Brother Industries’ history began in 1908, fixing sewing machines in the neighborhoods of Nagoya, Japan. Over the next century, Brother extended its reach to manufacture electrical equipment from sewing machines to industrial goods. Brother is a global name in multi-use products, and sits at the hub of Japan’s manufacturing industry. Connecting thousands of home and business products with software is a large development team that relies on being efficient and sharing knowledge effectively.
Before switching to GitHub Enterprise in 2014, Brother Industries was using Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS) and its supporting applications for driver development—but the process wasn’t efficient. To make changes, developers had to connect to the intra-office network, and certain kinds of collaboration, like three-way merges, weren’t possible. Teams also couldn’t start new projects and create repositories without approval, so individuals ended up creating their own tools and repositories to fill the gap.
Introducing GitHub Enterprise in 2014 brought simple version control and much-needed collaboration between the developers at Brother Industries. Chief Engineer Keisuke Ijuuin heads up the software technology development department and brought GitHub to Brother. He said, “Until now, team members almost never reviewed code or provided feedback, but since the introduction of GitHub, people started using pull requests to provide code reviews. Recently, there’s been feedback coming in from other teams as well, so we’re seeing collaboration across departments—that almost never happened before.”
Likewise, Senior Chief Engineer, Takafumi Kai, notes that working with SNS mechanisms has allowed developers to share previously-inaccessible knowledge among the team—increasing their overall technical know-how. “Being able to see the code others have written—even if it’s poorly done—can help developers learn from each other and try new things,” he explained. “Using GitHub, we can send source code as a URL to less-experienced employees who can view it and get training as projects happen. Also, searching in GitHub helps us find and reuse code within our own repositories.”
Transitioning to GitHub Enterprise from the existing environment was a gradual switch that included manual operations and careful script crafting. Mr. Ijuuin is happy with the results: “We made a slow transition, but since then the system has been very stable and we’ve felt no stress during high-speed operations.” And any team moving to GitHub in the future can access the vast pool of GitHub usage data to help fill any proficiency gaps and ease the transition.
Brother also sees promising applications for using GitHub in other departments across the company. Members of the design department are learning how to use GitHub to manage version control. Requests that were previously written in Excel were exchanged through shared folders and access through certain operating systems was an unnecessarily complicated procedure. With GitHub, the review and iteration process can now be made via pull request and merging is much easier.
Mr. Ijuuin sums up his thoughts on GitHub’s potential for faster, better collaboration: “Right now we’re using Word and Excel to write specification documents. But we’re looking into storing our documentation as text files on GitHub, where we can easily manage and track changes.” He explained, “I’d like to see GitHub’s ease of use extended company-wide as a shared operations infrastructure.” Even after Brother has adopted GitHub company-wide, opportunities remain: “GitHub’s pull request feature would even be compatible for communicating with external vendors.”
Whether among software developers, between departments, or between Brother and their outside vendors, the switch to GitHub has brought about significant improvements in procedures and productivity. For this global manufacturing company, implementing GitHub has boosted overall software quality and collaboration thanks to intra-departmental feedback. But just as importantly, Brother leadership reports a fresh sense of motivation and collaboration that they hope to bring to other areas of the organization with a wider adoption of GitHub.
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