The Power of Collaboration in Product Design and Development

The greatest business minds know that working together as a collective team is more beneficial than working separately in silos. Even Steve Jobs, who thought very highly of his own ideas and abilities, said that, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

Yet are you and your coworkers truly collaborating during the design process? Or are the individual players off doing their part (perhaps literally) and only coming together as a team when problems arise? I joke that as mechanical designers and engineers, often our assemblies work together more cohesively than our teams do! As I write this, I hope you and your team don’t fall into this category.

For those of you who view collaboration as one of those feel-good HR experiments, let’s take a look at some strong reasons for investing in and optimizing collaboration (yes, even if you work at a small company).

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Is this what collaboration during COVID-19 has to look like? Technical collaboration can do better.

1. Collaboration Fosters Innovation, Leading to Better Solutions

Startups are all about collaboration, working to constantly innovate and improve their designs. They know the importance of working with customers to incorporate feedback, thus ensuring they bring great products to market. Startups are also lean, making sure their design and manufacturing processes are sustainable. Startups (good ones) are hungry for collaboration to ensure success.

Mature companies tend to get into the rut of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Success breeds complacency, however, leading to less desire to innovate. As a result, the “path well-traveled” continues to be the norm. When true collaboration enters the mix and people work together to vet options, processes and challenges, they often come up with innovative solutions that lead to amazing results. Guess what? The more people working on a problem, the greater the chances they will find the best solution possible! The old adage “two heads are better than one” is the cornerstone of collaboration. Think to yourself, would you rather be stuck in an escape room by yourself or with seven other people?

2. Collaboration Unites the Technical and Non-Technical

When Product Design or Engineering departments only collaborate with their technical counterparts, they are in for a world of hurt. Marketing will constantly be coming to you for explanations and graphics—or worse yet, they will deliver completely inaccurate messaging. Sales will improperly represent the product capabilities. PR won’t have the right answers past the basic FAQ documents.

The list goes on and on.

When you work in a truly collaborative environment like the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, you can easily expose the product design process to all the desired stakeholders. You would be amazed at what a difference this makes in overall project awareness. And furthermore, there is huge value in a marketing team that truly understands your products and process. You will be delighted to be free of all those needless questions to answer (though you might be lonely).

3. Collaboration Saves You Time (and Money!)

You might think that the time and effort involved with coordinating the collaboration process slows you down. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

With increased pressures to cut costs, compress product development cycles and solve design problems rapidly, there is no better time to bring the team (and extended team) together to discuss and inspire solutions. New ideas and cost-saving processes can be explored and discussed. The manufacturing team can alert the design team earlier in the planning phase if there are potential design flaws and risks to be mitigated. We all know that changes made early in the process are much less expensive than those made later on down the line.

4. Collaboration Unifies and Leads to a Happier (and More Educated) Workplace

This reason might be the feel-good part – but it’s also a big plus for your company. Collaboration helps people learn more about other teams and people they wouldn’t typically interact with. They gain valuable insight into the overall project and develop more knowledge regarding the various stakeholder roles. And guess what? When you fully understand how the other teams work, you start to make adjustments, modify your deliverables, improve your communication, have more empathy, etc. All parties become more unified and motivated – as well as driven by a sense of collective ownership.

During this time of social distancing with so many still relegated to working remotely, “real” collaboration might seem somewhat daunting. We can’t just walk over to someone’s desk to discuss a change order or to get someone’s quick opinion on a weldment. But haven’t we already become somewhat adept at online meetings? And, of course, there is email—if you’ve got the time and don’t mind the extremely linear approach.

The first email, by the way, was sent in 1971—nearly 50 years ago. It continues to be the most prevalent means of office communication. Do we really believe that there isn’t a better solution for collaboration than 50-year-old technology? And am I the only person who wonders who that first email went to? Who would have been there to receive it?

Of course, there are dozens of alternative online collaboration solutions available today, but none of them understand the Product Design and Manufacturing process quite as well as the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform. Dassault Systèmes, provider of the SOLIDWORKS software you know and love, has created this easy-to-use, one-stop-shop for all of your collaboration needs. It includes secure, transparent and powerful data management tools without the IT headaches or expensive server requirements.

How about a project management system that caters to product development? You can easily assign tasks, designate key milestones and post your SOLIDWORKS model data into the project timeline. Imagine getting to work (after your coffee, of course), turning on your computer, logging on to the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and clearly seeing your task assignments without having to dig through your emails. With a simple click you’ve launched SOLIDWORKS from the platform, always knowing you’re working on the most up-to-date file. All stakeholders can rely on a single source of truth—and that is priceless!

The 3DEXPERIENCE platform allows any team, big or small, to easily collaborate anytime, anywhere and on any device. Projects don’t need to be linear with one team waiting for an official hand-off. Instead, team members can complete and update their portions of the project concurrently, thus saving a substantial amount of overall time. In addition, any invited team members can transparently see into the product development timeline and get up-to-the minute reports.

Do you think your company is too small to invest in a collaboration tool? The 3DEXPERIENCE platform enables you to also collaborate and share your SOLIDWORKS models with your clients, the shop floor—maybe even a service department. I see collaboration tools such as the 3DEXPERIENCE platform as great equalizers, enabling small companies to compete with the big leagues, while large companies can become more inspired and agile.

Our office world is changing—make no mistake about that. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are realizing that their employees can successfully work remotely and still be highly productive. The future of physical offices isn’t as bright as it once was; for one thing, real estate is expensive, and makes for a nice line item to remove from the books. More and more engineers and designers will see themselves working from home, and will want to make sure they have the best collaborative, design-centric tool for the job—the 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

While it may be possible to come up with a brilliant idea by yourself, getting it perfected from inspiration to implementation as a team of one is highly unlikely and not recommended. Embracing collaboration will become increasingly more important in our ever-changing world and selecting the right collaboration tool is just as important as selecting the right CAD tool.

To learn more about 3DEXPERIENCE in product development and cloud collaboration, check out the whitepaper Developing Better Products in the Cloud.

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