Schneider Electric is a global specialist in energy management and automation with more than 180 years of history and innovation. With billions of dollars in annual revenues and over 120,000 employees across 100+ countries, Schneider Electric offers world-leading integrated energy and automation solutions that drive efficiency and sustainability for all.
Industry: Industrial Equipment
Using CoLab since: 2021
Use case: Design Review
How Schneider Electric lowered Non-Quality Cost by 15% in their first year of using CoLab
Schneider Electric’s EcoFit Canada team had a legacy paper-based process for doing peer checks and wanted to replace it with a more robust, digital approach.
The EcoFit team (which includes both electrical and mechanical engineers) does custom design work for power equipment like switchgears, switchboards, and breakers. Peer checks are used in the final design stages to review and collaborate on each other’s work before sharing it with other teams and departments. Before CoLab, these peer reviews were tracked on paper.
“The process prior to CoLab was heavily reliant on paper. It was very manual,” describes Ivan Filipic, Director of EcoFit Canada. “It used to work when our team was all local. But once we started to get team members outside of our main location and people working from remote locations, that's when the process was no longer feasible. They’d need to do it on paper and scan it in, to send it. It really was a headache to do that and actually get it done.”
Although the engineering team all have access to the same 3D tools, there were still challenges even just collaborating within their own team. Despite keeping a paper record of peer checks, many of the actual conversations and decisions happened over emails or in meetings — making them harder to track and trace (especially without adding more administrative burden).
“Before CoLab, there was no history of the communication, nothing to let us know who confirmed what.”
“Before CoLab, the issue with peer reviews wasn’t the viewing of the models. It was more about the collaboration,” observes Ali Shojaei, Engineering Manager. “There was no history of the communication, nothing to let us know who confirmed what.”
Naturally, the Schneider team began looking into what functionality was available with their existing tech solutions. “We did start sharing files and 3D models across the network. We started to use what we could,” says Filipic. “Even right now, the best 3D CAD/PLM tools that we have — they have an option to open up and make notes and annotate and whatnot. But it's very cumbersome. To add a note in 3D software, there are a number of steps that you need to do.”
Not only was it cumbersome, it was only an option for those with access and knowledge to engineering-specific tools. “You need to be very good with that tool to be able to provide that feedback within it,” Filipic points out. “Only highly-trained people that are very familiar with the tool can really do it. That was the limiting factor.”
So, without a more effective way to share 3D designs with collaborators outside the engineering team, engineers had to spend valuable time converting models into drawings.
Yet as Filipic puts it, “Traditional 2D drawings of a 3D design are not very good. You need to provide a lot of different views for somebody to understand your design, which extends the whole engineering process. You need to have a drawing for this view, and that view, and this view, and that one — instead of just having the 3D model and going over that.”
Even 3D drawings aren’t an adequate substitute for models. “Most of the time a 3D drawing has so many limitations that people can’t actually use it,” notes Filipic. “You need to look at multiple drawings to get what you need, especially as questions go back and forth between engineering and production. So there’s a lot of waste in that process.”
Ultimately the EcoFit team realized it was time to rethink their peer check process.
“I did not like it, and I thought we could do better,” explains Filipic. “I knew that we had a problem, but I didn't know about CoLab itself. So we were basically experimenting with other stuff, like Creo View. That was slightly better than paperwork, but it had a lot of limitations as well.”
That’s when Schneider Electric first came across CoLab.
Once the Schneider team began looking into CoLab, it seemed to be the exact solution they needed.
“We figured out that CoLab would basically resolve our issues and get us off the paperwork and the manual process, to something more digital,” Filipic recalls. “Not only would this satisfy our immediate needs, but also it would open up new opportunities for the organization.”
“Before: I’d go to the job folder, open the STEP file or ask them to email me the STEP file, then open it with my 3D tool, get a screenshot, and send emails. With CoLab, this is a process that’s now simpler."
The way Shojaei describes it: “CoLab is a collaboration environment that moves the old system of paperwork aside and brings in new ways for the team to collaborate.”
Although introducing any new tool or workflow can come with challenges, Schneider Electric was confident that adopting CoLab would be worth it. “It’s another process, and normally people don't like change and new processes,” admits Shojaei. “But we knew that, at the same time, we were trying to reduce the other processes and the paperwork.”
“With the paper-based peer checks, we had papers to fill in and sign and stuff,” Shojaei continues. “Now we’ve brought all those checkpoints and everything to CoLab. So we have everything digital and we don't need to do things on paper.”
Beyond digitizing their peer checks, adopting CoLab has also simplified how the EcoFit team shares, reviews, and collaborates on design work in general. “Before: I’d go to the job folder, open the STEP file or ask them to email me the STEP file, then open it with my 3D tool, get a screenshot, and send emails,” describes Shojaei. “With CoLab, this is a process that’s now simpler. Once they put it there, I get a notification from CoLab that a file has been uploaded. Then I can just go in quickly, have a look, pinpoint any issues, and make comments right on it.”
That’s been particularly useful for senior leaders to stay connected to day-to-day engineering operations with minimal time and effort. “I’m copied on a lot of these designs. And even though I'm no longer actively managing the engineering, I still open up and take a look,” Filipic explains. “With CoLab, I can actually see what's going on. I can see the quality of work, the quality of designs. I can provide my comments as well, and easily have people follow up and action it.”
It’s also simpler to share design files with anyone who needs to review them, since CoLab is accessed right in your web browser.
“The beauty of CoLab is that you don't need to download any special software application. It's cloud-based, so you just need to get your login ID and it’s done,” remarks Filipic. “Any computer that we have right now, it doesn't need to be engineering specs or heavy duty or anything like that. Any computer can do it. That’s the beauty of it.”
That also means it’s easier to include collaborators who don’t typically use 3D tools like CAD. “When we started collaborating with other teams outside of our team, CoLab was helpful for sharing the 3D with them. Because not everyone uses 3D tools and not everyone knows how to use them,” comments Shojaei. “So CoLab is good. It’s simple. You can easily work with it. You don't need special skills or tools to work in CoLab.”
“People outside of my engineering team were not using 3D before… So they’re very happy and excited about CoLab. A lot more people now have access to those models.”
“People outside of my engineering team were not using 3D before. But with CoLab now, they like it,” Shojaei adds. “They see a new dimension. Before it was always 2D; now, they can see how things work together. So they’re very happy and excited about CoLab. A lot more people now have access to those models.”
It’s not only 3D models that are more widely accessible, either. CoLab offers native support for 70+ file types, bringing together all the relevant design data for any given project.
For the Schneider team, CoLab has allowed new people to view and interact with bills of materials. “People outside the engineering team, they didn’t have the BoM before. They had the drawings and other stuff, but they never had a bill of materials,” explains Shojaei. “In CoLab, the bill of materials is interactive. You can select a part and it highlights it for you; it can isolate it for you, so you can do measurements and other stuff on the part. So that’s been the cherry on top for those outside the engineering team.”
Overall, Schneider Electric didn’t just digitize their design review process — they also made it more engaging and effective. “It’s more interactive doing the peer checks in CoLab,” Shojaei highlights. “It helps us with better interactive collaboration, not just passive collaboration through emails and other things.”
Plus, thanks to the functionality CoLab provides, it’s easier to communicate about design in a way that’s clearer and more efficient. “Before when engineers were reviewing a model, there was no way of pointing to specific issues on the models and stuff like that,” says Shojaei. “Now, in CoLab, that's possible.”
“With CoLab, you have what you need right in front of you,” Filipic summarizes. “It's all there. It's very clear.”
Since adopting CoLab, Schneider Electric has saved time and money by speeding up review cycles and avoiding potential mistakes earlier in the design process.
Peer reviews are more efficient, and more people are involved in providing design feedback. There’s better communication tracking and revision history. And ultimately, that all means fewer quality issues. Fewer quality issues, in turn, means a reduction in Non-Quality Costs (NQC) — the costs associated with quality escapes, such as rework or scrapped parts.
Just within the first year of using CoLab, the EcoFit team lowered NQC by 15%.
“I have a lot of examples where CoLab has really, really worked well. I have a lot of good feedback from our people,” emphasizes Filipic. “With CoLab, you can be more productive. You can be more predictive. That's what it's all about.”
“The collaboration is going very well,” agrees Shojaei. “The implementation was as smooth as possible, and I know it pays off on my side now. It's easier for me to work on CoLab than other tools. Training everyone and getting everyone on board, it pays off.”
With CoLab, the peer review process is now much simpler and streamlined. “The peer checks and the way we were doing them before, it's easier now,” Shojaei says. Plus, using CoLab offers a more standardized and repeatable way of collaborating on design. “Now it's an actual process, and it’s straightforward. It helps me save time.”
CoLab also makes it much easier to include more people and perspectives, which leads to a more collaborative process and thus a higher-quality product.
“That’s a main advantage of CoLab: the possibility to seamlessly involve bigger groups of people when sharing design files and getting feedback.”
“With CoLab, what we’re achieving is getting more people involved in the quality checks, in providing the comments,” notes Filipic. “I think that's a main advantage of CoLab: the possibility to seamlessly involve bigger groups of people when sharing design files and getting feedback.”
“Before, it was one on one when your peers would look at it. But right now, your work can actually be checked by 20 people if you want,” Filipic adds. “Everybody's going to provide different opinions, and somebody may see something another person didn't see. It opens up a lot more eyes to look at your work, which essentially improves the quality of work.”
Enabling better and more widespread access to design files comes with immediate benefits. But having more people interacting with the actual 3D models also comes with benefits that compound over time.
“It's very educational for everybody who's involved,” remarks Filipic. “The 3D designs are not the sole property of engineering now; everybody can get in there and look. And the more you look at it, the more you understand how things work.”
As a result, it’s easier for cross-functional teams to effectively share knowledge and expertise with each other for the benefit of all.
That means people can work more collaboratively, while at the same time learning from each other so they can perform better independently. “People become faster. They get better at what they do,” Filipic notes. “We’ve eliminated a number of the shop questions coming toward engineering.”
“Using CoLab, we can reduce our quality costs because designs get reviewed more, and more easily, and by more people – not only internal people, but also external people. So that helps us to identify any issues before they become an expensive fix.”
Improving quality also means lowering the costs associated with quality escapes. “Using CoLab, we can reduce our quality costs because designs get reviewed more, and more easily, and by more people – not only internal people, but also external people. So that helps us to identify any issues before they become an expensive fix,” Shojaei explains.
Given the EcoFit team’s positive experience, there’s plenty of potential for Schneider Electric and CoLab’s partnership to grow. “We’ve actually promoted CoLab inside Schneider to other teams because we see the benefits,” mentions Shojaei. “At this stage I believe we have a solid and robust system between CoLab and Schneider.”
“I’ve recommended CoLab to my peers across the company,” Filipic adds. “What I've told them is that I think it's a good tool. It's very productive.”
As Shojaei puts it, “Essentially we are trying to have more and more people on CoLab… We’re trying to do more processes around CoLab. That's going to help us stay on track without needing to be tracking everything one by one.”
When asked about the business impact of CoLab, Filipic says increased efficiency is the number one thing. But he acknowledges that it all comes down to the financial impact: “Being faster, less labour invested, cheaper installation, cheaper product, better margins, a minimized number of quality issues, minimum number of rework, scrap, and whatnot — these all result in financial benefits.”
“It's a powerful tool, no question,” stresses Filipic.
For Shojaei, introducing CoLab has eliminated waste from his team’s processes around reviews and collaboration. That means less non-value-add work, and more time to focus on quality.
“To me, it’s worth it. It's a tool that’s worth the investment,” Shojaei emphasizes. “If you have collaboration and you want others to look at your model and comment and then go and fix and revise — then it's a tool that’s worth it. Otherwise you're going to have a lot of processes around that and you’ll waste more time there.”