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Customers find Framework for projects

BURLINGTON -- Ten-year-old Framework Technologies Corp. is hardly a household name. Yet its customers are widely known throughout the world.

Customers ranging from the Pentagon to the watchmaker Timex Corp. to Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. are among those using Framework's software that helps companies select and manage projects.

In September, Deloitte & Touche LLP named Framework to its Technology Fast 50 Program for New England for the third time in four years. Citing a 596 percent revenue growth from 1998-2002, Deloitte & Touche ranked Framework as one of the 50 fastest growing technology companies in the area. (Framework, a privately held company, does not release revenue and profit results, but a spokesman said revenue grew 25 percent in the fiscal year ending Oct. 31.)

Framework's forte is the way it allows participants from many sites to work together over the Internet -- even if they're using a mish-mash of disparate computing systems around the world. Among other things, the software can be used to set up a repository in which the various work groups can check the latest documents and monitor each other's progress, no matter how rapidly the project is changing. When everyone is kept current this way, it's easier to tell when another phase of the effort is about to start, perhaps involving a new team of workers.

In the past, project leaders would have had to send massive tomes by overnight mail to far-flung locations every time they wanted to keep participants up to date. Even now, the computer files containing design documents can be so intricate that their size alone makes e-mail distribution prohibitive. But when these same documents are parked in one place online, anyone who has access can keep up with the latest versions.

Manufacturing companies are the main customers for Framework's software. The company's ActiveProduct focuses on the early phase of the product life cycle -- from initial design to market introduction. The goal is to help manufacturers introduce the right products at the right time and at the right cost.

Last year, Goodyear Tire & Rubber of Akron, Ohio, chose Framework products to create a companywide database for all its new product development projects. The faucet designer Moen uses Framework software to turn over its entire product line every three years.

But not only manufacturers can use the products. The Pentagon has been using Framework software for the past three years to coordinate its renovation -- a multiyear effort that accelerated after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

''The facility was built in the 1940s and '50s," Framework CEO Donald Tomkinson said. ''The Pentagon is a huge building, so its renovation is a massive endeavor."

Framework came to life as a spinoff from Rockwell International Corp., which had a development facility in Lebanon, N.H. The company has 50 employees, with 20 of them developing Framework software out of the Lebanon facility, which resides in a textile mill complex. About a dozen employees are located in the corporate office near the Burlington Mall, and the remainder are involved in field operations. On Friday afternoons the company provides lunch, encouraging the troops to gather socially and put aside shoptalk.

Another key area is the AEC (architecture, engineering, and construction) market. ActiveAEC allows companies such as retailer Best Buy Co., utility company KeySpan Services Inc., and Modern Continental Cos., which is handling the Route 3 expansion, to manage projects in this realm.

As an engineering systems manager for Timex, James Jackson represents a manufacturing client. Jackson handles most of the systems that maintain engineering documents, including new product development, from corporate headquarters in Middlebury, Conn.

Jackson and his colleagues view Framework software as ''a web-collaboration tool that we use to transfer information throughout all of our worldwide locations." Timex engineering and design facilities, as well as its outside vendors, access the latest project tracking documents from a secure site on the Internet.

When a project begins, Timex brand managers come up with ideas for new watches. They work with various groups to create the designs, using Framework to share files throughout the development process. ''These CAD [computer-assisted design] files are huge," said Jackson, ''so we can't send them by e-mail."

Collaborators provide input to the design, which is eventually finalized and turned over to the engineering group, then on to manufacturing. At that point, a different type of software is used for products being sold.

The company expanded its focus within the past 18 months by offering decision-making software, to help executives select the right projects to work on.

''If the target was to sell 100,000 units, then it's discovered that sales of 40,000 are more likely, does it still make sense to continue?" asked CEO Tomkinson. ''If not, then the earlier a company decides to stop, the more money it saves, which can then be used for other projects."

While the company plans to grow, Tomkinson said, ''We intend to keep a pretty small headquarters and expand in the field, to put feet on the street."

Nancy Burns can be reached at

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