There’s no magic bullet for manufacturers in their quest to stand out in today’s marketplace. Every organization is trying to differentiate products through innovation, quality, performance, and/or cost, and often the changes required to do so require huge cultural changes, which can be more challenging than putting in the technology itself.
However, manufacturers can take some steps in one area that will make a difference: fixing inefficiencies in the engineering process—primarily, how teams access design content and data. A recent report from Tech-Clarity uncovers some best practices and makes recommendations aimed at helping manufacturers run faster and leaner.
In the how-to guide, “Increase Profitability by Reducing Non–Value Added Work in Engineering,” Michelle Boucher, Vice President of Engineering Software Research, analyzed survey responses from almost 250 manufacturers for insights into the management of data, communication of engineering changes, and collaboration with internal and external development team members.
Insights from Survey
To start with, an overwhelming 98% of survey respondents see business value in reducing non–value added work. The key findings center on three points:
- One-third of engineers’ time is spent on non–value added work, including searching for information (25%), checking data in and out (18%), incorporating changes made by others (16%), and recreating data they can’t find (14%).
- Twenty percent of the time, engineers work with outdated information, as a result of delays in updated information from internal or external/third-party collaborators—41% of respondents say it takes a couple days or more for changed product information to get to the full team.
- The most successful companies are nearly twice as likely to maintain up-to-date models. Tech-Clarity reports these Top Performers are 8% closer on deadlines than their competitors.
Non-Value Added Work Drill Down:
23% Searching for information
Engineers need access to a significant amount of product data to complete their work. This includes product specifications, requirements, material specifications, engineering change requests, bills of materials (BOM), supplier information, other components, and more. With so much to manage, it’s not surprising that searching for data can be a bottleneck.
18% Collecting data for other people
Engineers are often asked to bring information to meetings for others. This requires taking time to collect data for activities such as status updates, design reviews, and project meetings.
16% Checking data in and out
Some companies use PDM (Product Data Management) or PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) systems to centralize data and make it easier to find. To continue design work or make changes, engineers must first check out and download the relevant CAD files. After making changes, the file must then be uploaded and checked back in so that others may have access to it. This whole check in/ check out process can be tedious and time-consuming, especially if CAD files are large. Data check-ins will be explored further in this report.
14% Incorporating changes made by others
With the fast pace of product development, changes can be constant, but they are not always communicated. For example, during a project meeting, an engineer may discover that a coworker changed the BOM. That change has to be reflected in the CAD model as it may impact other parts of the design. In another scenario, perhaps after a change to the PCB layout, the housing no longer fits. Seemingly small changes may have a significant impact on the rest of the design, especially if the design evolved a lot before others became aware of the change. Engineers waste much time when they do not immediately see changes made by others. In some case, they may have to redo hours of work.
12% Recreating data you couldn’t find
Recreating work can be especially frustrating. No one wants to redo work because the data was either lost or misplaced. This can happen when data is stuck on personal laptops, stored on external drives that other people do not have access to, or no one can remember where it was stored. Additionally, search features on shared drives can’t search metadata and may be insufficient to find specific files and information. These results reveal the many different reasons engineers need better ways to find and reuse data.
Communicating Engineering Changes to the Team
This was another area that showed promise for productivity and efficiency improvements if addressed. Many engineers noted in the survey that finding the right information and then communicating it effectively is a major challenge and slows down progress in any given day. Engineers noted their top 5 challenges in executing changes:
What is the Solution?
If you could capture that time that represents just under 25% of an engineer’s day by using better tools and technology, imagine the gains that could be realized!
Ultimately, the answer is Technology, meaning CAD models updating in real-time and ensuring files are managed in product data management (PDM), but more preferably product lifecycle management (PLM) platforms and definitely not email.
Top performing companies are significantly more likely than other manufacturers to rely on an integrated design and development environment—such as PDM/PLM—to manage and communicate engineering changes because of the proven benefits such platforms deliver, including improved productivity, shorter development time, and reduced product development costs.
Adaptive has been helping customers root out process inefficiencies by automating the full digital to physical design process, one step at a time. Our solutions can be deployed on the Cloud or on Premises, and we can help determine what is best to help your organization get working quickly remotely or on-site.