The results of the Manufacturing Insights' latest survey show an interesting trend that manufacturing companies within the region are focusing their improvement efforts on driving efficiency in the product life-cycle area. That is companies are looking to apply waste reduction efforts, such as lean manufacturing ideas, to their product development processes.
Engineers the world over are expensive, and this has not gone unnoticed by the management within companies, especially with R&D and engineering staff numbers being reduced as companies try to save costs.
This, in turn, is leading to a focus on the efficiency of the product development process. Companies want to ensure that the engineers they employ are productive. They are effectively 'engineering' during the work day rather than focusing on administration or other non-value adding activities.
How do companies gain control and visibility over the development process? This is where the suite of product life-cycle management (PLM) tools comes into play. We have the tools that simplify and remove the administrative burden – things like product information management (PIM) systems, the increase in the use of collaboration tools from desktop videoconferencing through to shared markup. We can also see the increased use of computer-aided engineering (CAE) tools to support the efficiency of the engineering process through product, manufacturing and in-service simulations. Finally, we have the project management tools to monitor the progress of development projects as well as analyze the data to gain insights into the status and health of the development process. Such insights are useful as it gives us a better idea of the development costs and risks such as skills bottlenecks.
The next two to three years will see some major restructuring of the product development process as companies focus on waste reduction and increasingly turn to technology to facilitate lean product development.