We recently talked to Rolf Zwahlen, Engineering Systems Analyst for TE Connectivity. Rolf is part of the Digital Part Solutions team based in Pennsylvania. His focus is Information Technology for TE Connectivity, a technology company that designs and manufactures connectors, sensors and electronic components. TE Connectivity has a global workforce of 78,000, including approximately 7,000 engineers. The company serves customers in 150 countries.
Would you give me a quick overview of your company and what you do?
RZ: TE Connectivity is a global manufacturer of electronic components. This can be anything from a connector for a washing machine to sensors for cars. We specialize in products for harsh environments including a variety of electronic components. I have been with the company for over 20 years based in the USA and had a variety of roles. Originally, I am from South Africa.
Can you describe your role?
RZ: I have always worked within IT – initially data management and then transferred to managing software for distribution centres. About 3 or 4 years ago, I moved back into data management and this was where I first experienced Synaptica software.
My role is now with the product data management team, specifically providing support for our Marketing team that manages the TE Connectivity Website. We have so many products and we must give careful attention to the classification of each product so that our customers can find what they are looking for. This is where Synaptica KMS comes in.
When I joined the team, a colleague had been through the process of identifying and selecting our taxonomy management software, so my main role is to help maintain and support the software for the organization. The Marketing team manage the product listing and are the main users of KMS.
How much support is involved
RZ: We use KMS to classify each product and part. Each part has a series of attributes. If you think of a basic example like a cable, the attributes can include colour and size. These attributes will have values that are all stored within KMS and need to be maintained. Broadly this classification of data transfers to our other computerised systems. Another responsibility is to ensure that these two other systems receive the data correctly. Data needs to be in place and to function correctly. Sometimes when the Marketing team make changes it might not work properly, so I do give them quite a bit of support to resolve any data issues. The aim is to classify all these parts and attributes so it’s easier for people to search our products on the website.
How long has TE used Synaptica KMS?
RZ: Around 4 years. Although I wasn’t involved in the selection process, I know my colleagues and I are very pleased with both the support we receive from the Synaptica team and the functionality of the software. We were especially pleased with the training we received when we implemented the product.
We needed to configure what we wanted the system to do for us. This isn’t always an easy step and we needed to understand how the software worked. We were very pleased with the technical support received to help us get the configuration of the software correct.
Who uses Synaptica software at TE Connectivity?
RZ: The Marketing team are the main users of the software. Although one of our engineers also has access. He liked that he could find what he was looking for quickly and efficiently.
We also make sure we review the annual updates for KMS and we have upgraded several times now. We discussed specific and unique enhancements with the Synaptica team (Jim Sweeney and Jim Dwyer) and we shared some of our ideas for new features.
The feedback from the Marketing team and other colleagues focus on the flexibility of the product. We can configure it, so it completely fits with our data design requirement. In this respect it’s a great tool.
RZ: One very specific issue we needed to address related to how data is displayed. If you think of the data being displayed in KMS, every term is normally identified by a descriptor. Initially we configured it such that our descriptors were not unique. We ran into lots of problems with this and realised it simply wouldn’t work this way. After discussing this issue with the Synaptica team, we reconfigured our descriptors. This meant that we could classify data, including product categories and attributes, which describe each product.
In addition, each attribute also has a value. Each descriptor needed to clearly show attributes. Within the descriptor we can also display product categories. This made a major improvement and ensured that every value is unique. This resolved any issues that we were having.
Did you have concerns about implementation of the software?
RZ: I think the training was good which we received personally from Jim Sweeney and Jim Dwyer. They trained new people as they came on board and provided extra training sessions for us. Our people find the software very flexible and easy to use.
Is there a favourite feature the team like?
RZ: We find the reporting to be quite good. On one of the alphabetical reports, we were able to make some small enhancements ourselves. Synaptica allows one to make enhancements to database stored procedures. We were able to make it fit our requirements and we use it for the data transfer to our internal downstream systems. It’s a good simple feature.
What is your advice you would give to others considering a similar Taxonomy project?
RZ: Initially when you get into software tools immerse yourself completely into the terminology. Make the extra effort to understand the language and vocabulary. This is a big step towards helping you understand and use the tool more comprehensively. I struggled with this initially. Words and jargon were being used in training; what does this really mean? Make some time to read the user manual and understand the context and get a view of the bigger picture.
What are the biggest challenges on the horizon for your industry?
RZ: I am sure I am not the first to say this but the whole concept of big data is very important.
For us at TE Connectivity, our Marketing team are looking at end-user data like how many clicks on a specific webpage. There are lots of questions we as Synaptica users want to be able to answer and understand from both the Marketing and the IT side.
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