relates to.

Besides making documents easier to find, the real value of metadata comes from combining different data to improve the overall experience for users and making document search a more intuitive task.

In the example above, the metadata is the HSEQ Topic, the Document Type, date Modified and Modified By as they explain what the document is about.

Governance

SharePoint can help your business with governance and document compliance.

Permissions

SharePoint permissions can be set up so that the staff are able to view all public information, while any sensitive data can be organised and locked to specific groups of people

You may want to provide or restrict user access to the site or its contents. For example, you might want to provide access only to members of your team, or you might want to provide access to everyone, but restrict editing for some.

The most common permissions model is an open model which all staff are able to view all public information such as the homepage and common libraries. Any sensitive data, like Payroll and employee personal information, can be separately stored and locked to specific groups of people.

Some companies prefer a closed model, where most data should not be viewed by everyone. This could be true of a joint venture that is running several projects, but with different companies and stakeholders. Letting all users see all the content could be a conflict of interest, so a closed model is appropriate here.

Version control

SharePoint will by default keep versions of your files. This allows you to track the history of a version knowing when a file has been changed and by whom; restore a previous version if you made a mistake or prefer what you had before; or simply view a previous version without overwriting your current version.

You can track Major versions, identified by whole numbers, like 1.0 onwards or can include minor versioning, identified by decimal numbers, such as 1.1 and so on.

Minor versioning is most often used when an approval workflow is needed, such as updating a policy for staff. The published last major version is what the majority of staff sees. A couple of people might edit the document and collaborate, creating versions 1.1, 1.2, etc as they make changes and review. These draft versions are only visible to the people who have access to edit this. Once ready, they pass the document to their manager to approve. If it is approved, the document is published as a major version 2.0 and this is the document now available to all staff.

In more advanced situations, alerts and delegation of tasks in this approval workflow might be automated with Flow, sending emails to the right people at the right time with relevant information.

Automation

This is done in SharePoint through Microsoft Flow which automates workflows across different apps, such as automatically copy folders added to Dropbox to OneDrive, Save your Tweets with specific hashtags to a SharePoint list, approve a document with your manager and so on. Read more on flow here.

Co-authoring

In SharePoint, co-authoring enables multiple users to work on a document, at any time, without interfering with each other’s changes. You can co-edit documents in:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • OneNote

The productivity gains and efficiencies of the collaboration process when multiple people are working on a document are huge.  Imagine removing the need for the person to save the file, make changes, attach it in an email, the recipient opens it, makes changes, saves it again, attaches it, send it back.

With co-authoring, you speed up that process, minimise room for errors and the risk of duplication.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • how much effort and time does it take to work together on a file?
    • time spent for a whole process of collaboration – sending emails back and forth.
    • how easy is it to find the latest version?

Wrapping up…

If you are on Office 365, you probably already have access to all of the features shown. Everything covered on the event was only the foundation for future cloud opportunities, as we haven’t yet touched on Power BI, PowerApps, Dynamics 365 or even the many other features in the SharePoint space itself.

If you would like a more personalised introduction to SharePoint or the Office 365 suite, here some of the areas we can help with:

  • Demos: Personalised demos & intro workshops related to your industry and business reality – Click here to read more
  • Small consultation sessions: Together, we’ll prepare a feasibility/business case to help you get started
  • Expert for a day: Get specific expertise from “SP Implementation Expert” pay per day block
  • Managed services support to apps: Full user support on the Office 365 stack and productivity apps like SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, etc.
  • User training: We can teach your staff on how to use newer technology to perform daily tasks and help with overall business adoption
  • The whole lot: From consultation to planning, implementation and support, we can help with your entire project requirements.

If you would like to discuss any of the topics above, please call us in for a chat on 1300 991 351 or fill in the form below and our consultants will get in touch with you!

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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How an engineering consultant company benefits from a trusted, ongoing IT partnership

When engineering and project delivery consultants Engenium engaged Bremmar for two small IT projects back in 2013, they had no idea that it would be just the start of an ongoing support relationship that continues to this day.

Business Challenge:

While many organisations engage IT partners for specific projects, Engenium’s IT administrator Scott Bowles was looking for an IT company that could provide ongoing support on an as-needs basis.

“Our relationship with Bremmar began in 2013 when we were looking into a web filter appliance, as well as needing technical assistance with network routing issues over our VPN,” he says. “We picked Bremmar initially because they were easy to talk to, understood our concerns and provided some real-world advice.”

From that point, Bremmar became Engenium’s go-to provider for escalation.

“I’m pretty comfortable with most of Engenium’s IT support and development requirements, but I occasionally need that extra bit of help with some of the more technical and complicated scenarios,” says Scott.

These scenarios included needing to upgrade ESXi and VCenter without it impacting on staff, and the AD hybrid integration with Office 365 and Azure.

“Managing the whole environment doesn’t allow me much extra time for testing new technologies. So I rely on the experience of Bremmar, who have usually dealt with the issues that I often come across.” – Scott Bowles, Engenium

The Solution

Two recent major infrastructure upgrades provide just one example of how Bremmar has been able to help Engenium with ongoing IT issues.

“We replaced our server hardware in Perth and Newcastle, which meant we had two separate projects a few months apart,” says Scott.  “We considered other providers, but cost-wise Bremmar were competitive and because of the relationship and trust we have with them, as well as their excellent technical skills, we used them to do the implementation.”

Both projects were successful, went as planned with minimal downtime, and barely any impact on staff.

The Results

Scott says there are a number of benefits to working with Bremmar.

  • Trust – Being able to rely on Bremmar has allowed him to feel confident when proposing IT solutions to Engenium. “This, in turn, enables us to provide better support to staff, knowing that the advice I give is applicable in real-world situations,” he says.
  • Honesty and flexibility – Bremmar always offer the best solution to a specific problem, even if it sometimes isn’t the cheapest. When budget limitations prevent Scott from using a particular solution, Bremmar will help work out an alternative, cheaper solution, without comprising either security or functionality.
  • Advice – “Bremmar not only do what they say they’ll do, but they’ll also offer advice in other areas if they come across something of concern even if it’s not a part of the current project,” he says. He finds this advice useful in terms of the overall picture of managing offices across Australia

Assistance that’s always available

“Even though we aren’t a fully outsourced services client, Bremmar are always available when we need them, for either urgent assistance or to schedule in specialist support,” says Scott.

“Because I’m managing a 200-user environment across several states, it’s comforting to know that I can rely on Bremmar to ‘drop what they’re doing’ to assist whenever required, and provide guidance in a particular area,” he says.

HOW CAN WE HELP YOU?

As a trusted partner in the mining and engineering sector, Bremmar can be used for ongoing IT support as well as for help with major projects. If your internal IT department needs ad hoc support call us on 1300 991 351 to arrange a chat or email enquiries@bremmar.com.au

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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Disruptive technologies in the Engineering industry and how to prepare for them

Disruptive technologies that you aren’t prepared for have the potential to see your engineering company go from a thriving operation to scrambling for new business and to keep existing clients. 

Don’t let that be your future. Here’s how to keep up to date and remain on top in business.

What are disruptive technologies? 

Disruptive technologies are any tech advancements that pose a threat to your core business, whether it’s the service that you offer, your current competitive advantage, your workflows, or even the way that you interact with customers or potential customers. 

When disruptive technology comes along and you’re unprepared for it, then your business can be on the verge of obsoletion almost overnight.  

The often rolled out example is Uber’s technology platform that allowed (almost) anyone with a car to become a taxi driver, with easy connection to riders. The smooth platform was a breath of fresh air for car-riding customers used to clunky taxi apps, and suddenly the high-cost of state-issued taxi licenses dropped dramatically. 

Main disruptive technologies in Engineering 

Artificial intelligence 

How many of your current systems have AI or machine learning currently baked in? Maybe you have a chatbot for your website or Facebook account. Perhaps you already leverage Microsoft Power BI. While these are great starts when it comes to AI in your business systems, these are products that are available to just about any business. You’re unlikely to feel disruption with these sorts of products (unless you’re at least keeping up or ahead of the competition by implementing them). 

The disruptive factor comes into play when you don’t fully examine the capabilities of AI for use in your design and manufacture activities. When machine learning is capable of designing a wide range of engineering projects in a fraction of the time it takes a human, your billable hours over the competition (with these solutions in place) will seem staggering.  

Keep tabs on what’s available in commercial AI design tech, or chat with an AI service provider to analyse your current design systems and see where innovative solutions can be built in. As for the manufacturing side, automated robots to build your projects will be a key financial outlay to remain progressive. 

3D printing 

3D printing isn’t exactly a new technology. In fact, the tech has been around since the 1980s. However, it’s only in the past 10 or so years that 3D printing has become standard across the engineering industry. You probably have one or more machines around that are used to print smaller components on. 

However, as the range of materials available for printing, the size of printers, and the ease of CAD to printer interactions expands, and the cost of ownership decreases, the more we’ll see 3D printing used on massive-scale projects.  

To stay ahead of the curve, you need to keep a close eye on 3D printable materials and how they can be utilised in your projects (or substituted for current similar materials), the capabilities of newly released larger (and smaller) printers, and determining where they can fit into your design process, whether it be simply for to-scale models or proof-of-concept deliverables, through to actual production for the field. 

Alternative Energies 

Depending on your current field of engineering, alternative energies has the potential to be a huge disruptor to business. Many WA engineering companies are in the oil and gas or mining industries. However, with the slow move towards renewable energies, these types of operations and industries may also start to slow. 

Solar, wind, hydroelectric, ocean energy, etc. are all alternate sources of energy that don’t deplete the natural environment. While many companies may think they’re safe for the minute as there’s always an overseas buyer, this may not be the case in the future. 

The solution? It’s time to start moving towards a hybrid service offering with engineering for both traditional and renewables. This involves thorough investigation of trends, injection of new talent, and looking at the market available to you for business forecasting. Yes, it might be time to pivot your operations. 

Recognising and responding to digital disruption 

To save your company from being disrupted by emerging technology, the key is to stay informed and act on critical information. 

This means keeping tabs on emerging technologies not just within the engineering field, but as a whole. For instance, did you realise that AWS have released live-streaming video with automatic multi-language subtitling? This gives businesses the potential to work with partners they’d never be able to before. 

It’s a talent to sift through emerging technologies and determine which ones have the potential to disrupt your business operations. You can help automate the process by things like signing up to emer-tech newsletters, setting up Google Alerts, reading Google/Amazon/Microsoft news, and even digging into particular journals. However, all this takes time and an analytic eye. Having a dedicated or PT staff member on hand to brief your CTO about their findings is a clever move – as is actually implementing some of the solutions before you realise the effects of disruption. 

We understand the Engineering industry 

Emerging technologies keep changing and challenging the way businesses work and operate. At Bremmar, we relate well to the Engineering industry as we are also impacted by newer technologies constantly disrupting our industry, business and clients. We must continually learn and evolve  new technologies and test them so we can use them as our competitive advantage rather than fall behind. 

As a Perth-based technology service provider, we can help your business implement IT solutions to prepare and support these ever changing technologies ensuring you stay current in the industry. Contact us on 1300 991 351 today to learn how we can help your business or fill in the form below.

Get an initial consultation with Bremmar!

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Why digital transformation is essential for Perth Engineering companies to remain competitive

Digital transformation is a buzzword you might have heard a lot lately. This transformational process is an overhaul of culture, processes, and technology infrastructure, leveraging cloud technology, unlocked siloed data, and analytics. It can save resources, rocket efficiency, and get you ahead of the competition – if implemented and practiced strategically.

What does digital transformation look like for an Engineering company?

Engineering companies may already have built in their own set of automation and systems workflows to help unlock data and reduce manual processes. When we come to companies like yours, this is what we often see – the practice of engineering is already baked into many systems, although it’s often conducted on an ad hoc basis.

What we encourage companies like this to do is take this practice and implement it more holistically. Instead of creating automated workflows on a case-by-case basis, we want to encourage an overarching strategy that not only redesigns all systems and workflows across the company for increased efficiency but can be followed in a repeatable manner when new systems come online or changes are made to existing infrastructure.

Your overarching digital transformation strategy may involve key goals such as:

  • Single source of data truth, removing double ups across software, improving data integrity
  • Highly organised digital work areas, by project or team
  • Built to be collaborative; including the ability to easily work with external vendors
  • Industry, safety, and digital compliance built in to systems
  • File versioning, with the ability to fork files
  • Files more readily available; in the office or off-site, on any device
  • Intelligent search across areas and functions
  • Automated workflows to remove manual processes
  • Fast conversion of physical sketches to digital versions of documents
  • Highly secure with different policies for different user groups

What are the key pillars to ensure a successful digital transformation?

As we mentioned previously, to successfully implement digital transformation and then ensure its success is ongoing, you need to change culture, processes, and technology infrastructure.

Culture

The culture part of the equation comes from successful leadership, strategy, and employee training. Organising a dedicated company function (in the form of management dedicated to digital transformation and strategy, working groups, and board advocates) is the first step. Developing solid strategy that can be refined over time by these leaders ensures you stay up to date with best practices in automation, AI, innovative software, and systems. Employee training and empowerment in these new processes ensures ownership at all levels, with a feedback loop from staff on the ground that can benefit leaders and strategy.

Processes

For processes, it involves careful examination of all your existing workflows, both digitized and manual, and seeing where efficiency gains can be made. This can, not surprisingly, take some time. Rather than doing this in a function-by-function manner, seeing where single source/s of truth can be placed first is a good start – then you can work function by function to connect systems.

Technology infrastructure

Taking a look at technology infrastructure might just be the easy part of the equation. Hopefully you have a register of existing on-site, off-site, and cloud systems, software, networking, and access capabilities – or can create a register for evaluation. From here, finding outdated infrastructure and workflows can lead towards a more up-to-date infrastructure design that is also more futureproof.

Take the advice of PwC if you want to be successful in your digital transformation strategy:

“Companies moving forward on a digital transformation are well advised to take an enterprise-wide view during the planning and prioritizing process if they hope to fully align their investments to their overall digital strategy.”

How can engineering companies measure digital transformation success?

When talking about digital transformation, it pays to shift not only your practices but your mindset about metrics.

CIO magazine notes some KPIs that can help track your company’s’ digital transformation success. These include items such as:

  • “The number of staff identified as “digital citizens,” those who casually consume technology, to “digital disruptors,” who conceive of and champion changes in business processes”
  • Number of connected IoT devices and sensors
  • Consumption of internal and external APIs
  • Cybersecurity posture
  • Client uptake of digital channel use (including chatbots) rather than traditional communications such as phone and email

In tandem with developing your digital transformation strategy or roadmap, you can develop these KPIs – each company’s will be unique.

Remember, that to measure the effect of digital transformation, you should collect these metrics before undergoing the process, for your benchmark.

Let’s talk strategy

Let’s start your digital transformation journey. Sit down with our experts in technology for the Engineering industry to embark on developing a strategy for your company’s digital transformation. We can analyse your current systems and culture and collaboratively find the perfect fit for starting your journey, through to lifecycle rollout, and ongoing support.

We aren’t just software technology partners – we are strategic partners. And we can be there to ensure you are successful in your technological evolution. Check here the Engineering IT services we offer and contact us now on 1300 351 991 or fill in the form below to set up a meeting and learn more.

Book a consultation to discuss your Engineering IT needs!

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