Manufacturing has long been the backbone of industrial progress, driving economies and innovation worldwide. In the 21st century, however, the digital landscape of manufacturing is changing rapidly. One of the most pressing challenges facing the industry today is the PLM collaboration gap. As technology evolves and supply chains become more complex, bridging this gap has become a top priority for manufacturers around the globe. In this blog post, we will explore the collaboration gap in manufacturing and discuss innovative strategies to address it.
Recognizing the PLM Collaboration Gap
The PLM collaboration gap in manufacturing refers to the disconnect that often exists between daily PLM users in Engineering and the multitude of stakeholders inside and outside the organization involved in the production process. These stakeholders include manufacturing operations and production, quality, procurement and sourcing, suppliers and contract manufacturers, service and support, and even customers. Historically, these groups have often worked in isolation from one another in their own system of record, leading to inefficiencies, miscommunication, delays, and a lack of agility in responding to issues and market demands.
Contributing Factors in the PLM Collaboration Gap
Silos of Information Break the Digital Thread: One of the primary culprits behind the PLM collaboration gap is the existence of information silos resulting in multiple sources of many truths. Different departments within a manufacturing organization use specialized applications, spending little to no time in PLM. This makes it difficult to share critical technical product data seamlessly across departments, so they resort to disconnected email and file sharing applications that are familiar and easy This break in the digital thread hinders decision-making, slows the production process, and results in unforeseen costs due to errors, scrap and rework.
Global Supply Chains: Modern manufacturing often relies on complex global supply chains, involving suppliers and contract manufacturers from various parts of the world. Visibility into supplier performance is a daunting task, and any delay in providing accurate up-to-date product data and answers to suppliers has far-reaching consequences.
Technological Challenges: While technology has the potential to bridge the PLM collaboration gap, it can also exacerbate the problem. Outdated systems and a lack of interoperability between software and hardware solutions can hinder collaboration efforts.
Cultural and Organizational Barriers: Manufacturing organizations and their suppliers typically have deeply ingrained cultures and structures that resist change. This resistance results in a gap that starts with the phrase, “I just need the 2D drawing”, or “I can’t (don’t want to) access that system/data”. Breaking down this barrier requires a “people first” approach where the users are part of the solution, getting simple data access and rapid responses to their questions. Collaboration solutions that take people out of their daily routine/systems/tools are doomed to fail and remain disconnected from where work actually gets done.
Addressing the PLM Collaboration Gap
Extend the Digital Thread with Technical Content Collaboration Platforms: To break down information silos, manufacturers turn to integrated collaboration platforms that centralize data and enable real-time collaboration. Think content collaboration like SharePoint and Teams. These platforms provide a common workspace where stakeholders can access the information and people, they need to make informed decisions. But moving data to generic content collaboration platforms, or worse, as email attachments, breaks the digital thread. For manufacturers, it is paramount that the collaboration platform understands technical product data and the system(s) that data is managed in, such as PLM. Think technical content collaboration to extend the digital thread to everyone who needs it.
Supply Chain Collaboration and Visibility: Achieving transparency and visibility in supply chains is crucial. Making product data accessible (accurate and always up-to-date) and actionable (mark up and discuss in real-time) across the supply chain improves supplier collaboration and supplier performance, reducing disruptions and delays.
Cross-Functional Team Reviews: Making PLM data accessible and actionable for cross-functional teams that include representatives from various departments improves peer reviews, data release, product quality and customer deliveries. Teams work together to quickly address challenges and drive faster innovation.
Embrace Industry 4.0: Industry 4.0 initiatives are enhanced by technical content collaboration with 3D visual collaboration, optimizing processes and providing valuable insights. Manufacturers that have embraced technical content collaboration have reduced part fabrication costs by 30%.
Cultural Transformation: Addressing cultural and organizational barriers requires a people first approach that meets them where they work. Employees want business technologies to be more collaborative, but need them to be integrated with the data and information they need to do their jobs. Forcing people into unfamiliar applications results in real collaboration happening in email and chat tools while putting IP at risk as untraced screenshots and files are shared. Bringing natural conversation together with simple data access and markup via a web app let's everyone work the way they want to while cross-linking directly to their specialized application.
The PLM collaboration gap in manufacturing is a challenge that can no longer be ignored. To remain competitive in an increasingly dynamic and globalized industry, manufacturers must prioritize technical content collaboration outside of PLM as a core strategy. By investing in technology, fostering a culture of cooperation, and rethinking traditional content collaboration, manufacturers can bridge the PLM collaboration gap and unlock new levels of productivity and innovation. The future of manufacturing belongs to those who can adapt, collaborate, and thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.
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