In any business, consistent collaboration is the driving force for continued efficiency and effectiveness. For manufacturing engineers, a lack of collaboration with other departments can result in high costs and scope creep.
Similar to the metal fabrication decision-making process, collaborative engineering is an interactive process that requires participation from several key stakeholders involved throughout the supply chain process. The goal of collaborative engineering is for engineering stakeholders to create solutions, resolve conflicts and agree upon courses of action that affect a fabrication project.
Below are opportunities and challenges that collaborative engineering can create for these stakeholders.
There are several positives that result from collaborative engineering, including the opportunities to:
Gain different perspectives. One of the biggest advantages of a group coming together to work on a project is that all angles are considered. Different people naturally bring alternate perspectives to the table, which can breed creative problem-solving.
Encourage creativity and innovative thinking. Group collaboration and brainstorming gives you better odds of finding the perfect solution to any project’s problems. Dedicate time to brainstorming. It can provide your engineering team with potential ideas to consider early in the design phase.
Balance the decision-making process. Provide each member of the engineering team an opportunity to participate in the decision making process. This way, you ensure that the decisions made keep all affected areas of production in consideration. Workplace collaboration can root out the occurrence of biased or partisan decisions, because each stakeholder has a presence around the table.
Collaborative engineering is not without its challenges. The process does have the potential to:
Lead to lengthier decision-making. When more people need to meet and be consulted before a decision can be made, project lead times run the risk of extension. In order to exchange product data and make imperative decisions more efficiently, implement communication and collaboration strategies to help anyone involved in the decision-making process.
Invite conflict and tension. When team members are constantly at a crossroads over key points of strategy and implementation, the project suffers. Personality clashes can inhibit a team’s ability to come to an agreement. If team members are unable to communicate effectively, the overall project objectives will not be met.
In order to temper conflict and keep a project moving, it’s important to establish (and reiterate) roles and responsibilities within a collaborative team. An effective team needs a leader who can take conflicting ideas and make critical decisions.
What other opportunities and challenges of the collaborative engineering process have you experienced? Do you have additional suggestions to help overcome the challenges?Image Credit: Grant Baldwin via Flickr