6 Practical Tips to Improve Your Design Review Process

Adam Keating

May 3, 2023


min read

Despite the evolution of design and manufacturing in the past few decades, design review remains an archaic process compared to the advanced CAD and PLM tools that surround it. This lack of innovation in design review has forced engineering teams to rely on slow and disconnected manual processes that costs them time, money, and preventable mistakes.

If your organization wants the benefits of efficient, reliable design review and real-time collaboration, start here.

Design Review Then and Now

Engineering teams struggled to communicate long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Design review has always relied on static deliverables and synchronous meetings. Whiteboards and splintered email threads  held essential information, and engineers were supposed to cobble all the pieces together to pursue a unified goal.

PowerPoints, emails, and documents are not good enough for an engineering team’s most critical design data. Not only are these tools largely disconnected, but the information they contain is often outdated as new iterations and changes develop. It then becomes the job of a designer or manager to pull it all together.

Cloud-based systems make collaboration on designs and feedback much easier. However, many design and manufacturing teams still have not fully embraced this aspect of digital transformation. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of cloud systems, but the greater engineering world still has some catching up to do.

As the tool set evolves, though, engineers need smarter solutions to fill in the gaps. Cloud tools have replaced many of the homegrown Band-Aid answers that engineers put together to address needs that other tools do not fulfill. CAD is essential for every engineer, and many teams rely on PLM to manage this data at scale, but these tools are not purpose-built for collaboration. Instead, teams rely on fast communication tools like email and slideshows to collaborate and are forced to bring this critical review data outside their PLM or central repo.  

With cloud tools and asynchronous work on the rise, more companies are realizing the deep-rooted problems in their processes. 

Teams today typically have either no clear design review processes or systems too formal and rigid to be useful for day-to-day, iterative collaboration. In software development, these rigid "waterfall" review structures were falling out of favor more than two decades ago. Engineering teams deserve the same agility and adaptability their software counterparts enjoy.

Improving the Design Review Process

These six tips can help you improve your design review process, eliminate bottlenecks, and increase productivity.

1. Use real-time, cloud-based tools.

The age of the static document is over. Today's teams need cloud-based tools that provide up-to-the-second information on their designs. While many organizations have looked to their PLM to handle these needs, but purpose-built tools do a much better job.

2. Centralize communications first.

Communication is essential to an effective design review process. Every member of the team needs to be able to communicate instantly with the others without losing clarity. Build communication into every process and rely on an authoritative source of truth to ensure everyone always works off the most current and authenticated information.

3. Build processes that automate quality.

Quality and consistency separate great organizations from mediocre ones. Human error can creep in at any moment, though. Build processes that automate quality by making it easy for engineers and other design review participants to catch important details and hit quality goals. 

4. Remove manual work, management, and updating.

Engineers become engineers to build great technology, not to administer the work around that technology. Automate as much manual work and management as possible by leaning harder on automation tools. Instead of asking engineers to remember what comes next, use visible workflows and dashboards to make it simple and standardized, so they can focus on what they do best.

5. Integrate an agile review process.

Your automation should be dependable but not rigid. Not every project has the same needs. Internal stakeholders have different priorities than external stakeholders, and early concepts focus on different factors than final reviews. Start from a solid foundation, then build design review processes that account for different needs.

6. Execute reviews from a central connected hub.

When everything is in the same place, everyone knows where to look for information and where to collaborate. Less confusion leads to better results. PLM and CAD solutions play a major role in success, but if you want to improve your design review process, a central hub with feedback and markup tools is essential.

Improving your design review process is a simple and effective way to provide an immediate boost to both productivity and morale. Don't force your engineers to struggle with outdated processes. Give them the tools and systems they need, then enjoy as your team and company reap the benefits.

December 9, 2020

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