Organization: Modine Manufacturing Co., www3.modine.com
Vendor or Solution Provider of Choice: Vivisimo, Inc., www.vivisimo.com
Growth Strains Access to Information
With revenues from continuing operations of $1.7 billion, Modine Manufacturing Co. has specialized in thermal management systems and components for almost 90 years, bringing highly engineered heating and cooling technology and solutions to diversified global markets. Modine was founded in 1916 when Arthur B. Modine patented the Spirex radiator for tractors, starting the company on its path to becoming a global leader in the industry. In 1990 Modine struck out into the European market with Modine Europe, and he acquired Längerer & Reich of Germany in 1993.
Today, Modine products are used in light, medium, and heavy-duty vehicles; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment; industrial equipment; refrigeration systems; fuel cells; and electronics. The company employs approximately 7,800 people at 33 facilities worldwide. With $70 million going toward construction of technical centers in Racine, Wis., and Bonlanden, Germany, Modine continues to grow.
With company facilities in Europe, Asia, and the Americas, more than 45% of the company’s total revenues are generated from outside of the U.S. While profitable growth is the goal for most companies, continuous expansion of an organization is not without its challenges. In the internet era, the vast amounts of data—and access to it—are chief among those concerns. The explosion of data across the enterprise was one of the challenges facing Modine, a global leader in thermal management technology and solutions.
Designing a Single-Portal Solution
"Data was all over the place, and there was no single access point," says David Webster, a senior web developer at Modine." "As Modine was growing globally, the need to access that information at a global level was increasing. We had a lot of information siloed. Workers in Germany couldn’t readily access the information on the North American servers and vice versa."
The manufacturer was using multiple intranets, which left employees on different continents feeling as if they were working for different companies. To make matters worse, the proprietary search functionality in use was extremely limited, leading to worker inefficiency.
"Employees didn’t even know what information was out there. I can’t tell you the number of people who have come up to me and said, `I type in this search term and I get all this content that I didn’t even know existed,’" says Webster. Unfortunately, this was not the most effective form of content discovery.
To address these issues, Modine’s IT team consolidated and redesigned the intranets into one global portal that included unified search functionality. Dubbed InsideModine, this new portal would consolidate and provide secure access to the data from the multiple intranets, Windows file shares in North America and Europe, as well as from Documentum. With the new intranet in place, the next challenge was to find a search provider.
After surveying the enterprise search field, Modine narrowed its list of preferred vendors to Google and Vivísimo. "We wanted to work with a market leader. Both Google and Vivísimo have great brand names in the search field," Webster says.
Both organizations performed similarly during a proof of concept (PoC) test, but Modine felt the Google Search Appliance had issues with security because he found it difficult to configure and administer, which could be because Google’s appliance is built with Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). "Google is using SOAP services for security," says Tom Sieminski, Modine’s supervisor of systems support. "It’s pretty difficult to use. The problem is the amount of code I needed to write to make it work and have it supported was immense."
Vivísimo Velocity Search Platform supports security configurations through a web-based administrative tool. By using this tool, Modine was able to take advantage of Velocity’s security framework to ensure that user permissions are respected—with no additional code required. Since security was a top concern for Modine, the manufacturer chose Velocity for enterprise search.
Velocity also helped people locate information they may not have even realized was available. Velocity finds and categorizes information in data repositories perhaps not previously available to search or not properly indexed by older or different technology. It helps users navigate to the precise result they need. As an added bonus, Velocity’s multilingual capabilities made it user-friendly across the many continents Modine operates on.
Quick Implementation of Velocity Search Platform
The Velocity implementation took about a week for the PoC. Once the intranet redesign work was complete, along with the rest of the technical modifications, Modine’s IT department tied in Velocity to provide employees with better access to the company’s information. "Working with the Vivísimo Professional Services team was great," Webster says. "Everyone was extremely helpful and got things up and running quickly."
The Velocity-enabled search on the Modine portal indexes information from multiple repositories, which can be searched individually or combined. The repositories include a federated search of Modine’s new intranet, Documentum sources (including a digital image library and accounts payable documents), a Windows file share containing .tif images, as well as file shares located in North America and Europe. "We have a really interesting cross-section of corporate data that we’ve been able to combine in one single user interface," Webster says. "That’s really powerful."
The internal search has become so successful that Modine is considering leveraging Velocity’s extensibility to power the search on its four external-facing websites. The search also supports multiple languages, which is important to a growing international company such as Modine with operations in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Velocity’s ease of use and flexibility on the back end are also critical to the success of the new portal at Modine. Only two IT staff members are required to maintain the portal, as well as several other projects.
"One of the things that as a developer I like about Velocity is the ability to go right in and easily customize the tool," Webster says. "No matter what part needs to be customized, whether it is the user interface, the data sources, or security, Velocity allows you to do it. We have positioned ourselves to be able to respond to many different requirements and diverse user requests by basing our search infrastructure on this flexible platform."
Return on Investment
The Vivísimo Velocity Search Platform was deployed in weeks, giving Modine’s users around the world access to information many never knew existed. Employees have noticed the difference the new search functionality has brought to Modine. The new intranet and its Vivísimo-powered search are used by an estimated 90% of employees each day. Modine says Velocity has generated $3.6million in productivity savings.
"People are able to get to information easier," Webster says. "And they are able to get to information that they didn’t even know existed. So obviously there’s benefit there. Not only is having a search great, but having one that is so powerful is extremely beneficial."
The unified search and intranet have also brought a soft benefit to Modine—uniting an organization with 7,800 people in 33 sites around the world. "In the past, we’ve been viewed as North American-centric by our European employees," Webster says. "A global, multilingual intranet with Veolocity as our search feature emphasizes to the company that we are one single global organization.
That change in thinking will also help the company compete internationally as employees collaborate with their peers around the world. "This is a journey. We’re just scratching the surface now," Sieminski says. "We want to leverage Velocity and our intranet to enable collaboration. So this project is a success today. But what it allows us to do in the future will make it even more successful."
About the Author
Tom Smithyman is a senior director of field marketing at Vivísimo. He is a former journalist and was recently published in Supply Chain Leader magazine. Contact Tom at Smithyman@vivisimo.com.