Time to

market

Collaborate or die
I
F you subscribe to the Myles Cummings looks at collaborative virtual networking affect 80 per cent of a product’s
Darwinian view of ‘survival of and the impact it is having on product development life-cycle cost, and for many
the fittest’, then collaboration manufacturers components pro-
and capitalism do not sit easily in the same ful economies, with more quality products duced by external suppliers constitute
sentence. It’s ‘dog eat dog’ out there, and per capita head than any nation on earth. around 60 to 80 per cent of the finished
survival strategies mean that the leanest Clearly Deming was onto something. product. Product development cycle time
meanest dog gets to bite the hand that is Sixty years later, and globalisation has reductions of as much as 50 per cent have
foolish enough to feed. become the new force to be reckoned with, been achieved through collaborative design
The enlightened thinker Dr W Edwards along with ‘outsourcing’ as the new corpo- efforts, in particular where design engineers
Deming, whilst remaining at heart both a rate trend. First it impacted product manu- are able to use their suppliers’ expertise in
capitalist and an American, was one of the facturing, then IT. Now product design, with the development of a product. For the
first to recognise the pitfalls of the isolation- 66 per cent of US manufacturing companies moment, however CPD is the exception
ist stance of companies. Trained as a statisti- currently outsourcing some part of their rather than the norm. With many companies
cian, his expertise was used during World design. However, this shift in manufacturing still unwilling or unable to use their suppliers’
War II to assist the US in its effort to improve and production can be viewed as the defining expertise in the development of their prod-
the quality of its war materials. He advocated catalyst for exciting new kinds of global col- ucts. How can these barriers be removed?
laboration.
Collaborative product Impact
development (CPD) is The Internet is an obvious tool as the global
one example of newly network goes hand in hand with the global
emerging global trends. economy. The ability to relay important
This is the development design data to/from designer/supplier/manu-
of a new product, or facturer is clearly crucial to successful collab-
product iteration in con- oration. Yet conventional methods of
junction with one or Internet working, with its heavy reliance on
more strategic partners. e-mail and websites are not always the most
effective when it comes to
working in global partnership
on a new product design.
Different languages, operating
systems, web browsers, CAD/
graphic/document file formats,
are just a few of the barriers to
successful e-collaboration.

collaborative approaches
to both production sys-
tems and their manage-
ment. At the end of the
War he was invited to
Japan by Japanese indus-
trial leaders and engineers
who asked him how long
it would take to shift the
perception of the world
from the existing paradigm that Japan pro- Onespace
duced cheap, shoddy imitations, to one of net by
producing innovative quality products. CoCreate is
a light-
weight tool
Contribution for online
What he told them is more or less sum- project col-
marised in the following quotation: “What laboration
we need to do is learn to work in the system,
by which I mean that everybody, every team,
every platform, every division, every compo- Companies are increasingly linking suppliers Software companies are attempting to pro-
nent is there not for individual competitive and partners into product-definition duce solutions, which offer the possibility for
profit or recognition, but for contribution to processes to leverage external expertise, shift a more integrated, homogenous approach.
the system as a whole on a win-win basis.” internal investment, and optimise Onespace.net by Cocreate, for example is a
He told the Japanese that if they applied performance. Manufacturers may choose to lightweight tool for online project collabora-
this ‘formula’ they would achieve success partner for many reasons, including innova- tion designed for product development teams
within five years. They were sceptical but tion, speed to market, and cost effectiveness. and their contributors. It combines architec-
obedient, and in fact it took only four. Today Collaboration with suppliers early in the ture for web services with familiar concepts
Japan is still one of the world’s most power- design process has been demonstrated to like organised projects, secure messaging,
ENGINEERING APRIL 2004 27
Time to
market

CoCreate’s collaboration products are
successfully used by product manufacturers
presence awareness and real-time such as 3D models and 2D draw-
online meetings, enabling design ings with complete accuracy.
teams, marketers, supply-chain Import formats include IGES,
partners, manufacturing experts, STEP, PKG, ACIS, DXF and DWG
and customers to share ideas and as well as view 2D drawings.
resolve problems across the web. Export formats include VRML
Essentially it has three compo- and STL. Optional converters are
nents; an online project team available for moving 3D CAD
workspace, a meeting centre, and models from popular MCAD sys-
3D model explorer. The project tems into the online
team workspace is at the heart of OneSpace.net environment.
the package, and will be immedi- CoCreate has a long-standing
ately familiar to anyone who has portfolio of collaboration prod-
ever used a bulletin board. The ucts which have been adopted
workspace is used to create pro- and successfully trialed on collab-
jects, find and store documents, orative projects by a string of
drawings, models and data; set product manufacturers, includ-
subscription and change notifications; initi- MCAD, ECAD and CAE analysis) is possible. ing Philips and CDI Aerospace. For example,
ate and respond to threaded discussions. Documents can be marked up, with results Philips Medicals Cardiac & Monitoring
Access privileges are provided based on pre- captured automatically as Adobe PDF docu- Systems Division began the design phase of a
defined roles for project managers, members ments. Individual tasks can be assigned and new medical product. But as the project pro-
and guests. The project team can share their tracked using Microsoft Outlook. gressed, design issues, big enough to delay
engineering designs and related files in a the release date, frustrated them.
controlled and secure manner. Visualise The trouble lay with the exchange of
The meeting centre is just that; online The 3D model explorer is the neatest touch. design information. Philips Medical, based in
meetings are scheduled, and real-time collab- Here team members can visualise, measure, Andover, Massachusetts, worked closely with
oration on engineering applications (such as modify, and mark up rich engineering data a German supplier, Amphenol-Tuchel

28 414 ENGINEERING APRIL 2004
Time to
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Electronics in Heilbronn. The two companies Tautology local and global manufacturing firms will be
tried to communicate design issues over the With cost no longer an issue, all engineers encouraged via a host of shared business ser-
phone and e-mail. Annotated screen shots were able to attend the online meetings. vices, such as marketing, legal and
were e-mailed back and forth, but issues Amphenol invited an expert on mould design Intellectual Property Rights. Access to inter-
were often missed, solid models had to be who identified a flaw in the design that if not disciplinary project teams experienced in
reworked, and a lot of time wasted. Face-to- found, would have caused a faulty prototype Project Management, Quality Assurance,
face meetings would probably have produced of $20,000 to be built. Of course while this Procurement and Supply Chain Management
better outcomes, but were expensive and kind of virtual networking offers a huge will be available. Collaborative information
time consuming to set-up with only a few improvement in potential e-collaboration, technology too, of the kind discussed earlier
engineers able to attend. sometimes it is good to be able to chat and in this feature. It is anticipated that the
It was decided to use CoCreate’s collabora- share knowledge over a coffee, face to face. It Knowledge Campus will contain and create
tion product. Philips Medical Amphenol’s may seem a tautology, but this kind of the kind of synergy and dynamism, which
engineering manager Dr Christian Pohl localised globalisation, is the concept behind will increase the global profile and partnering
found that after a few minutes of installation a new development based in Newcastle; The capability of the organisations who choose to
and a short orientation session, the team was ‘Knowledge Campus’ is to be the physical locate there.
using the product very effectively in dis- nucleus of a global product development It is appropriate that this experimental
cussing deep technical issues. community. Its intention is to provide a development is being fostered in Newcastle.
“We can now discuss an entire problem stunning physical presence based on a A recent survey showed that the Geordies are
and how it relates to everything else, not just University campus model. a more optimistic bunch than the rest of us
an isolated 2D screen shot,” says Ed Sleek new architecture, will house a here in the UK. And successful product col-
Parnagian, development engineer for Philips diverse, world-class development community laboration requires a degree of optimism and
Medical. What would have taken three to collaborating successfully on new product faith in other people’s skills and abilities. We
four days could be done in a single collabora- introductions. In purpose-designed work- could all learn from this approach. As
tion meeting. The product saved the com- spaces, communications, branding and pro- Deming put it “Learning is not compulsory...
pany time, money, and rework and avoided motional activities, and partnership develop- neither is survival.”
costly travel associated with face-to-face ment, will be an integrated whole and not a www.cocreate.com
design meetings. tacked-on extra. Existing partnerships with www.knowledge-campus.com

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