Concurrent Design and Manufacturing: Scalable Solutions for Closing the Gap Between Engineering and Manufacturing

Written by: Emily Larkin

Read Time: 2:30 min

Imagine this scenario: Your manufacturing facility is ramping up production capacity for a new product line to be introduced. Your quality engineer notices after the first week that products coming off the line match a drawing from the early design phase pinned at the workstation, instead of the latest approved revision in the system. Relying on outdated paper-based printouts, disconnecting manufacturing production from engineering design, can result in lost production time, increased costs, and a delay in the release to market. This lack of enterprise collaboration between critical functions can result in mistakes that lead to quality issues. 

The process of moving from complex product design in engineering to building the final product in manufacturing can be complex and costly to execute, especially in large companies. Seamless online collaboration has never been more of a necessity across people and processes from the initial state of product ideation through to manufacturing, device connectivity, and field service. Even more critical to users with ever accelerating project deadlines is the need to access product and enterprise data easily – in the context and domain they are accustomed.

Concurrent Design and Manufacturing with the Digital Thread

A digital thread serves as the single source of data truth in order to create consistency, collaboration, and alignment across functions like engineering and manufacturing. It involves  real-time data synchronization of related upstream and downstream information to create a common set of data that can be scaled and democratized enterprise-wide to ensure continuity across products, processes, and people. Since the digital thread can be made up of many data sources, where do you start? Product design and PLM. 

PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) is the backbone of the digital thread, from design, through planning, down to the shop floor. Different lenses or views into the digital thread are required as product data moves upstream and downstream. Roles within manufacturing on the shop floor require in-context views of the product designs or drawings. These roles should be considered secondary or downstream PLM participants along the digital thread, requiring frequent access to PLM content, but not enough to justify a full license cost or training to navigate the expert system where the product design originated.

The reality of many manufacturers today shows regular requests for manual exports and paper printouts from engineering that need to be distributed across workstations in the factory. Online access to the PLM software could improve the situation, but huge training efforts and license costs for the factory workforce are some of the typical obstacles. The result, like in our earlier scenario, is that the manufacturing floor quickly ends up with outdated drawings and designs that are disconnected from the source PLM software, where design engineers may have already released a new part iteration.

This existing problem is often magnified with geographically distributed manufacturing facilities and engineering design centers. Existing silos and collaboration barriers become even more pronounced, especially with the increase in remote work.

What if manufacturing had all the right data at the right time? With increased visibility, engineering and manufacturing can work concurrently and close the gap – helping to save time, reduce costs, improve quality, and get to market faster.

Collaboration Made Easy

ThingWorx Navigate is a digital thread solution that provides these secondary PLM participants in the factory a set of ready to use, role-based apps that are available on demand to provide visibility to up-to-date PLM content. ThingWorx Navigate role-based apps allow users on the shop floor to see information in context to support their jobs and decisions.

Ready to use, out of the box apps include:

  • View Document
  • View Drawing
  • View Design File
  • View Part Structure 

All roles involved in engineering design and changes can work concurrently using the same digital information while those on the shop floor can instantly see the latest released part, drawing, or change in the bill of materials with ThingWorx Navigate.

Alleviate the barrier of complex enterprise systems to enable collaboration through concurrent design and manufacturing. Ensure manufacturing has up to date PLM information every time it’s needed with ThingWorx Navigate. If you’re interested, learn more here.


Stay tuned for our next blog to learn how companies like Frymaster, a division of Welbilt, are increasing visibility for factory foreman and line workers.

Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Windchill Navigate Industrial Equipment

About the Author

Emily Larkin Emily Larkin is the Product Manager for PTC's ThingWorx Navigate. She's focused on delivering digital solutions to bring valuable engineering information from domain systems, across the enterprise to enable collaboration and improve product time to market. She joined PTC in 2019 from GE where she served as a Senior Consultant focused on business strategy and technology risk management. She holds a BS in Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an executive degree in Business Administration from Indiana University Kelley School of Business.