Magazine Article | January 1, 2006


Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By digitizing its job files, a brazing company is able to quickly retrieve key product data and free up floor space for more productive activities.

Integrated Solutions, January 2006
Thermal-Vac Technology, Inc. provides brazing, heat-treating, coating, and nickel-plating services to the aerospace industry and other commercial markets. Every job Thermal-Vac provides services for, from quoting through completion, is kept in a job file. For 22 years, the company filled a room with stacked file boxes containing paper job files. A year ago, Steve Driscol, president of Thermal-Vac, began researching a solution that would eliminate the expanding volume of paper files. “We needed to be able to securely store large amounts of data from critical job files in an easily maintained manner so they could be shared with staff,” states Driscol. “In addition, we no longer wanted to sacrifice vital shop floor space to store these records.”

Each job file contains documents including thermal treatment charts, drawings, invoices, production trailers, purchase orders, shipping information, and sensitive technical information. Retrieving the job files is extremely important in servicing customers and providing historical data for accuracy in quoting, customizing future jobs, and reorders, but it became increasingly cumbersome for the office staff. In addition, customers contact Thermal-Vac regularly for proof of certification of its products, which is saved in each paper file.

The largest challenge of this project was finding a solution that could scan, save, and retrieve color thermal treatment charts up to 4 feet in size. These charts depict the temperature of the furnace during the process of heating or cooling parts for up to 48 hours at temperatures from minus 300 degrees up to 4200 degrees Fahrenheit. A color graph is printed displaying these temperatures, and then handwritten notations are made, explaining the effect of the various temperatures on each part. After researching solutions, Docusource’s proposed solution is the only one that could scan the documents and provide timely retrieval. Due to the size of the charts, up to 20 MB, other solutions could have taken 15 minutes or more to load a chart.


Thermal-Vac worked with Docusource to design a solution for its unique requirements. Thermal-Vac does not employ a full-time network administrator and did not intend to add IT infrastructure, so the solution had to include data hosting. The solution begins with KODAK’S i260 scanner and Capture software. The second piece is LizardTech’s Document Express with DjVu, a file compression and viewing system. The final piece is the FileBound Document Management Solution by Docusource, the company that led the integration of the solution.

With the new solution, documents are scanned in batches by the KODAK i260. The Capture software reads bar codes for each job number and links the documents. The DjVu software, which can save document images up to 1,000 times smaller than TIFF files and 100 times smaller than JPEGs or PDFs, compresses the 20 MB color charts down to approximately 100 KB for storage, which is a 99.95% reduction. FileBound’s ASP (application service provider) hosts the images and data off-site, which provides for disaster recovery. The Web-based user interface was attractive to Thermal-Vac, due to its ease of use. Available at under $50,000, the solution took approximately a month to integrate. Since implementation, the scanning operation has been ongoing. All new files are scanned immediately, and four to eight files from the last 22 years are scanned daily. All scanned information is available to Thermal-Vac’s employees via a Web interface.

Thermal-Vac intends to enhance the system by allowing its customers to access their own files via a secure Web interface. According to Driscol, “This will help us retain our current customers, since this automation is advanced for our industry. We also plan to put other information into FileBound, such as human resources information, policies and procedures, and accounting information, as time permits.”