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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

NovaCentrix' Cloud Strategy: An interview with Brian Hunter, Manager of Quality Control at NovaCentrix

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CIMdata's Vice President, Stan Przybylinski, recently spoke to Brian Hunter, Manager of Quality Control at NovaCentrix, who has taken a lead role in the company’s cloud PLM deployment.

Let's find out!

First, some background.

NovaCentrix ( is the leading provider of photonic curing tools, conductive inks, and materials expertise that helps customers develop and produce next generation printed electronic devices. The company’s headquarters is in Austin, TX.

What are some of the key product development/innovation issues faced by your company?

NovaCentrix is in a unique position. Our patents and trade secrets allow us to address problems that others cannot. We are a small company of about 100 people and are very concerned about the security of our intellectual property. As a result, while the cloud has some appeal, all of our IP is managed on-premise using Autodesk Vault and the environment is currently against cloud-based solutions. That said, we have a lot of product and business issues that can benefit from a solution like Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle.

We are currently working on an exciting project in additive manufacturing that will require more partnering and information sharing. This collaboration will likely create the need to include other tools, including cloud-based tools, as part of our computing environment.

Do you have any programs/initiatives in place to address these issues? E.g., digitalization.

While we don’t have an initiative, we have used Fusion Lifecycle to digitalize a lot of our business, getting people off email attachments and Microsoft Excel and into processes more structured around data.

What is the role of cloud in your current enterprise software landscape? Do you use other cloud-based solutions (ERP, CRM, SCM)?

Because IP is crucial our firm is very worried about security and vehemently anti-cloud. Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle and Fusion 360 are the only cloud solutions we currently use. Most of our IP is stored in Autodesk Vault. We are starting an implementation of Fishbowl Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). How the two will work together is being defined.

What are the challenges in selling cloud-based PLM internally?

Because of the heavy resistance, it took over five years to get the company to consider cloud-based solutions from Autodesk. We have a handful of Fusion 360 seats, but not being able to store drawings in the cloud makes it hard to get much value. We can do some view and markup. We also have about 15 Autodesk Vault users and Fusion Lifecycle is seen as the “experimental child.” So far, the experiment has been a great success.

Having small visible successes has helped sell the system internally. For example, we had a situation recently that would have taken days to answer that now took hours. We had a compatibility issue with the components in four of our systems. Compatibility concerns are a significant concern because we work with specialized high-power equipment that is custom ordered by our clients. One of our custom Fusion Lifecycle workspaces is designed to perform a final checkout of the system. Our system caught the incompatibility issues based on a series of coded checks and balances to ensure the proper parts were installed in the proper system. Previously, we might not have caught this error until after the system shipped and posted a failure, resulting in lost man-hours and diminished confidence in product quality. We were able to secure the error made on the production floor before the impact was felt externally.

After two years of using Fusion Lifecycle across our business the system has built up a lot of data on our business that has proved invaluable.

What challenges/issues do you face? Concerns like security, bandwidth, data lock in, managing hybrid environments; possibly migration.

We discussed security earlier. Even in that regard, Fusion Lifecycle showed its value to the company. The company had a “ransomware” incident last year. Much of the company had issues, but all of our Fusion Lifecycle data was fully backed up and restored easily. If done correctly, cloud-based solutions can actually be more secure than our on-premise solutions. In another case, our PLM database got corrupted. Autodesk does backups, so we just called Autodesk and got it restored. People said it was a nice feature to have.

What is your general timeline for deployment? What benefits/positive aspects of cloud-based PLM do you expect?

While my job is in quality control, I have a skill in filling needed gaps in processes. Applying Autodesk Fusion Lifecycle to these issues helps me be the good guy in those situations. We are leveraging Autodesk’s applications as much as we can. I am no coder, I am a Chemical Engineer by training, but I can take the out-of-the-box (OOTB) applications and tailor them to meet our needs. I have been working behind the scenes using Fusion Lifecycle to support our processes for two years.

We have been using Fusion Lifecycle for over two years and today virtually every employee at the company uses the system, with 80% using it regularly. We have created a number of workflows to support different parts of the company. Anything that we used to do with email and spreadsheets is a candidate to be replaced with a process on Fusion Lifecycle. With Fusion Lifecycle, it is easy to develop something that can be readily updated in the future. It helps to give our users space to change their minds.

We are using Fusion Lifecycle in very unique ways. From tracking experimental data to analyzing cost reductions, NovaCentrix has created a platform that is custom tailored to our daily needs. We have several workspaces designed to track the progress of production efforts and are also using the CRM features of Fusion Lifecycle to notify us to contact potential clients. Because of the secretive nature of our business, our customers have code names that are known by our staff but not in the system. We do not want to put in any customer information that would point to a customer location, for instance.

We also use Fusion Lifecycle to order internal and external parts. The processes do not include transmission of IP – there is no integration between Fusion Lifecycle and Vault – but that leaves many other areas where we can have a real impact. Users are spread across our chemistry lab, reactor, production floor, inventory, sales and marketing – and these users want to use it more. Inventory and production use it the most. Production gets everything they need from Fusion Lifecycle except the IP; they use Vault to get that.

To date, Fusion Lifecycle has survived as a standalone system. We are not using Jitterbit, for example, to link to Vault. We are hoping to add that connection in the future. We just need a few more fires that Fusion Lifecycle can put out.


I look forward to hearing your comments.


Stan Przybylinski

For more information on Stan visit.

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