Kraken Robotics leads in quality through design review efficiency
Kraken Robotics is a global leader in the design and development of advanced marine technologies for military and commercial applications, including Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS) — a revolutionary underwater imaging technology that dramatically improves seabed surveys by providing ultra-high resolution imagery at superior coverage rates.
In 2017, Kraken Robotics expanded their product offerings to include the design and manufacturing of complete underwater vehicles. Since then, Kraken has experienced rapid growth — securing record-breaking contracts year over year and becoming a world-class manufacturer with quality and innovation at their core.
Kraken constantly innovates, improving their current products and working with companies of all sizes on new and exciting ventures. With offices in three Canadian provinces, two in Germany, and one in the USA, effective collaboration across these locations is critical to their projects, timelines, and success.
Kraken’s Mission to Redefine the Industry Standard
Kraken’s passion for innovation goes beyond just the products they build. It extends into how they build them. Kraken moves fast, but meeting unprecedented quality standards doesn’t mean slowing down.
As Kraken scaled, they weren’t satisfied with many common, industry-standard design review practices such as CAD screenshots in slideshows, Excel-based issue lists, or chasing down feedback in emails and PDFs. They wanted to set a new standard — with a process as innovative as the solutions they make.
Kraken had two goals: unprecedented efficiency and quality.
Wanting a more efficient process, Kraken conducted an analysis to determine if using CoLab would reduce the number of actions it took to complete a review. Following that analysis, they determined that the CoLab workflow would reduce steps in the process by 20-25%. With fewer steps in the review process, engineers can spend their time designing and building — not administrating. The team also required a central hub where reviews could happen — asynchronously or in real-time — so engineers always knew the right version to work on and could ensure issues and feedback were addressed before becoming expensive changes.
“If implemented correctly, quality assurance processes are a long-term efficiency improvement. Using a tool like CoLab allows us to meet that long-term efficiency goal, and provides immediate quantifiable results. We knew what our quality requirements were, and CoLab allows us to meet those goals in an efficient way through a very lean process.”
- Greg Walsh, Mechanical Team Lead
To develop a process that met these objectives, Kraken turned to CoLab. Together, Kraken and CoLab have developed an agile design review process that helps Kraken meet their industry-leading quality standards while improving efficiency.
The New Process : CoLab
Going Lean by Creating a Central Hub for Reviews
CoLab gives Kraken Robotics a central hub for their entire review process that directly integrates with SolidWorks and PDM. With a real-time collaborative hub, teams can improve interaction and collaboration while reducing waste and unnecessary documentation — for improved efficiency. "For me, this is a one-stop-shop for design reviews," explains Greg Walsh. "If I go to CoLab and open my dashboard, that’s my review task list right there — keeping me on top of what’s next."
Mechanical engineers at Kraken can push 3D files into CoLab directly from SolidWorks or add drawings directly within the application itself. Then they assign the review to a colleague and CoLab handles the rest from there. CoLab’s customizable notifications mean you never miss a review or task and never need to chase someone down via email. Using CoLab and SolidWorks you can design, execute reviews, and manage feedback — all without leaving the tools you trust. The CoLab dashboard aggregates Kraken’s review tasks and files, acting as a review task manager while simplifying file access for reviewers.
"I can easily tab back and forth between CoLab and SolidWorks. Nice and simple," says Kraken mechanical engineer Nick Sparkes.
Control Revisions, Ensure Quality
With CoLab, designers and managers have a clear picture of which reviews need to happen, where in-progress reviews stand, and which reviews are complete.
Based on CoLab’s discussions with engineering teams across industries, email threads and PowerPoint decks are still largely at the center of standard processes. With these manual, disconnected methods, it's easy for old versions of files to end up somewhere they shouldn’t or for an early version to make its way to the shop floor. But at Kraken, files are tightly controlled. Everyone knows which revision is the latest, and files never get released until they’ve made it through each review stage.
CoLab also enables users to control download permissions. Now designers can share an unreleased file for review while ensuring that file can't be downloaded — and therefore can’t make its way to the production floor or machine shop in error. However, for simple file sharing, permitted users can easily enable file downloads.
This ensures that time is focused on the most up-to-date files and reviewers have a clear picture of what’s changed. This review queue, with integrated revision control, means reviews are efficient and version management is simple.
Customer Collaboration with Context
For external collaboration, CoLab brings Kraken’s customers the context they need. Kraken securely shares design files with customers in 3D, provides customers with the context they need, and then initiates the review. In person, or on their own time, CoLab’s 3D reviews allow Kraken’s global collaborators to execute the review at their convenience — with feedback coming to the Kraken team in real time.
"I can start on a review and, if I get called away, I can jump back in and pick up in the same place. It also gives me a place to collaborate with my team on issues. We can debate changes right on the discussion thread for the issue itself until we come to a resolution. Then we’ve got an automatic record of our decisions right there, " says Walsh.
The best part? Context. Customers and suppliers can view and evaluate the actual 3D model. CoLab’s presentation tool allows designers to walk a reviewer through critical views of the model with all metadata, analysis tools, and file details available. Kraken provides customers with the highest level of quality and service — giving them meaningful insight into the design process — without wasting time.
Reaching ISO 9001: Better Quality, Less Process
Centralized reviews and issue tracking, integrated revision control, and in-context collaboration mean Kraken is achieving higher quality standards through these efficiencies. After adopting CoLab in 2019, the Kraken team successfully achieved ISO 9001 certification in 2021.
“ISO certification focuses on documentation and traceability. CoLab is a big help with that. With CoLab, we document histories of everything automatically just by doing the work. Everything else is stored in a paperless digital record,” says Walsh.
Kraken is now exploring the opportunity to expand their use of the software to additional engineering teams, locations, offices, and divisions. Ranked a Top 100 marine technology company by Marine Technology Reporter, Kraken has beat out some major industry players to secure significant contracts in recent years — including a $35-40 million (CAD) agreement to provide new sonar technology, underwater vehicles, and state-of-the-art autonomous launch and recovery systems to the Danish Navy.
"Kraken has been using CoLab for over a year and we have been extremely pleased with its performance and how it was helped improve some of our processes. We look forward to continuing to grow our relationship with CoLab"
- Bill Donovan, Senior Program Manager
Together, Kraken and CoLab are setting a new standard for design review efficiency, with quality at the core.