Rarely has the old "Pogo" comic strip aphorism, "We have met the enemy and he is us," had such rich irony as when applied to product engineers, designers, and developers. They are at risk of becoming the "cobbler's shoeless children" of the current technology revolution.
As a product manager for a CAD application, I have the unique opportunity to see how many of the world's most amazing products are conceived, designed, developed, and manufactured. And while technology such as CAD, CAM, and CAE tools have revolutionized product development, in all but the most advanced companies, I often see a recurring reluctance by those developing products to fully embrace the power of the solutions that are available to them.
Engineers and designers (and most every one of us in our daily lives as well, but let's stay focused) are all vastly under-utilizing software technology and capabilities. The examples abound, ranging from the simple to the complex. Consider the keyboard shortcuts provided in Microsoft Office applications. Have you ever sat in a conference room and been forced to watch another person edit a Word document or a PowerPoint slideshow? It borders on torture, not because we're obviously wasting time editing something as a committee, but because generally the editor doesn't use tools like the CTRL-C and CTRL-V shortcuts, and instead moves the mouse all the way up to the copy and paste icons in the dashboard.
As the tasks and the tools become more complex, the likelihood increases that the technology is being under-utilized, and even more time and energy are being wasted. During a recent visit to a customer site in Asia, I was shocked to see a person ride by me on a bicycle, with rolled up drawings in the basket. My host informed me that there is an entire team of such riders delivering drawings all around the site, all day, everyday. Gasp! With today's CAD technology, web infrastructure, and visualization possibilities, this process could be so much more efficient. I know all of those things require money, but the return on that investment is well worth it, especially when you consider the cost of maintaining, printing, updating, and transporting all those drawings, not to mention the errors that are introduced when they become out of date.
And what is truly scary is that scenes like the one I mentioned occur at companies in the United States, not just offshore in the developing world!
There's more: Powerful technology to support data interoperability is often left unused, while many larger companies still have entire departments dedicated to rebuilding existing CAD models in different authoring systems. Tools that can deliver and assure complete confidence in the products being designed are ignored, yet the costs of doing so are quite high. I recently heard of a customer who designed a new touring bus and did no serviceability studies. Once the product was well beyond the design stage it was then discovered that in order to change the oil in this bus, the service technician would need to drop the engine. Oops. That's an unwarranted, costly mistake.
My point is this: There are both simple and amazing technologies and capabilities available today that are grossly underutilized. Why? Humans tend to resist change. We find our comfort zone and won't budge from it.
There's a tremendous amount of good technology available right now. It's here to help us all. Take advantage of it. And stop wasting time, energy, and money!
Reach Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.