Social distance, shelter-in-place, remote working. Mere months ago, engineers could turn to teammates
sitting next to them to collaborate. Now, they’re video conferencing and emailing. Weekly in-person meetings with customers to build brand loyalty have ground to a halt. And keeping employees safe on the shop floor suddenly has a whole new meaning. The radical changes that have hit the world this year make once-easy tasks much more difficult.
Despite the changes, businesses must maintain continuity and focus their efforts in overcoming the collaboration challenges as a result of COVID-19. Today’s manufacturers have to stay productive, agile and innovative. But how do you develop strong remote-collaboration practices that enable problem-solving, connect disparate teams, and overcome the limitations of working at home?
The new war room of 2020Coming out of 2019, most engineers were accustomed to in-person design reviews, day-long war rooms, and direct person-to-person collaboration. It was standard to travel to a supplier, customer, or team in a different office to work through design challenges.
Now, war rooms are done through conference calls and screen share. Engineers have to log in to a company VPN to access designs, hoping their home internet has enough bandwidth. Many engineers are without the high-end workstations typically needed to access complex models. And without the ease of working with colleagues in-person, sharing ideas and staying collaborative becomes a much more deliberate process.
Adapting to massive cultural and workflow changes
I’m no stranger to rapid change. At the last company I worked, my group quickly evolved from a co-located team to a distributed global team. Although that time in my career is much different than what we face today, there are a few similarities: massive change in a short amount of time that includes remote, work-from-home collaboration with a team you were used to seeing in person.
With this change comes short-term challenges and long-term strategic changes. Most manufacturers have adapted to the initial hurdles of our work-from-home upheaval. Companies have adopted tools that enable video conferencing and asynchronous text chat. But many are still trying to understand long-term best practices and how they fit into new company initiatives.
If there’s anything I learned, it’s this: companies have to be thoughtful and intentional about communication. Timeliness and mutual understanding means more now than ever before. In order to stay collaborative, agile and innovative while we’re all remote, it’s important to take communication to the next level. The internet is currently littered with blogs and advice about work tactics, but I want to go into detail about the technologies we use to enhance our communication.
Connecting teams in manufacturing companies
For example, sharing and collaborating on 3D-product designs continues to be a major challenge (especially over VPN) without a high-powered workstation. As manufacturers, we can’t afford to invest in “band-aid” solutions.The tools you choose to support this process need to provide high quality and performance for the immediate short-term. They also need to be scalable to grow into the future.
Smart enterprises are paving the way for cloud-based 3D collaboration and visualization, at a time when many manufacturers are now forced to embrace the cloud in order to keep work moving forward. We make it easy to jump on a conference call, connect to 3D models without transferring files over your home network, and start exploring data with fast performance and native security features.
Our customers, for example, impacted by the same disruption faced by thousands of manufacturers, have found immediate value in our platform. One such customer, industrial and agricultural equipment manufacturer Vermeer, recently said: “It's been amazing to have Vertex now that we're all remote with no central place to connect. Because of variable internet connections, doing design reviews in Vertex has allowed us to keep the work moving like normal.”
Cloud-based collaboration as the new normal
No one knows how much longer this “new normal” will last, but one thing is certain: the radical changes in the way manufacturing companies are now operating means we will never completely return to the “old normal.”
As manufacturers look to the future, they have an opportunity to develop optimized, modern processes that help them scale and grow with collaborative technologies.
Matt Heying is vice president of product strategy at Vertex Software