Manufacturers today need to use every advantage at their disposal to remain competitive in a global economy fraught with challenges, from geographically dispersed teams to global supply chain snafus to rapid shifts in customer preferences. One option that companies should be taking advantage of is concurrent engineering.
What Is Concurrent Engineering?
Concurrent engineering uses technology to automatically communicate product data. It weaves together the sequential steps of product creation, allowing everyone to work in parallel to maximize efficiency. This happens regardless of stakeholder location or role in the design process and assumes that the individual has been given security access to the data.
Concurrent engineering uses technology to communicate changes and connect various stakeholders in the creation process.
Why Implement Concurrent Engineering?
Problems with Traditional Engineering Methodologies
Unless all engineers and designers are working from the same data source, it’s difficult to ensure that all of their contributions—especially engineering or design specification changes—have been communicated correctly and quickly.
When this communication process doesn’t operate smoothly, engineers may inadvertently introduce errors that must be corrected downstream in the product introduction cycle. It’s well known that the later in the process a change is introduced, the more expensive it is to make the required corrections, so it’s in the company’s best interest to ensure rapid, accurate communication between teams and locations. Concurrent engineering solutions facilitate the communication required to catch inaccuracies early and prevent last-minute changes.
Concurrent engineering is not widely understood, which is unfortunate considering it’s easily implemented and can be immediately helpful, especially if your engineering and design teams use concurrent engineering solutions to simplify their data sharing. As data sources multiply because of different engineering and design tools, teams struggle with frequent design changes and handovers between teams, creating delays in time to market as well as expensive rework as problems rise to the surface.
Without concurrent engineering, errors are more easily introduced, production costs increase, and overall productivity suffers.
Benefits of Concurrent Engineering
Concurrent engineering instills the discipline inherent in a “single source of truth.” Because all teams are using the same data from the same repository, it becomes much easier to find and reuse essential data. Users spend less time searching for the right files, recreating the data in their system of record, and updating the systems they use, resulting in a faster, smoother design process. They also spend less time answering requests from users outside their system, giving them more productive time to develop products that meet cost and production targets.
Since the team won’t have to deal with unanticipated changes or mid-stream corrections that create costly rework, product development processes are more efficient, and the company will enjoy a higher rate of on-time project completions and on-budget results.
On-time design projects mean faster time to market, which often results in higher market share throughout the product’s entire lifecycle and the ability to command higher margins.
Concurrent engineering solutions streamline communication and automate processes for improved engineering productivity
To recap, the benefits of implementing a concurrent engineering process include:
- Improved productivity for engineering and design teams
- More on-budget projects
- On-time, on-spec product designs
- Faster time to market
- Fewer errors and less rework
Getting Started with Concurrent Engineering Solutions
The first step toward adopting this streamlined methodology is to select the correct concurrent engineering solutions to support the program. The most important of these tools is a robust PDM (product data management) solution. PDM solutions such as PTC’s Windchill act as the central data repository for concurrent engineering, so the details of every model, drawing, document, and spec can be found easily. Windchill can also track every version and revision of the data, automate manual tasks, and manage required approvals.
In addition, Windchill PDM can be embedded into CAD solutions so users can edit and manage CAD and related documents without leaving the CAD solution, further increasing efficiency. Remote workers, including non-CAD users, also have easy access, either through the internet, the Windows desktop, or through the PTC cloud.
A robust concurrent engineering solution, such as PTC Windchill, is the foundation of concurrent engineering.
The simplified process doesn’t just benefit engineering—it ensures that all stakeholders have easy access to approval and release processes.
Which Concurrent Engineering Solution Is Right for You?
Not all PDM solutions are created equal, which means they can vary widely in their ability to support concurrent engineering initiatives. If you are evaluating new concurrent engineering solutions, look for these key features:
- Ability to easily/automatically integrate with all CAD systems in use throughout the organization
- A full data repository
- Automated workflows for approvals and changes
- Ability to communicate with remote stakeholders, who may be employees, suppliers, or customers
- Lightweight viewers and self-service access by role for non-CAD users
- Secure project spaces
Next Steps in Adopting Concurrent Engineering
If you’re interested in learning more about concurrent engineering processes and which concurrent engineering solutions offer the best features, easiest and fastest implementation, and broadest integration capabilities, contact us today.