What is Collaborative Engineering?

Written By: Mark Taber
  • 2/11/2021
  • Read Time : 3 min

A collaborative engineering approach allows an organization to design anywhere, build anywhere, and service everywhere. Key stakeholders throughout the supply chain process work collaboratively to create solutions, resolve conflicts, and make decisions on critical actions for any given design and manufacturing project. This is increasingly important in today’s environment, where distributed workforces, supply chain disruptions, and regulatory/compliance pressures are the norm.

What is Collaborative Engineering?

Collaborative engineering brings decision makers together early in the engineering process. In our connected world, a collaborative engineering approach is essential to engage the best resources, regardless of where they’re located. Additionally, it allows a product to be manufactured wherever, with a preferred list of supply chain partners. Service customers can be located anywhere in the world.

Importance of Collaborative Engineering in Management of Business Initiatives

While collaboration is essential for business efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation; collaborative engineering is imperative for successful product design and manufacturing. Without collaboration across departments and with third parties, the engineering process can drive up costs and bog down time to market.

Consider that external suppliers contribute 60% or more of a typical final product design. Factor in the many elements and participants that go into the design and manufacturing process, including those associated with change and configuration management. It all adds up to an extended value chain that must work in close cooperation.

Even before COVID-19, engineering teams were increasingly dispersed. Product complexity required expert and partner collaboration—often outside of centralized design workspaces. Moreover, globalization and cost pressures further kept engineering teams spread out.  

COVID-19 took this to the extreme. Now engineers—and many supply chain partners—work almost exclusively from home. No matter how many stakeholders and participants are involved—and whether they are working from the home office or on-premises—they all need access to the same rich product- and project-related information.  

Collaborative Engineering Software

Manufacturers looking to foster a collaborative engineering approach need support from a robust PLM software solution that allows a digital thread of information to flow through all levels of the enterprise. The right PLM system enables a ‘design anywhere, build anywhere’ strategy through tools and best practices that enable secure collaboration. With PLM as a platform, engineers can design anywhere and even accommodate geographically distributed teams at a moment's notice. 

With PLM, configuration and change management can occur much more efficiently and even globally due to up-to-date information and real-time collaboration. 

Downstream teams and non-expert PLM users can also leverage modern PLM apps to view the most up-to-date product and enterprise application data in a more consumable way. Apps, like ThingWorx Navigate, facilitate real-time collaboration through features that make it possible to review, approve, comment, and provide feedback. Through the ability to combine online data from multiple systems, users see all information in context to support their jobs and decisions.

Implementation of Collaborative Engineering

Implementation of a collaborative engineering approach involves bringing all key stakeholders into the engineering flow. It allows individuals throughout the enterprise to be included in the supply chain process. Those stakeholders help create solutions, resolve conflicts, and decide on critical actions for any given design and manufacturing project.

For example, Japan-based Nidec Corporation is one of the largest manufacturers of motors in the world. Nidec Global Appliance knew that uniting and streamlining product development was critical to improving time to market and reducing the cost of quality issues. To foster design collaborative and bring information together into a cohesive data set, Nidec Global Appliance enlisted the help of PTC’s PLM software, Windchill, to manage their CAD data and break down siloes between engineering and manufacturing. 

Countless hours of rework and testing were eliminated due to teams working collaboratively from a common set of data. Change and configuration management were implemented to ensure that change requests made during the development processes were linked to documents and automatically archived with all the appropriate approvals and considerations. Windchill’s out-of-the-box PLM processes were used to create the governance and traceability required to transform the company culture—enabling the company to achieve greater product quality, safety, and compliance.

Simply put, collaborative engineering software is the foundation for a standardized and modular process that enables production planning and manufacturing anywhere and everywhere.
The future of collaborative engineering is SaaS. At PTC, we are investing in all our offerings (PLM, CAD, IIoT, AR) to enable even greater collaboration between internal and external stakeholders, ensuring all users are on the same version with more frequent updates, and driving down the total cost of ownership. 

Want to learn more about Nidec Corporation’s digital transformation? Check out this on-demand webcast, Producing with Quality: The Nidec Global Appliance Story



Project & Design Collaboration with PLM

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About the Author

Mark Taber

Mark Taber is Vice President of Marketing. In his current role, Mark is focused on helping manufacturers drive digital transformation, with a foundation of PLM and the digital thread, within the enterprise and across enterprises.

Mark has more than 30 years of experience working in the areas of process automation, application integration, cyber security, and development. Prior to PTC, Mark was CEO of Active Endpoints (acquired by Informatica), a process automation firm. A graduate of the Wharton School, Mark currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.