In the previous blog in this series, we have discussed why collaborative engineering is essential for global manufacturers. While it may seem increasingly inevitable to 'design anywhere manufacture anywhere' in the current manufacturing ecosystem, it is definitely not an easy accomplishment for organizations to adopt this framework overnight.
Collaborative engineering comes with its own set of challenges, like every other scenario, where multiple variables come into play. Let’s explore this angle further.
Collaboration, can be simply defined as, ‘working together to achieve a unified goal’. In the manufacturing context, collaboration redefines the way people, processes and systems interact in order to achieve key organizational goals. A collaborative approach analyzes, builds, restructures and streamlines broken links between various elements that enable this interaction.
Due to multiple dependencies across various related process variables, one of the critical success factors for this approach is the right balance between these variables. Any hindrance to this balance poses a threat to make the entire approach dysfunctional.
So, what could be the possible setbacks?
- Leadership buy-in
- Cost Investment
- Commitment of Time
- Cross functional interdependency
- Resistance to change/User adoption
- Risk Management
- Leadership buy-in:
It is essential to have the leadership support, in order to make the initiative a success. Without the leadership buy in, it is a challenge to sustain a cross functional approach and utilize the necessary resources. Approval for funds, technical resources, systems and many other parameters would be hindered without the backing of leadership.
Leadership buy-in can be achieved by showcasing potential benefits, both immediate and long term, that the organization will achieve by implementing the approach.
- Cost Investment:
Collaborative approach demands significant investments in new technologies and related tools. Hence, it is essential for the decision makers to allocate funds for these initiatives.
A robust collaboration framework without the required funds for tools or technical experts in place is as good as a brand new Ferrari without the engine. It may not be essential to immediately invest in all of the required infrastructure. It could possibly be panned over a period of time or utilized only when a specific need arises.
But, it is critical to understand and commit to the cost that could be incurred in the initiative, thus making the team confident of having access to all resources that are essential for the initiative to be successful.
- Commitment of Time:
Many teams often feel challenged to allocate time for new corporate initiatives when there isn’t a prior commitment or it is not viewed as important as their core responsibilities. This creates unnecessary roadblocks that affect planning, project status discussions in terms of progress made, or even ad hoc risk mitigation.
Due to this lack of commitment in time and effort from various stakeholders and team members, new initiatives could actually struggle or even fail to launch.
- Cross functional interdependency:
Engineering collaboration brings together various cross functional teams like engineering, production, supply chain, manufacturing and IT to work together in order to facilitate collaborative efforts. Easier said than done. Even though all teams are aligned towards achieving key organizational initiatives, their approaches could be different.
Also, there could be a possibility of varying degrees of acceptance from the teams on the collaboration initiative. Cross functional activities also increase complexities in project management. Accountability and goals could also be misaligned.
If this initiative is treated as one of those ‘Good to Have’ initiatives rather than ‘Must Dos’ or, if individual/team performance goals don’t have any KPIs aligned to this initiative, it is a challenge to drive people to actually five their best efforts.
- Resistance to change/User adoption:
While the engineering and manufacturing departments are the prime beneficiaries of a collaborative engineering approach, it is essential for the organization to be aware and contribute in whatever way possible for this shift. It cannot be treated as an isolated process that is retained just inside the particular department.
In the long run, this collaboration could be extended to include other teams like sales, pre-sales, or maybe even HR and finance. When leadership supports these initiatives, there is greater acceptance and compliance to adopt new changes. What better way to ensure organization wide participation, than having your leaders advocate and support the initiative?
- Risk Management:
Engineering collaboration brings together various internal and external teams to interact through a common platform. Due to interdependencies across these teams, data sharing becomes common. So, protecting this information against a security breach is critical. Even though, specific access rights can be given to teams based on their roles and responsibilities, it is important to plan on the data security and possible risk management issues.
Keep watching this space for more topics on engineering collaboration and methods & tools that facilitate the initiative. Here is a whitepaper that discusses how engineering collaboration can address cost and process optimization for manufacturers. Read on.