Last week I had the opportunity to attend and speak at PlanetPTC Live, a conference for PTC end users. Each time I attend these types of events, I am continually reminded of how valuable it is talking with people to hear firsthand what their challenges are, as well as what common success stories have been achieved. This event was no different.
I am well aware of the challenges that manufacturers suffer from when dealing with point solutions to address specific tasks. The story typically starts with a company that has experienced growth in the past, often through acquisitions. What results is an IT environment with 50, 60 or even 70 different point products operating at a single location. Plants operating in other regions have the same issue, but with even different systems. This scenario is now driving a manufacturing transformation across the globe.
What results is a complex work environment where key employees know critical info that is needed every time a bottleneck occurs or a machine breaks down or some other delay occurs. Everyone wants to make their life easier, but the prospect of trying to fix the current situation is too daunting. In the end, this environment tends to have an effect of blocking process improvement.
What I was reminded of this week was that engineering teams are suffering from the same pain.
It turns out there have been many point solutions installed to address engineering challenges, resulting in very complex IT environments for design and manufacturing engineers all over the world. The same issue of growth by acquisition has heavily impacted design teams too. Their pain runs deep when tasked with integrating different CAD and PDM systems from the acquired companies with an existing product portfolio.
Ironically, many manufacturing and engineering teams are still operating in departmental silos. They are so focused on their own challenges that they have no idea their pain has been duplicated across the “wall” separating engineering from manufacturing. While they may be improving processes internally to their functional silos, there hasn’t been much focus on bridging the engineering and manufacturing processes.
Now is the time to “blow up” the wall of separation to help fight the common foe of process complexity. Manufacturers can benefit by taking a hard look at the redundancies that now exist in their IT systems to see how we might now work more closely together. Removing point solutions and embracing an enterprise platform-based approach to manufacturing operations and engineering design could help with both the design and build processes to remove complexity from the businesses. Technology exists today to establish end-to-end processes that span between engineering and manufacturing. If we can get both groups on board, we could see really significant performance and process improvement, leading to industry changes.
There is nothing but upside with a simpler process – from improving efficiency to shortening the product development process – that enables manufacturers to deliver higher quality products for a lower cost. The challenge is deciding that today is the time to stop the madness instead of simply saying “maybe next month” …