Fast Apps News
November 1, 2009
By DE Editors
When automotive component supplier BorgWarner adopted next-generation information sharing technology, it created collaboration-enhancing knowledge management that boosted productivity and delivered quick ROI.
BorgWarner is a leading supplier of advanced automotive power-train components and systems. An outside provider hosted the company’s intranet and published its policies and procedures, employee benefits, and similar information. BorgWarner employees retrieved that information from as many as 50 disjointed intranet sites that differed worldwide in their look, feel, function, and content. The employees had a difficult time navigating through the sites collectively. They had to call or email peers to determine if specific content was current. Those responsible for posting information often re-created existing content because they didn’t know it already existed or couldn’t find it.
“Our intranet looked like a patchwork quilt—a static environment with information that was inconsistent, redundant, and often outdated,” says Sandra Short, Director of Enterprise Business Systems for BorgWarner.
Because engineers, marketers, and others lacked any sort of self-publishing capabilities with the hosted intranet, they had to go through a protracted, multiphase process to get their information posted. The company had to pay the intranet vendor every time it wanted to publish new information. “Most of the time, employees didn’t bother unless they were posting something like a long-term policy,” says Short. “We were paying for an expensive hosted environment that brought very little value to the company.”
To share information, the company’s many global engineering, research, and development teams had to rely on numerous conference calls, emails, and regular mail. Even within individual business units, collaboration often consisted only of separate spreadsheets for tracking progress. This system introduced significant complexities across teams, internal organizations, divisions, and time zones.
“People didn’t use the intranet to collaborate at all,” says Chuck Winkler, Manager of Web Applications for BorgWarner. “It was easy to get out of synch and suffer from version-control issues. We had no globally accessible place to store and retrieve documents. Shared drives were too cumbersome for people to get to and weren’t viable for all business units to share.”
BorgWarner employees repeatedly carried out many manual, time-consuming processes that the intranet did not support. For instance, the company’s 400 engineers, located at a single technical center, had to account for their time by project every two weeks. They had to print and fill out paper time sheets, use regular mail or physically deliver them to supervisors for approval, and then mail or deliver them to accountants at the company’s headquarters.
After the accountants received the time sheets, they spent about two days applying the costs to the appropriate project and determining who was eligible for overtime. “Eventually, one of our vice presidents marched me over to a stack of paper time sheets and stated, ‘These have got to go,’” says Short. “The entire process took more than 600 total hours of employee time per month and left the company open to data-entry errors.”
BorgWarner had other issues that it sought to resolve. The company’s extranet, like its intranet, provided static information that flowed in a single direction. There was, for example, no consistent, efficient way to capture data from and share performance evaluations with suppliers. Says Winkler, “Email was the tool of choice to collaborate and communicate with customers, suppliers, and partners, which led to version-control issues with documents. Our Global Supply Management Group wanted to enhance our two-way communication to build stronger relationships and a more successful supply chain.”
The company also wanted to put in place systems that would help it curb its growing storage needs, as well as be environmentally friendly. “I also had concerns with our IT environment because we were seeing data storage growth of 30% to 50% each year,” says Jamal Farhat, Vice President and Chief Information Officer for BorgWarner. “Finding a way to reduce that demand would have a huge impact on our future storage costs.”
BorgWarner decided to replace its existing fragmented intranet with a next-generation system that could satisfy a range of business needs. The new solution needed to serve as a knowledge management system that provided engineers, buyers, decision makers, and others with the ability to:
- Easily publish documents on the intranet
- Effectively search for documents and other information
- Collaborate and share documents among global groups
- Increase administrative productivity and reduce costs by automating tasks
- Foster closer communication with external parties
“I wanted a solution that could serve as our intranet, our extranet, and much more,” says Farhat. “We knew that bringing together all our knowledge and information in one searchable, accessible location would help us do things that we couldn’t do before.”
The company evaluated various portal software solutions and conducted a highly structured review, based on approximately 160 criteria, including portal and security features; collaboration, workflow, and search capabilities; pricing; and ease of use. “We performed a one-to-one comparison among a number of portal and content management vendors,” says Winkler.
BorgWarner chose a solution based on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007. “We ultimately chose to go with Office SharePoint Server 2007 because it satisfied all our criteria and we felt confident in its longevity in the market,” says Winkler.
In November 2006, BorgWarner used a prerelease version of Office SharePoint Server 2007 to begin developing its new knowledge management system. After determining a structure for all the intranet sites, the company deployed a soft launch in February 2007, during which the new intranet ran in tandem with the old one.
In April 2007, the company officially launched its new intranet, which it branded as the Information Collaboration Environment (ICE). The primary implementation team consisted of two people to create taxonomy, system configuration, and any needed customization. For this, BorgWarner engaged an outside consulting partner, CDW. The developers established a consistent look and feel throughout all the ICE sites but also provided local security control over each site’s content. “We created the structure for each business unit and plant level, and gave those entities ‘empty buckets’ to fill with their content,” says Hardeep Singh, Senior Software Engineer from CDW. An extended BorgWarner global Web collaboration team was and still is responsible for governance over each of the local sites across the world.
BorgWarner conducted initial training for ICE on a rolling, worldwide basis, breaking the training down into three training levels—basic, administrator, and advanced. The levels covered the intranet’s different layers of functionality, from navigating and searching for documents to self-publishing and developing new features. “The more our users learn about what they can do with ICE, the more valuable it is to them and to the company as a whole,” notes Short.
The company also created a site called ICE Tools, which includes training documents, announcements about new features, how-to videos for specific user tasks, and a discussion board, where users can post and respond to questions, problems, and issues they have encountered. Each time a user posts a question, the system alerts 30 to 40 administrators across the company, who then provide answers when they have experience to share.
BorgWarner uses its intranet for collaborative sites for its leadership councils. These are groups of geographically dispersed managers who hold specific leadership roles within different business units and come together to work on shared business strategies. They use ICE to set up their meetings, work through their agendas, produce documents, and capture the decisions made and action items determined. “The ICE sites are a dynamic, living environment in which the councils can continue to operate and house the knowledge that they develop in a visible, accessible place,” says Farhat.
The company first launched ICE in February 2007, with 856 sites; as of May 2009, the user community has helped ICE grow to more than 5500 sites, over 1 million searchable items, and 400 GB of storage. The intranet’s functionality allows users to search ICE metadata, documents, and nearly 1 TB of data on shared drives.
One department that has made considerable use of the new intranet is the Noise, Vibration, and Harshness (NVH) Group within the Morse TEC business unit, which serves other business units throughout the company. The NVH Group provides BorgWarner engineers and others with useful information and specific results from tests that the NVH group performs on their behalf.
John Skurka, NVH Engineering Supervisor for BorgWarner, recognized that the new intranet offered a better way to disseminate NVH test results. He put together an ICE site for his group’s internal customers that includes a classroom for training, audio file libraries, and test reports. The NVH group posts test results on the ICE site as soon as they become available.
“People used to call me or send email requesting information at least two or three times each week,” says Skurka. “Now engineers and others all over the world can go straight to our ICE site and retrieve their test results, feedback, and more without waiting for us to get back to them. It’s really valuable that our customers can obtain the necessary NVH information and answers to their questions when they need them.”
Skurka also decided that the workflow capabilities within Office SharePoint Server 2007 could help BorgWarner engineers with project decision making. Previously, engineers had to rely on email and telephone messages to contact all appropriate parties and get approval for engineering decisions. Those methods were cumbersome and time-consuming, particularly when engineers tried to collaborate across the globe.
In November 2008, Skurka helped the Morse TEC Engineering Processes Team release an application on ICE to automate and formalize the business units’ worldwide engineering sign-off (ESO) process. ESO uses workflow processes for document approval, takes advantage of scheduling and calendar functionality to coordinate meetings across time zones, and enforces version control. “ESO has been readily adopted throughout the world, and it helps us reduce the time that it takes to make engineering decisions,” says Skurka.
Figure 1. BorgWarner’s Engineering Processes Team created a new Engineering Design Guide that all the company’s engineers will refer to as they develop new products. The guide provides access to a Material Properties Database and a Technical Resouce Library. (Courtesy of BorgWarner)
Next up for the Engineering Processes Team is a new Engineering Design Guide that all engineers will need to refer to as they develop the company’s new products (Figure 1). The design guide will use the ICE to handle workflow processes.
BorgWarner’s Powertrain Technical Center now handles its time sheets for project time reporting through ICE. The company created an application on ICE that pulls project data—including work order and project numbers—from the company’s SAP enterprise resource planning system. The application then presents engineers with prepopulated electronic forms to fill out and send electronically through workflow processes to their supervisors from within the application. The supervisors can approve and submit the forms to the corporate accountants with a single click. If a supervisor rejects a time sheet, the application sends it back to its original owner.
On the back end of the time-sheet system, all the projects’ cost accounting is done automatically. The application takes the time that an individual engineer spends on a specific project and creates transactions that automatically post to the company’s SAP system.
The company also used Office SharePoint Server 2007 to establish an extranet, which it views as a critical means of communicating with outside partners. Known as ExtraICE, the extranet gives suppliers and other partners a single portal through which they can gather general BorgWarner information, supplier manuals, and performance scorecards. “ExtraICE represents a huge improvement—both parties can access, update, and post documents to the same location—and it has been very well received by our suppliers and partners,” says Winkler.
The company also developed various partner sites and supplier tools to help with product launches and program management. ExtraICE serves both as a portal for access to those tools and as a conduit for two-way communication, including uploading and downloading documents and providing a record of interactions with suppliers.
BorgWarner is using its new ICE to support more efficient productivity and collaboration while controlling costs. “As a result of implementing the ICE, we’ve improved the quality of our decision making enterprisewide. We’re no longer wasting time and resources redoing work. We collaborate far more efficiently and successfully. Our widespread knowledge is captured and stored. And we do all of this at an acceptable cost,” says Farhat.
Because BorgWarner now has a solution that makes it possible for designated users to easily publish new intranet content, the company is finding that more—and more up-to-date—information is making its way into the ICE. “With Office SharePoint Server 2007, the intranet has taken on a whole new level of importance at BorgWarner,” says Short. “Its information is more reliably up-to-date. It’s interactive. And employees can and do continually post information on it.”
Employees now have one place to put and find the latest information, making use of check-in/check-out functionality to enforce version control for greater accuracy. They also can use the solution to retrieve information from SAP and other back-end systems with a custom single-sign-on authentication mechanism that’s been integrated with the intranet.
The previous environment permitted users to search only the content that was on the company’s intranet. BorgWarner has extended its search capabilities beyond the intranet to include other areas of the business and other types of storage devices, along with contact information for people. “ICE far surpasses the capability of the intranet search that we had before,” says Winkler. “It’s much faster now for our engineers and others to find the information that they need to do their work. The ease and efficiency with which employees can gather information has made us more effective and productive as a company.”
For example, the human resources department within BorgWarner is working with other global business units to ensure that those units are communicating correct, consistent messages to employees, with current benefit, procedural, and other resource information.
BorgWarner now has a better way to support collaboration among its global groups. “As a company, we’ve always felt that collaboration contributes a great deal to our success,” says Farhat. “With employees in more than 18 countries and 60 sites around the world, making phone calls and sending email isn’t nearly as effective as the ICE, which has really accelerated our collaboration processes.”
Decreased Costs with Fast ROI
When BorgWarner implemented ICE, it provided better service and far more comprehensive functionality to its work force, yet the company’s costs fell. BorgWarner derived some of its savings from no longer having to pay hosting fees and from its new ability to self-publish content. “We’ve reduced the ongoing cost of our intranet environment by 64% per year,” says Short. “One of the beautiful things about this was that we were able to fund the entire project from the savings that we received by eliminating the costs of supporting our previous fragmented intranet.”
Adds Farhat, “We’ve already achieved the return on our investment. It took about a year to go from system selection through deployment, but as soon as we were up and running, we were able to shut down numerous servers that hosted the various distributed intranet sites, which eliminated the time and effort spent managing them and reduced our hosting fees. Plus, we’ve adopted a platform that makes it possible for us to do things at considerably lower cost than if we had to acquire separate supply chain or scorecard applications, for example.”
The savings don’t end there. For instance, BorgWarner estimates that its efficient new time-sheet process has helped it cut time-sheet costs by 50% because engineers, supervisors, and accounting staff are no longer bogged down with manual tasks.
The company also is saving on storage costs, thanks to its new content management functionality. “ICE is contributing to a nearly 15-fold reduction in the amount of storage that we need because users no longer share information through email attachments, which take up network storage,” says Farhat. “The intranet gives us the opportunity to share information without having to replicate everything on employees’ desktop computers and network drives.”
The implementation of ICE also has contributed to the company’s green initiatives by reducing its paper and energy consumption.
Easy Development for Innovative Use
BorgWarner employees are using the new intranet in creative ways to solve their own business problems. “On a regular basis, we learn of new, innovative ways that people in each of the functional areas are using the technology to improve job efficiency, collaboration, and so on,” says Short. “Engineers, financial people, and others keep astonishing us with what they’ve been able to do with the technology to assist in making their jobs easier.”
Engineers all over the globe use automated workflow processes to collaborate. “The key is that, in the majority of cases, engineers and other employees can develop tailored, useful ICE solutions with the tools provided because Office SharePoint Server 2007 is so similar to other Microsoft products that they already use,” says Short.
Better Partner Relationships
BorgWarner uses ExtraICE to publish monthly scorecards for its suppliers, who log on to the extranet to view their performance and identify areas for improvement. “With the new extranet solution, we can focus ourselves and our suppliers on delivering better service, higher quality, and reduced costs,” says Farhat.
For More Information
For more information about the Microsoft Office system, visit the company’s Web site. For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at 800-426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at 877-568-2495. Customers who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at 800-892-5234 in the U.S. or 905-568-9641 in Canada. Outside the U.S. and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, visit the company’s Web site.
For more information about CDW products and services, call 800-750-4239 or visit the company’s Web site.
For more information about BorgWarner products and services, call 248-754-9200 or visit the company’s Web site.
Organization Size: 14,000 employees
Organization Profile: Auburn Hills, MI–based BorgWarner manufactures components and systems for vehicle power-train applications and operates manufacturing and technical facilities in 60 locations, in 18 countries.
Business Situation: BorgWarner had a highly distributed, static intranet system that hampered communication and made it difficult to keep information up to date.
Solution: The company used Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 as the basis for an intranet/extranet strategy that supports collaboration and workflow processes, and makes it easy to share up-to-date information. A new extranet supports communication with outside partners.
- Increased collaboration and productivity
- More up-to-date, accurate information
- Decreased costs and fast return on investment
- Better partner relationships
Software and Services: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007
Vertical Industries: Automotive and Industrial Manufacturing Industry
Country/Region: United States