They key to staying competitive is transforming how people work together to evolve designs.
Today’s engineering teams face sky high expectations. Every year, customers demand products with more functionality, at a lower cost, with faster lead times. To keep up, companies need teams of specialized experts – inside the business and across the global supply chain.
Never before has getting a product out the door required so much input from so many specialists. Not long ago, one engineer could act as a subject matter expert across multiple disciplines. With increasing complexity, it’s no longer reasonable to expect one person (or even a small team) to have deep knowledge of mechanical, electrical, manufacturing, supply chain, and quality issues.
Now, in order to make a good decision, that engineer has to consult another expert. And that expert might work in a different office – or in a different city, state, or country. In fact, that person might not even work at your company (they might work for your supplier or even your customer).
Companies don’t just need access to all this expertise. They need these teams of experts to work together effectively.
What happens when they don’t work together effectively? Product launches get delayed, projects go over budget, and quality mistakes make it into production.
Want to see how it works before getting in touch? Check out our library of interactive walkthroughs to see it for yourself first.
Behind every feat of engineering, there are thousands of design decisions. Decisions made everyday by the experts in your business. Some of these decisions have the power to make or break a product launch. With markets and technology changing faster than ever, companies cannot afford a failed product launch.
Consider this: you launch a product, with a design error that slipped through the cracks. This leads to quality issues in version one of the product, driving warranty claims. That’s bad for gross margins. But it also impacts customer trust.
Now consider what happens if your competitor launches a great product. Now, in that technology category, your brand is considered unreliable and their brand is considered great. It could take years to recover from a setback like this.
But you don’t just have to launch quality products. You also have to launch them fast. Imagine your company has created hype around a new technology. But long design cycles delay the launch. Customers get bored of waiting. A competitor swoops in and launches their product before you. Customers buy their product instead. The competitor gains momentum and market share. Now you’re #2 in a technology category you pioneered.
Your most important design decisions — the ones that make or break the future of your product and your brand — they get made in design reviews. Design reviews are where your specialists come together. Where they analyze complex tradeoffs and exchange feedback that sparks conversations. Ideally, it’s where they lock in the best decisions possible, after thoroughly considering tradeoffs, risks, and constraints.
In reality, that process is often ineffective. Sometimes, there’s a mismatch between the complexity of the tradeoff and how thoroughly the team can review it. Other times, the review doesn’t happen at all. In these situations, you risk locking in the wrong decision. And when you lock in the wrong decision, you live with the consequences for years.
The stakes are really that high.
Design review has never been more important. But if you ask a typical engineering team to describe their approach to reviews, they’d probably describe something like this:
What happens after the review isn’t much better. Even when you do generate thoughtful feedback, it’s hard to document it. Teams use notebooks and spreadsheets. None of the context gets pulled in, unless you brute force it with manual effort (writing down part numbers and revision info, adding long explanations to capture design intent). Inevitably, people don’t want to do all this admin, so the context gets lost and it’s hard to follow up on the feedback. Or maybe the feedback gets lost all together — buried in an email chain or a spreadsheet or a slide deck that never gets looked at.
A survey of 250 engineering leaders revealed that a typical team loses track of 42.8% of design feedback over the course of an NPD project.
To fix this problem, we need a new approach to design reviews. One that optimizes not just for product data, but for human engagement.
Product decision making has never been more difficult – or more essential – to get right. That’s why we built CoLab. In today’s world of product complexity, great decision making requires specialized expertise. That means decision making is no longer just about people engaging with product data – it’s about people engaging with other people.
Databases like PLM provide a strong foundation, where product data is controlled (and therefore reliable). But PLM has a rigid architecture that’s optimized for data (and for human to data interaction). What engineers need now is a system that’s built for human to human interaction.
CoLab is a Design Engagement System. That means CoLab is built from the ground up to help people engage – not just with data, but with each other – to make great design decisions.
CoLab isn’t built to control product data -- you already have PLM for that. Instead, it allows you to interrogate the right data with the right people in real-time or asynchronously. With CoLab, decisions are made with context, input from the right people, and as early as possible in the process.
Reviews and decision making get tracked automatically and can be synced back to PLM. Engineers can do what they do best, and CoLab will support them by documenting everything in the background.
Meanwhile, CoLab’s Insights feature gathers data about all of the human to human interactions that power your product decision making. That means you can objectively improve how your team evolves a design from concept to production validation.
In a world where expectations for quality, cost, and time to market increase every year, leadership teams have a choice:
You can work hard to make existing processes more efficient by optimizing how people work with data and PLM. Or you could focus on the bigger opportunity: modernizing how people work with each other so teams can be more effective.
The best engineering teams in the world won’t settle for 10% efficiency gains. By focusing on effectiveness, they’re unlocking a new working potential:
“We’re now starting to work with conversion partners through CoLab years before we’re ready to go into production, which historically is when they’d see that first bit of product.”
"With our normal in person events we’d find more than 100 opportunities for value-add on the models we’re reviewing. This year with our virtual events in CoLab, we’re averaging over 200."
"Something that used to take a full year, we got it done in six months. And I personally have never overseen a cost reduction redesign of that scale — in terms of the number of parts and the amount of complexity — and been able to hit a 50% cost reduction on it.”