Nearly every business leader says they want to improve productivity and increase innovation, but what are they actually doing to make those goals happen? To research the biggest challenges facing engineering teams today, 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.

The view from the top always looks different from the view from the trenches. After asking design professionals to assess their companies’ abilities across 15 product development categories, we sorted their answers by job role.

How did executives and designers/engineers judge their teams’ strengths and weaknesses differently?

The bar graphs below measure the percentage of respondents who rated their company “good” or “excellent” in each category:

These results might reasonably be interpreted in one of two ways:

  1. Designers and engineers are more critical of their company’s current capabilities; or
  2. Executives have an inflated view of their company’s current capabilities.

But regardless of how you look at it, these results should sound some alarm bells for executives.

Specifically, the gulf between executive perceptions of their firm's technological capabilities and the candid assessments of their rank-and-file engineers could lead to systemic business challenges – including unrealistic expectations for delivering on critical project deadlines and customer demands.

So where are the biggest gaps?

According to the survey, executives may be wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to the following business-critical areas:

The Perception Gap: Executives vs. Frontline Engineers

These results should cause concern for product development leaders.

Significant gaps in perception about company culture, access to new technologies, and the quality of collaboration – think early, early, early – should be on the radar of every executive. Though every company is different, it’s prudent for leaders to explore if they have similar differences in outlook with their own workforce.

Because junior-ranked and younger employees are often reluctant to rock the boat, is management making decisions based on what’s really happening on the ground? With the biggest disconnect being the definition of a “flexible work environment,” is your company doing its best to be an attractive employer to younger recruits?

Millennials and Gen Z workers are motivated by different criteria, and companies that do not account for those motivations are going to find themselves with less productive workforces in the short term – not to mention having trouble recruiting top young talent in the first place.

Equally interesting is examining the areas where executive and rank-and-file perceptions are roughly the same. Both don’t think their companies are doing a great job minimizing time spent on non-design related activities such as administrative tasks (Executives: 44% - Engineers: 39%).

And both don’t have high opinions about their PDM or PLM tools (Executives: 37% - Engineers: 40%). This is the only category in which executives were more critical than the individual contributors.

It is also an observation that is consistent with the product development survey’s finding that more than 80 percent of all professionals still have trouble finding the correct version of design data, while 40 percent of PDM/PLM users say they often can’t access their design data when they need it.

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 prepared are companies to equip their employees to work remotely?

Get your copy of the new industry report today!