Managers know that product engineers require ample time to design, develop, test, and analyze new product ideas as they move through the product development process. But, managers need to keep costs low and productivity high to satisfy executives, manufacturers, and other stakeholders. Managers often struggle with striking a balance between giving engineering teams time to work and fostering greater productivity. Below, we discuss three important ways managers can achieve productivity goals while maintaining quality:
- Provide product engineers with advanced tools
- Create an environment that fosters collaboration
- Balance creativity and innovation with effective project management
1. Provide product engineers with advanced tools
Product engineering teams only can be productive insofar as their technology allows them to be. If your team is using antiquated technology, they will not be able to work as quickly as competing teams who are using more advanced – let alone cutting-edge – technology tools.
Today’s product designers and engineers must have access to the top 3D CAD modeling software tools. 2D tools do not allow for the speed and accuracy needed to complete projects efficiently or to find solutions to challenges. 3D CAD modeling tools, on the other hand, aid product engineers in virtually constructing products more quickly than they can with 2D drawings or models. 3D models provide a much more accurate picture of a product and eliminate the need for engineering teams to waste time analyzing 2D drawings.
3D CAD modeling tools also allow for more precision and control when creating product models. Engineers can use direct modeling or parameteric modeling approaches to their work with the right tools. And, managers must understand that engineering teams often require both approaches because integrating direct modeling into parametric environments often results in increased speed, higher quality, and more innovation to beat out the competition. Forcing engineering teams to use one approach or the other is too restrictive and often slows the product development process.
2. Create an environment that fosters collaboration
Because product development is creative and innovative by nature, managers must create an environment that fosters collaboration for their engineering teams. One of the best ways to foster collaboration is to provide engineering teams with tools that seamlessly allow them to work together anytime, anywhere. Software companies and app developers are creating software tools like OnShape and apps like Morphi that provide cloud-based 3D CAD systems that enable design and engineering teams to work together, regardless of their device, browser, or location. These collaborative tools give entire engineering teams the ability to create models and track changes and version control quickly and easily.
3. Balance creativity and innovation with effective project management
One of the great balancing acts of managing a product engineering team is allowing your teams to be creative and innovative while still controlling how many projects are underway at one time. If you have not taken a long look at your workflow and streamlined it for quite some time, start there. Your workflow must be as clear and explicit as possible, and you need to include steps in the workflow rather than assume they are understood by your team. Continue to evaluate your workflow for inefficiencies and bottlenecks and make adjustments as needed.
Once you think you have an efficient workflow in place, you need to control how many projects are underway simultaneously. Productivity is often hindered when teams have too many projects in the air at one time; multitasking seems like a good idea to creative and innovative engineers, but they need to be able to put new projects and ideas on the shelf to speed the product development process. Rather than squash their creativity, you need to put it on pause by controlling your work in progress and streamlining your workflow to ensure your team completes the most pressing projects to the best of their ability.
If your engineering teams push back, show them how focusing on one project at a time allows them to have better focus and fosters greater creativity and innovation. Focusing their attention and energy on one project also enhances collaboration and ensures efficiency. Better yet, reducing engineering team multitasking makes it easier to identify critical issues and bottlenecks before they become major obstacles and hinder the entire project development process.
Managers of engineering teams must find a balance between micromanaging their teams and helping them work more efficiently and productively to improve the product development process. By providing engineering teams with advanced technology tools such as 3D CAD modeling tools for direct modeling and parametric modeling, creating an environment that fosters collaboration, and allowing teams to be creative while avoiding inefficient multitasking, managers can realize substantial productivity gains without sacrificing product quality, usability, safety, and all of the critical elements of the most effective products.