3 Reasons why Engineering and Manufacturing Are Disjointed

Written By: Julie Pike
  • 11/27/2018

Effective collaboration between those in engineering and manufacturing is a critical step to remaining competitive in the era of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). Success hinges on manufacturing’s ability to streamline processes and stay aligned with engineering and other downstream teams. To become fully agile, a seamless flow of information must exist between the teams planning for the manufacture of products. That means manufacturing needs to easily access the most up-to-date product information in a timely fashion. However, this is easier said than done. 

At its simplest, the manufacturing process involves fabricating parts, assembling final products, and performing inspections. However, the manufacturing process is complex because it must satisfy three sets of distinct requirements: those of the customer, the market, and the company. Complicating matters is a common set of challenges many companies face when trying to establish better manufacturing planning processes. In a typical manufacturing environment, engineering and manufacturing operate almost independently. This can lead to teams that are working in silos with disjointed ways of doing things: 

1. Teams use different systems to do their work – Engineering usually uses a product lifecycle management (PLM) system to manage the digital product definition in the form of an engineering bill of materials (EBOM). Meanwhile, manufacturing often relies on ERP for a manufacturing bill of materials (MBOM) – along with the processes and elements associated with the physical product. This includes materials, inventory, and parts and supplier sourcing.

2. They manage data differently – Engineering is focused on developing the product design and “design intent”. To that end, they organize data based on product function such as mechanical, engineering, and software. Their product definition captures this complexity in the form of information around lifecycle state, part number, EBOM, 3D models, and product structures. 

Manufacturing, on the other hand, is focused on the manufacturing strategy and how the product will get produced. They work with a definition of the product that includes the manufacturing release state, MBOM, workstations, tools, resources, and skills. This group also must deal with the complexity of manufacturing across multiple facilities and different equipment, processes, and resources from plant to plant and line to line within a plant.

3. They rely on different data models -- Engineering data models are set up to manage CAD and product structure information. Product design teams often spend a tremendous amount of time creating lots of valuable information including 3D models, machine steps and tool information, and model-based definitions. 

Manufacturing planning data models are set up for plant organization, workstation and tool definition, resources, and other manufacturing-related processes. Few manufacturing planning organizations can capitalize on all the work that engineering undertakes to produce lots of data by seamlessly incorporating that information into their production plans. Oftentimes, production plans are organized in spreadsheets, requiring the manufacturing group to enter engineering data manually.

So what’s an organization to do when there is such a (seemingly) insurmountable gap between design and production? The key to success is a digital thread of information that brings information from engineering to manufacturing in a way that makes the most sense to each of the stakeholders. This digital thread helps to break down the silos between engineering and manufacturing 

The Benefits of Enabling a Digital Thread for Manufacturing Process Planning

With a digital thread, product design data such as EBOMs, 3D viewables, and Options & Variants can be transformed into production planning and manufacturing deliverables. Proper manufacturing planning enables manufacturers to fully leverage the value and richness of engineering data while performing their daily duties of optimizing the production planning for efficiency, flexibility, and quality. Ultimately, this has a huge impact on the business: 

  • Concurrent development of designs and the manufacturing process definition enables faster time to manufacture and, in turn, faster time to market;
  • Unified authoring of EBOM, MBOM, manufacturing processes, quality plans, and work instructions in a complete digital product definition ensures that stakeholders are able to easily find all related artifacts of a product to quickly make decisions. 

Breaking down the silos between engineering and manufacturing is doable. With a PLM solution that automatically cascades product information downstream in a way that makes sense to users is a great first step in the right direction. Click here to discover how to get started on manufacturing process planning today. 




  • Windchill
  • PLM
  • Digital Transformation
  • Industry 4.0

About the Author

Julie Pike

Julie Pike is the PLM Content Marketing Specialist at PTC. She has spent her career in marketing and communications primarily in the technology industry. Follow her on Twitter at @julie_pike.