Design Review

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Johnson Controls Builds Industry-Leading Engineering Change and Design Review Process

Johnson Controls International (JCI) is committed to leveraging cutting-edge technology to enable digital transformation across their global operation. JCI’s Applied HVAC Equipment division is a global leader in delivering efficient, intelligent technology for a more comfortable and sustainable building environment. In 2018 CoLab approached the Johnson Controls team with a question. What is your biggest pain point in product development? The answer: Communication.

Together, CoLab and JCI committed to solving it. 

“When interacting with a global engineering and manufacturing organization, it’s critical that we can keep all parties ‘on the same page.’ With CoLab we have that ability to have various functional groups around the world all reviewing and commenting live or around the clock on the same exact model.”

- Mike Zamalis, VP Global Chiller Product Engineering

JCI’s Applied HVAC Equipment division wasn’t satisfied with the industry-standard process for communication across the product development lifecycle. Communications relied on a mix of  Sharepoint, static files emailed back and forth, and long design review meetings. JCI engaged CoLab to help. As a global leader in digital transformation, JCI knew the status quo was unacceptable. Alongside CoLab, JCI has built an industry-leading engineering change and design review process. 

The result? Design reviews that used to take weeks, now take days. Engineering design changes are now identified in early design without the need for a prototype build. Collaboration happens in real-time, in context, so that miscommunications are prevented and time zones or language barriers don’t slow the team down. CoLab’s initial JCI implementation of 8 users at one office quickly grew organically. Today more than 180 engineers in 4 countries access CoLab to manage JCI’s world-class products.

This real-time, virtual collaboration protected the JCI Applied HVAC Equipment team from many of the serious challenges that Covid-19 brought to other organizations. 

Following global shutdowns, the team took their innovation even further, leveraging CoLab for real-time, virtual VAVE (value analysis/value engineering) events—with results even better than the previous in-person events. From drawing reviews to engineering changes on the production floor to global design reviews: together, CoLab and JCI have set a new standard for engineering collaboration. 

Key Use Cases

Faster Reviews, Fewer Errors 

With CoLab, JCI has achieved incredible results. 

Reviews happen faster: Communication is clear the first time and responses happen in minutes, not hours. This results in a faster process for approving a drawing, 3D review, or engineering change. “When you start getting feedback from manufacturing immediately, you can respond so much faster. That makes a huge difference,” shared Brian McMaster, Mechanical Design Lead at Johnson Controls.

“Using CoLab in production means my manufacturing manager can notify our design team of an issue in Mexico, we can turn around a design update from the US, and they can have the new design on the CNC Machine right away.”

- Brian McMaster, Mechanical Design Lead

Communication happens in-context: Johnson Controls has a global workforce collaborating across office locations, time zones, and languages. With JCI’s new review process in CoLab, feedback is given directly on 3D parts or drawings—complete with markups, discussion threads, and more.

CoLab lets users comment directly on drawings and 3D models

Issues are caught and resolved before they become expensive changes: The review process is simple and straightforward, so mistakes that otherwise might have been missed are caught early instead. 

Rapid Organic Growth; Easy Onboarding

CoLab is a tool built for sharing. Once JCI’s team recognized the value of their newly-created processes, they were determined to scale their results.

In 2018, CoLab completed training with 8 users at Johnson Controls. Today, over 180 JCI engineers across 5 locations globally have used CoLab. An easy onboarding experience and intuitive UI resulted in more than just faster reviews—it also meant that JCI could scale the solution quickly without having to spend time and money on extensive training, IT overhead, or troubleshooting. 

“Being a web-based tool, there is no software distribution nor installation and very little training. It is VERY intuitive with easy-to-understand icons. We typically ‘train’ during one of our event kickoff sessions.”

- Mike Zamalis, VP Global Chiller Product Engineering

Enabling Real-Time Remote Collaboration

In early 2020, as Covid-19 restrictions began to sweep the globe, Johnson Controls was faced with a challenge. To continue to deliver the highest quality and value to its customers, JCI prioritizes annual, global Value Analysis & Value Engineering (VAVE) events to review each product for further improvements and cost savings. These events are critical to JCI product development deliverables, but Covid-19 restrictions meant engineers couldn’t travel to plants in person like in previous years. Insistent that this value must be captured, the JCI Applied HVAC Equipment team found another way.

The team approached CoLab to move these VAVE events to the web—reviewing 3D models and associated drawings virtually, with teams from around the world and working together to find solutions.

“With our normal in-person events we’d find more than 100 opportunities for value-add on the models we’re reviewing. This year with our virtual events in CoLab, we’re averaging over 200.”

- Brian Stauffer, Global Product Design Manager

In just a few months, the JCI team has executed 5 global VAVE events virtually using CoLab, with significant product improvements as a result.

The Value

Together, CoLab and JCI have set a new standard for engineering collaboration. And they’re not stopping there—the team already has their eye on expansion, taking CoLab across multidisciplinary teams. 

From collaborative 3D and drawing review, all the way to tracking changes on the production floor, JCI Applied HVAC Equipment pushed through Covid-19 to develop a real-time, collaborative process with unprecedented efficiency.

Better products start with better design conversations.

  • Foster more meaningful design conversations by removing collaboration speedbumps
  • Keep your product team and your customers informed
  • Standardize your review process and track everything automatically

Curious how CoLab can help you with that? Let’s talk.


Deliver better products, faster.