No matter how visionary, brilliant, strategic or charismatic a founder or executive may be, no one person can take sole credit for their company’s signature products. Engineering, industrial design, manufacturing and marketing are all team efforts.

So if you’re not working alone, communication and collaboration become far more important than overused buzzwords. That may sound like an obvious truism, a mantra collectively shoved down our throats since nursery school, but how effective are engineers and manufacturers at giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into improving processes? 

To find out, Onshape recently commissioned The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2020 industry survey, which took the pulse of nearly 1,000 professionals at manufacturing companies across the world. 

In the survey, we first asked respondents to rate the importance of 15 different criteria for success in the design and manufacturing process – and then asked them to candidly assess their own companies’ current capabilities in those categories.

The dark blue bars represent what professionals believe are the most important factors necessary to thrive, while the light blue bars represent their companies’ need for improvement.

The Capabilities Gap: Product Development Criteria for Success

Source: The State of Product Development & Hardware Design 2020

Note in the above chart that two of the top four criteria for success are about processes, not technology.

As you can see, 94% of design professionals regard early communication, visibility and clarity in the design process as “critical” or “very important” for successful product development. Similarly, 91% place the same high value on the ability for the team to try and compare alternative ideas early in the design process.

That makes sense because the more iterations that a product development team goes through, the more likely they will have made significant design improvements or discovered new solutions.

Cloud-based productivity tools make it easier to share files and collaborate with multiple colleagues and partners in real time. The most popular tools being used by survey respondents are Microsoft Office 365 and Google Suite.

With both Microsoft Office 365 and Google Suite, multiple contributors are able to more easily work together on the same documents, spreadsheets or presentations online. Instead of emailing static files back and forth and naming them “V1, V2, V3, etc.,” collaborators can create, edit, revise or provide feedback in one central place in the cloud – and go back to any stage of the document’s history to track changes (or even restore an earlier version that they like better).

A large majority (69%) of organizations participating in the survey report using at least one Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) cloud productivity tool. Purchased by subscription, true SaaS is web-based on-demand software that requires no maintenance, downloads, or installations. When they log in, every user is automatically on the same version of software. 

Teams that use cloud-based productivity tools report better early-stage collaboration and better capabilities for additive manufacturing/prototyping.

Because cloud tools enable data to be instantly updated and shared, there is no latency. Teams no longer need to wait for edits to be made on individual computers and for those versions to be synchronized. Instead, all comments are visible and accessible to team members simultaneously. This improved level of communication and access fosters significantly higher levels of collaboration, productive iteration, and ultimately, product innovation.

When using cloud product development tools, such as Onshape, there is no longer any confusion over which version is which in a design’s history. When teams are not busy trying to find or access the latest data, they have more time to test prototypes and develop more incremental improvements.

Of course, the neverending need to improve communication and collaboration in business is one that far transcends CAD and data management.

Get Your Copy of the Industry Report

Interested in further exploring what’s getting in the way of productivity for engineering and manufacturing teams? 

The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2020 report also shares insights on the following questions:

  • What is the correlation between productivity and innovation?

  • How satisfied are product development professionals with the technology being deployed to do their jobs?

  • What aspects of the product design process most urgently need to be improved right now?

  • PDM/PLM systems help avoid costly mistakes, but is there a better approach to data management?

  • How do executives and frontline engineers view their companies’ strengths and weaknesses differently?

Get your copy of the new industry report today!