How Peer-to-Peer Collaboration Is Changing the Game

a group of engineers reviewing their peer-to-peer collaboration strategy

Smart manufacturers know that breaking down the walls between their suppliers and customers can help them access more streamlined and innovative production methods. But collaboration isn’t only important outside the walls of the manufacturer. In fact, how easily your own designers, engineers, and other team members can share knowledge, review each other’s progress, and work together may be even more vital to your success.

Of course, facilitating open collaboration, even within a single organization, can come with its own set of challenges. Some companies may find it difficult to break out of traditional hierarchical modes of working. Others may simply lack the tools or strategies for removing silos and ensuring the proper flow of information. However, those manufacturers that are prioritizing peer-to-peer collaboration (P2P) between their employees are quickly discovering how much more innovative and agile it can make them be.

Let’s look closer at the state of peer-to-peer collaboration in manufacturing, then discuss some ways you can make it a more integral aspect of your organization.

Peer-to-Peer Collaboration and Its Impact on Innovation and Agility

So what do we mean when we say P2P collaboration? For many, the first thing that may come to mind are the early days of file sharing, particularly applications like Napster. Although this isn’t exactly what we’re talking about anymore, there is something to be said for how those programs promoted and prioritized openness and communal effort. In order to function, everyone had to work together and share information openly — which happens to be what P2P collaboration requires in the workplace today.

In short, modern peer-to-peer collaboration refers to a decentralized method of working that emphasizes free cooperation and equality over more structured hierarchical barriers. While defined roles and an overarching structure can still exist, P2P collaboration places more value on knowledge and expertise. As long as you have something to contribute to a project or initiative, a P2P collaborative framework will make it possible for you to share your ideas and collaborate.

This preference for ideas over structure, for collaboration over barriers, can have a huge impact on innovation, whether you’re working within an individual team or across the entire organization. For example, without unnecessary bureaucratic layers, P2P collaboration makes it possible for ideas to flow and be exchanged much more quickly between team members. In turn, teams can work through problems, iterate more efficiently, and work through challenges in shorter timeframes. 

This also makes it much easier to adapt to changes or unexpected issues on the fly. Team members can simply reach out to whoever has the most relevant expertise. There is no defined decision-making process to work through. Instead, team members are empowered to work together until they find a solution.

The Role of Technology in P2P Collaboration

Of course, enabling peer-to-peer collaboration isn’t as easy as simply encouraging your employees to walk up to one another’s desk and ask for advice. Not only are teams and organizations often distributed in the modern workplace, they can also depend on data sets and information sources that are distributed. This is especially true in the manufacturing industry, where designs can quickly lose relevance if not accompanied by up-to-date data, and where concerns over security and privacy may curtail more open forms of collaboration.

For these reasons, technology plays a central role in facilitating P2P collaboration. What kinds of tools do we see used most in the manufacturing space? For one, PLM systems that allow team members to share files and work together throughout the manufacturing process, from design and engineering to production and maintenance, are essential. So are ERP and SCM (supply chain management) systems, which can help integrate and streamline business processes across departments, enabling P2P collaboration in areas like inventory management, supply chain optimization, and financial planning.

But one of the best ways to ensure productive and seamless P2P collaboration is by using technology that doesn't force employees to learn each other’s specialized tools, but instead allows them to work the way they want. This is exactly what our Anark software suite does. Our solutions allow you to source content from multiple specialized systems (like PLM, ERP, and SCM). Not only that, but our PLM, PDM, and CAD integrations all understand complex product design information, making it possible to automate the packaging and publishing of technical data so that everyone has easy access to continuously up-to-date information. Meanwhile, real-time communication and collaboration tools let employees edit and markup documents together without having to remove them from their context. And all this takes place with the full traceability and security, as well as enterprise-grade scalability, required by today’s modern manufacturers.

Challenges and Considerations

As with any new initiative, implementing P2P collaborative techniques may come with its own set of unique challenges. Even with the right technology in place, don’t be surprised if you run into some of the following obstacles:

  • Difficulty managing contributions: The open aspect of P2P collaboration will inevitably mean that you’ll get contributions from a more diverse set of team members with varying levels of expertise. Ensuring these different members can each make their voice heard and contribute to the project may prove challenging. 
  • Ensuring quality work: With a greater number and variety of contributions happening within the P2P collaborative framework, it may become more difficult vetting each voice, checking its quality, and ensuring it is aligned with the overall goal or purpose of the project.
  • Maintaining consistent direction: As more team members weigh in with their own opinions and ideas, it may become more likely for a project to drift away from its original objectives or even to become more complex. Maintaining its direction, while considering ongoing feedback, can sometimes prove difficult.
  • Cultural resistance: For those more accustomed to traditional hierarchical structures, P2P collaboration may at first feel chaotic or unfocused. This may make it less likely for them to trust the process or even take part in it.

Fortunately, there are active steps manufacturers can take in order to maintain balance and inclusivity within P2P environments. For instance, it can be a good idea to implement clear guidelines and processes for making contributions. This way, anyone who wants to take part in the collaborative process will understand their responsibility for maintaining a project’s goals and direction. Likewise, organizations can implement peer review mechanisms to ensure high standards of quality, as well as continuous improvement.

Regular communication can help further guide any collaborative efforts and help team members stay aligned with organizational objectives. When paired with regular trainings, this can also help break down any resistance people may have to these new processes. Instead, they’ll understand exactly how it works best and, as a result, will be more likely to make productive collaborations across different teams.


Peer-to-peer collaboration has come a long way since its file-sharing roots. Organizations of all sizes now recognize how its emphasis on open communication and its reliance on a flat structure (versus a more rigid hierarchical one) has the potential to foster a more innovative, agile, and engaged workforce. By integrating these principles into your own work practices, you can help streamline the flow of information and harness the collective power of your teams.

While there may be initial challenges in implementing these new processes, Anark is uniquely situated to help make it as easy as possible for your teams to embrace P2P collaboration. Our solutions can manage and organize technical information from a variety of specialized applications used across the modern manufacturing and engineering sectors. This makes it possible to share specialized knowledge and work together across platforms without disrupting existing workflows or forcing anyone to learn new tools. In short, it breaks down silos and makes cross-functional collaboration as easy and effective as possible.

See for yourself how Anark can help boost P2P collaboration at your organization. Request a demo today.

About the Author

Patrick Dunfey
Vice President of Marketing and Sales Enablement
Patrick is an accomplished marketing and sales enablement professional who knows that customers are at the heart of every great innovation. He focuses on driving customer satisfaction and business growth through aligned Product-Marketing-Sales programs. He uses digital systems and data-driven approaches to understand, measure and deliver success, resulting in unparalleled customer experiences and value.  Patrick has 20 years of enterprise software expertise, with specialties in CAD, PLM, ERP, AR/VR and IoT. Prior to joining Anark, Patrick developed and taught a business course on XR value strategy, helping companies identify and realize value using virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. During 14 years at PTC, a leading provider of product development software, Patrick led teams responsible for the design, build and launch of an award-winning, state-of-the-art technology experience center resulting in 5X customer meeting growth, and 66% close rates on those meetings; he led the development of a new IoT sales enablement strategy to map business value to enabling technology contributing to 52% YoY IoT revenue growth; and met with over 1000 companies, ranging from SMB to the Fortune 100, to help bridge the gap between technology and customer value. Patrick began his career as a mechanical engineer, working on product design and development projects with Brooks Automation, Arthur D. Little, U.S. Army, Keurig, and others. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University.
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