Charles T. Caine, Oakland University USA USA USA
USAThomas W. Lauer, Oakland University
USAEileen Peacock, Oakland University
This case describes the development, design, and implementation of a workflow automation system at a tier one automotive supplier, T1-Auto. T1 is a developer and manufacturer of anti-lock brake systems. In 1991, T1-Auto had outsourced its IT department. They retained a management core consisting of the CIO and five managers, but transitioned approximately 80 other members of the department to the outsourcing firm. In 1994, Lotus Notes™ was installed as the corporate standard e-mail and workflow platform. A team of four Notes™developers wrote workflow-based and knowledge management-based applications. Another team of three administrators managed the Notes™ infrastructure. The first workflow application written at T1-Auto was developed for the Finance department. The finance team quickly realized the workflow benefit of streamlining and tracking the capital expense request process. The Notes™ development team and the project sponsor, the Controller, worked closely to develop the application. Following this initial success, the power and value of workflow technology caught on quickly at T1-Auto. One of the most successful projects was the Electronic Lab Testing Process described in this paper.
The Electronics Lab and Testing System (ELTS) was identified as a Transaction Workflow problem by the IT Lotus Notes™ team. Because the ELTS involved policies and procedures that crossed many groups and divisions within T1-Auto, and since the process was consistent across the organization, the solution lent itself very well to Lotus Notes. However, while T1-Auto was experiencing rapid growth and the number of tests was increasing, the testing process was prone to communication and coordination errors. As part of their production and product development processes, their electronics laboratory was required to test electronic components that were part of the brake systems. Clearly the testing process was critical to T-1 since delays or errors could adversely affect both product development and production.
The case goes on to describe the design and development of the Lotus Notes™ workflow management system. The design description includes process maps for the as-is and the new system. In addition, descriptions of the testing phase, the pilot, and the roll out are included. The case concludes with a discussion of project success factors and planned future enhancements.