Want Better Results? Collaborate with More People, More Often

Collaboration is one of those buzzwords we hear a lot in design and engineering. It’s a reality of any product designers or engineers who need their proposed product designs reviewed, vetted, iterated on and eventually deemed ready to pass on to manufacturing. After all, great new product designs only emerge after multiple bad concepts have been reviewed and rejected. That’s how the magic of innovation happens.

We know that design team reviews and other forms of collaboration lead to higher levels of innovation, i.e. better designs, but what happens after that? Many think that’s where the collaboration ends, however, in order for better-designed products to be built, a great amount of collaboration between engineering and manufacturing and throughout the enterprise is necessary.

Communicating across silos

Manufacturers must be able to collaborate—both internally and externally with customers and suppliers—across disciplinary silos. They must welcome ideas wherever they are generated across the enterprise and their supply chain.

Companies that fail at collaboration risk not only profits but survival.

Enterprise-wide collaboration is often limited by corporate structures that create silos—functional units whose leaders focus solely on outcomes within their control, without consideration of their effect on the overall organization. Changing this structure and mindset must begin with leadership setting strategies and goals and championing technology solutions that can span across disciplines and throughout the enterprise.

A recently released study by the MPI Group highlights how manufacturers are trying (and often failing) to collaborate for accelerated innovation. The paper explores best practices and tools that support collaboration—and the performances they impact.

As you can see from the chart above, even those in leadership roles at manufacturing companies, who are the ones making the day-to-day decisions that impact the health of the overall business, do not have visibility into data from respective disciplines.

Only a little over half (54%) of these executives and leaders have visibility into the real-time data they need to make decisions and resolve issues before they become enterprise disasters.

Despite the importance of this, fewer than half of the companies report that Leadership functions have excellent collaboration with other functions (chart above). What’s more, leadership collaboration is just fair, poor or non-existent at approximately 15% of the companies (Figure 3) and extensive use of Leadership best practices to facilitate collaboration and innovation is prevalent at about half of manufacturers.

Manufacturing must access and share information across the organization (production schedules, operations metrics, regulatory records, staffing needs, supply criteria) to innovate and improve operations. Without digital collaboration with other functions, manufacturing productivity can quickly decline, putting both quality and profits as well as workplace safety at risk.

Despite that reality, fewer than half of companies report that their manufacturing functions have excellent collaboration with other areas of the business. The use of improvement principals, such as Six Sigma and Lean methodologies, typically originate within manufacturing, but the MPI study found no process or practices that facilitate collaboration, innovation and business success are extensively used by manufacturing.

In fact, only four technologies that support collaboration and innovation are commonly deployed by more than a third of manufacturing functions: Business analytics (53% regularly use), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is used by 43%, Artificial Intelligence (37%) and project planning and management (40%).

Manufacturing is dependent upon other functions to be successful, with many key indicators directly related to collaboration (machine availability, on-time delivery, and quality yields). So limited collaboration with supply chain and/or procurement can leave a production line starved for materials—unable to make goods or fulfill orders.

A majority of companies report machine availability of less than 90% and 38% report on-time deliveries of 90% or less. Obviously, there is significant room for improvement for better collaboration and coordination between engineering and manufacturing.

If you would like to learn how you can improve collaboration at your organization, please download the white paper, Collaborate and Innovate for High-Performance Results.

You can also learn more by watching this on-demand webinar (below) with the author of this white paper, John Brandt, founder of MPI Group, and SOLIDWORKS manufacturing experts Michael Buchli and Dick Longoria.


Barb Schmitz

Barb Schmitz

Senior Marketing Communications Manager at SolidWorks
Barb Schmitz is a Senior Manager in Marketing Communications with BA in Journalism and over 30 years of experience in the CAD software industry. She started her career as a journalist covering technology and served as an editor for several leading industry publications for over 20 years. Besides being a sleuth of tech, she is a loyal dog owner, travel bum, mom, lover of hoppy IPAs, red wine, and alternative music lover living in the great city of Chicago.