Case Study: University of Wisconsin


“PBworks eliminates confusion, duplication, and the potential for errors. It's a simple and easy-to-use platform that lets us coordinate and execute critical projects.”

Frank Rath, University of Wisconsin


Business and Academia team up to help the troops

Frank Rath at the University of Wisconsin needed to find a better means of collaboration.  Some of the world's leading polymer scientists were working together with Resilient Technologies on an $11 million project to develop a new kind of airless tire for Humvees.


"In Iraq and Afghanistan, roadside IEDs(improvised explosive devices) cause a lot of tire damage," said Frank.  "Then, once the vehicles can't move, the insurgents attack.  If the tires weren't disabled, the troops could drive out of trouble.  Engineers from Resilient Technologies are working with leading polymer scientists and mechanical engineers from the University of Wisconsin to build an airless tire for the Department of Defense."


Collaboration across 1,000 miles

The problem was that Resilient Technologies is located in Wausau, about 120 miles and two-hour drive from the university's campus in Madison.  To make matters worse, one of the key members of the Resilience team was based in West Virginia, nearly 1,000 miles away.


In previous projects with Resilient, the university had used email and file attachments for collaboration, with mixed results.  "It takes so much time to find the right documents, " said Frank.  "There are so many different iterations and modifications to track, especially when it comes to spreadsheets."


One of Frank's colleagues, Tom Smith, was already using PBworks, and suggested that adopting PBworks for the airless tire project would make things much more efficient.  Frank and his team tried it out, and soon the entire project team was on the wiki, including five polymer scientists, three from Frank's department, and 12 people from Resilient.


Everything you need to go from concept to product

"We're using the wiki to help us with all the work it takes to get from concept to real product.  We use the wiki for spreadsheets on market development, documents with examples of other airless tires, images of competing products, project progress reports, FMEA (Failure Mode and Effects Analysis) sheets, and QFD (Quality Function Deployment) documents," said Frank.  "All the different variations are stored on the wiki.  If we didn't have PBworks, we'd be emailing those files back and forth all the time."The bottom line for Frank is that PBworks is an integral part of the project.


"PBworks eliminates confusion, duplication, and the potential for errors," said Rath. "It's a simple and easy-to-use platform that lets us coordinate and execute critical projects."


First Iraq, then improving cancer treatment?

As for Frank, he's planning on using PBworks for other important projects, such as helping the AAPM (American Association of Physicists in Medicine) improve cancer treatments.  "I'm on an AAPM task force on improving the quality management system for cancer radiation therapy, and we should be using a wiki for that too.  I'm working with top doctors and researchers—their time is incredibly important, and it shouldn't be wasted searching for the right email attachment."

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