When it comes to manufacturing and innovation, teamwork and collaboration are essential in bringing people, processes, and products together. For the design of a new product it is vital that requests, feedback and ideas from all parts of the Research and Development (R&D) value chain are considered for both product development and for success throughout the product lifecycle.
Most mid-size and large manufacturing companies have R&D centres, plants, partners, suppliers, customers, and service and repair units, all spread out in countries and across regions around the world. When designing a new product, this means having a huge pool of talent and experience geographically and organisationally dispersed. Yet, all the parts of the R&D value chain are involved in the same integrated process with the same overall objectives: to innovate and produce high quality products, that meet customer demands with a shorter time-to-market, and at a lower cost than their competitors.
In a series of blog posts, I will give my view on various industries, comparing processes and activities and consider the impact of video collaboration on them. In this first post, I will start by looking into innovation management for manufacturing – with and without the use of video and collaboration tools – and highlight some key considerations in the process.
Without video and collaboration tools – Impact on innovation, time-to-market and cost
1. Often the R&D leadership team has a huge talent pool at its disposal – within its own organisation, other parts of the company, as well as from customers, partners and suppliers. This pool of talent sits on a wealth of expertise that can make or break the success of a new product. Is the R&D leadership team making the best use of this talent pool?
2. Face-to-face meetings drive innovation and collaboration. Key personnel involved in the R&D value chain need to spend countless hours travelling to participate in meetings with other stakeholders. Not to mention the time lost for making travel scheduling fit into everyone’s busy calendars. Could this time be spent on other more productive activities? What impact does this have on the time to market?
3. Customer, partner and marketing and sales teams’ feedback and ideas are often the most important input for any R&D team. How much time and cost are spent to gather this input and is it a speedy, interactive and a collaborative process? Does the customer have direct instant access to R&D expertise?
4. Misunderstandings can easily occur when dispersed teams from different parts of the world and from various companies need to discuss and comment on product schematics/concepts via emails and over the phone. How much time and cost does the R&D team spend on corrective actions deriving from errors due to misunderstandings or lack of availability of real time collaboration tools?
5. Prototypes need to be sent across the world to geographically dispersed stakeholders for testing and reviews, as well as to the plant for preparing the production process. How much time is consumed and how much cost occurs from sending multiple revisions of prototypes back and forth to various locations throughout the design process? Can the production time be accelerated by having plant and assembly expertise deeper engaged in the early parts of the design process?
6. Having service and repair expertise involved in the design process is important for any R&D team. Innovative design considerations that are made to facilitate a speedy and easy repair, have a great impact on profitability from after-market maintenance as well as on customer satisfaction once the product is released. Are ideas for innovation and design changes gathered from the people that are actually performing the service and repair?
7. Best practices and intellectual property. How does new talent coming into an R&D team get up to speed on a current project? How is best practice and intellectual property which benefits all technicians, shared and stored?
With video and collaboration tools – Fosters innovation, shortens time-to-market, saves cost, and reduces errors
1. With video and collaboration tools the company can make best use of their experts and talents at any time and from anywhere.
2. R&D team members can collaborate easily in the comfort of their home office, having instant access to expertise throughout the company and even with suppliers, partners and customers.
3. In the R&D world, collaborating live over content is critical. For example, the ability to share CAD drawings with all members while critical discussion are taking place, creates a much deeper understanding of issues and builds consensus faster. Often it is necessary for design groups to see the customer’s applications first-hand or the production environment over video to make more informed decisions.
4. The ability for all the various teams involved in R&D process to have real time visual communication supported by tools such as content sharing, annotation, recording and streaming helps the company to reduce unnecessary travel time, avoid costly corrections due to misunderstandings or due to lack of collaboration tools.
5. Prototypes can be visually reviewed and discussed reducing time and cost for shipment of prototypes. Not to mention the benefits of recording key meetings for intellectual property purposes as well as for new team member do get up to speed if in case expertise leaves the company.
6. It is easy for experts or teams such as service and repair personnel to be an integrated part of the R&D process.
7. Recording capability allows a company to capture best practices and use these videos to accelerate the capability of all technicians. This is intellectual property that is seldom captured in companies, and video collaboration networks allow this to be recorded easily.
The manufacturing company with integrated video and collaboration tools can defy distance, working as one innovative team. By embedding video and collaboration tools as an inherent part of the innovation process, making collective decisions across any boundaries enables the company to design and produce high quality products. As a result, meeting customer demands, lowering production costs, and reducing time-to-market could almost always ensure an edge over the competition.
In my next blog posts, I will take a look at these perspectives and consider the benefits of video for different industries.