Do We Need Engineering Note App?

March 27, 2014

engineering-notes-app

Yesterday’s post about how engineers can collaborate in the office, made me think about another aspect of collaboration – taking notes. You may argue… Taking notes isn’t specifically collaborative activity. However, I can see it very tightly coupled with our ability to communicate and collaborate.

There are lots of applications for notes taking these days. Just to mention few of them – Evernote, OneNote, Word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and Google Docs. You can see a comparison of some popular applications here. Mobile is another interesting platform today for notes taking and it created a separate niche. Take a look here – Five best mobile note taking apps. Expanding even more, Evernote is transforming into platform and allows to other development specific note taking apps – The Best Evernote Apps for Organizing Even More of Your Life.

Do you think engineers are taking notes? I think, they do. I have to admit that I do… I also know few other engineers that taking notes. Now think about engineers using CAD systems and many other engineering and manufacturing applications. Do they need a special application to take notes? Maybe CAD should develop "note function"? Maybe new social collaboration tools will provide it? I don’t know. Nevertheless, I want to outline some specific functional requirements for engineering notes app:

1- Engineering context support. When you take notes, you want to be able to capture snippet of a specific content coming from CAD and maybe other engineering content creation tools (analysis, bill of materials, etc.)

2- Integrated camera for 3D, photo, voice and video capturing. It is very important to be able to capture real world content. Engineers can take this app to field trips or use it at shop floor. Ability to take photo, video or even capturing 3D model is extremely useful.

3 – Integrated measurement tools. Measurement is another aspect of engineering activity. To have ability to take measurement in the field or check dimensions can be extremely important.

What is my conclusion? There are lots of general purpose application for taking notes. Nevertheless, I think, customization is important. To have note taking app tailored for the needs of engineers can be an interesting option. Especially, if this app will support a specific engineering context. If you know one, please let me know. I didn’t find it yet. How to make this app? This is a tricky question. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg


PLM, Engineers and Collective Memory

January 24, 2013

Many years ago, one of my mentors told me that "the worst pencil is better than the best memory". I liked it. Since than, I have no trust in remembering things. I started to take notes. I switched to be completely paperless 4-5 years ago. The biggest problem on my way to become completely paperless was the ability to capture information at the time you need it coming from multiple sources. Finally, iPhone and combination of apps allowed me to create an environment where I can keep track of my activities and get access to this at any time.

Engineering people are bad organized (please, don’t take it personally). Processes and work planning are not going well with engineers designing and creating new products. Companies tried to create innovation process management software, but in my view it was very unsuccessful. At the same time, I can see a need of engineers to capture information alongside their everyday activities.

One of the products I’m using to capture the information on a daily basis is Evernote. It supports many ways to capture notes using web and mobile versions including capturing of videos, pictures, website links and many others. Combined with search function, it helps to keep things organized. Evernote is not alone in this market. Two additional notable companies in this space – Clipboard and Snip.it. The last one was snatched by Yahoo few days ago. Watch the following two videos if you are not using similar products in your life.

From Personal to Collective Memory

I found a total absence of tools that can help engineers to capture their everyday working activities. Of course, engineers are not prohibited from usage of Evernote, Google and many other tools. At the same time, one of the key elements in capturing the activity is contextual relationships to information. In case of Evernote, it is photo, voice memos, videos, etc. To make engineering and design context capturing can be an interesting opportunity, in my view. They key element is efficiency. Engineers won’t tolerate even additional 30 secs of their working time. However, to memorize design idea, concept or decision can be extremely powerful.

The next interesting step can come with the ability to provide information around a particular item, drawing, product, customer, etc. collected by different people in organization. Such type of clipboards can become a sort of collective memories. The potential value can be significant – lost ideas, forgotten decisions, potential customer problems and many others.

What is my conclusion? Our memory is not efficient. To be able to capture information around engineering and design activity is still very untapped place. Usability is a key. Vendors can learn from tools like Evernote and others how to create a tool you can use in your everyday life in any environment. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Image courtesy of [keattikorn] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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