Working Together in Engineering? No Way!

Does an engineer share workloads or work concurrently in a team? My observation is that most engineers are PART of teams, but don’t necessarily WORK in teams. By nature, an engineer is trained to be a highly effective innovator who first works with tools on his own, challenging complex issues and then when done, gets feedback from team members which he/she then inserts into his/her concepts or designs.

The process is still very sequential at many companies out there and most of the engineers I meet tell me that they believe there must be one leader who manages a project and its complexity, since it takes more time to inform and keep people up to speed versus quickly doing things themselves.

A few years ago I read an interesting book from Michael Schrage called “NO MORE TEAMS, Mastering the Dynamics of Creative Collaboration.”  Much of what Michael Schrage describes still applies today, supported by more modern tools and a changing world filled with social connections and interaction like the tools on LinkedIn, Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype.

The introduction of the book gives you a good insight on why it might be interesting for you too:
“For organizations that care about innovation, individual creativity isn’t enough anymore — people need to be in creative, collaborative relationships. But without the knowledge and tools for building these relationships, innovation expert Michael Schrage argues, one will not be successful in the offices of today and even less so in the “virtual” offices of tomorrow. No More Teams gives readers the tools and techniques to go beyond the lazy clichés of “teamwork” to the practical benefits of collaboration.

While visiting a SOLIDWORKS customer site, I found Skype for Business is often the number-two application in use, besides the engineering tools. The engineers were frequently chatting with other users, sharing some thoughts and concepts and screens and then continuing work in their SOLIDWORKS CAD and SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional environment.

This company, which develops large machines for automotive companies, is under extreme time and cost pressure to deliver a huge number of projects while still having to find innovative ways to solve its customer’s problems. These engineers are FORCED to collaborate, since on their own they cannot win this battle against time.

Interesting, by nature engineers do not collaborate, unless they find no alternative and are forced to do so. Many other companies I meet these days have not yet realized that change in their daily work process. Their sequential steps that the engineers at these companies complete, controlling all aspects of the product and the one engineer being the only one understanding the complete project, makes these engineers “masters of disasters” in my mind. I am not saying they cannot do this on their own, or be the best they can be; I am just saying they are losing out on the power of 1 + 1 = 3.

My colleagues Michael Sterns and Ralf Otto shared various interesting videos that sum up what I witnessed at the company that really collaborated on projects. Real collaboration directly on a huge assembly is supported by SOLIDWORKS PDM Professional and SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD. The only thing that is missing from this video is the process of chatting and sharing on Skype that I described before.

 

If you add the world of IOT or Industry 4.0 to the work challenges, you can see that it must extend to interdisciplinary collaboration between Mechanical Design, Electronics Design and Electrical Schematics design; all having to work together. This will no longer allow “master of disaster” thinkers. It will require open-minded engineers who work together and follow a common goal.

At another leading industrial company I visited, the engineering manager asked one of his best engineers the burning question: “Why are you not collaborating and using the tools you have?” The answer surprised him: “I don’t know, we never tried it. Neither did you guide us on how to do this more concurrently – we would need to invest time to get this going.”

I guess he was right; it was something we did not help them with. There is a tough job ahead in guiding people to learn how to collaborate besides just installing tools for engineers that support collaboration. Change only happens when we support it through training, workshops and collaboration between customers and vendors/resellers.

After all those years, more and more engineers are being touched by the social engineering age. While no longer referred to concurrent engineering as much, the process remains the same. Cutting development times by leveraging the 1 + 1 = 3 principle. Saving time to market!

Go ahead and challenge your DS SOLIDWORKS reseller to help you get the most out of your teams by a workshop or two. By seeing Mechatronics Design Tools or finding the collaboration buttons in the software that comes from SOLIDWORKS. After all, we at SOLIDWORKS serve an ever-growing community of engineers that develop great products, and by nature, a community wants to work together, takes care of each other and works towards a set of common goals.

Let’s go collaborate more (or should I say let’s team up and use the things we already have available in our SOLIDWORKS Tools)!

Jeroen Buring

Jeroen Buring

Director Strategic Accounts – Euro Central

Dutch National, Father of 3 Children, daily working with companies to create better and innovative products using SOLIDWORKS - CAD - PLM - Industry 4.0 and Digitalization initiatives. In my private time I also love supporting various societies in making their dreams become reality - Big OCEAN CLEANUP Foundation Fan - https://www.theoceancleanup.com
Jeroen Buring