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Mechanical Engineering. 2006;128(02):22-24. doi:10.1115/1.2006-FEB-1.
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Smaller Companies are discovering that product management tools can help their small staffs get a global reach. The Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software has become an important tool for managing people and resources at enterprises of any size. At Sonnax, the adoption of a PLM solution has led to some clear changes in information management. Instead of relying on a single point-person to do the project management for the whole company, each product line sales manager has become more deeply involved in the designs of specific lines. Indeed, many startups are incorporating PLM solutions before they even have products to manage. One factor that may be pushing small- and medium-size enterprises to adopt PLM solutions is the new globalized business model. Experts see PLM as way to help the far-flung pieces of the production chain mesh together. The system can be set up to enable suppliers of components anywhere in the world to look at the documentation they need, and to determine the most relevant information: what the history was, the nature of the changes, who approved it, and so forth.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2006;128(02):25-26. doi:10.1115/1.2006-FEB-2.
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This article discusses key aspects of resource management for the successful completion of a project. The article highlights that decision-making is the difficult, but necessary, last step to arrive at a portfolio of projects that do not overload resources and clog the engineering pipeline. The four-step resource management process that a company has implemented helps management visualize and understand the effects of their project decisions. It also helps engineering managers identify resource shortages. The key to implementing this system is to build solid communication processes, get key organizational participation, and have the discipline to keep at it every month. The article also suggests that if a company is to use a software tool to facilitate and enable the process, keep it as simple and effective as the process itself.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster
Mechanical Engineering. 2006;128(02):28-30. doi:10.1115/1.2006-FEB-3.
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This article presents the failure story of atmospheric railway, a 19th century attempt by British engineers to improve rail technology with the use of an evacuated tube. The atmospheric railway was conceived as a solution to both problems—public relations as well as mechanical. The atmospheric railway depended on vacuum. It was a system very much like the pneumatic conveyors that were common everywhere until recent years. The heart of the system was an evacuated tube about a foot in diameter. It was located between the tracks and stretched the entire length of the road. An elaborate zipper-like arrangement kept the tube sealed on the vacuum side ahead of the piston, and open for several feet behind it to allow air to enter. The tubes for the atmospheric railway were cast iron, delivered in nine-foot lengths and bolted together. The atmospheric railway was not a success and it cost a lot of people a great deal, both in money and in reputation. It failed because there were pieces missing.

Commentary by Dr. Valentin Fuster

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