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Product Design as a Team Sport

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Elizabeth M
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Collaboration is the way forward
Elizabeth M   4/16/2014 5:50:57 AM
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Interesting article and I am surprised that product designers still find themselves working in individually when it makes so much more sense to collaborate. There have been tools for collaboration for years and whenever I talk to companies and designers it seems they have the most success in product design when they work in teams. Hopefully more designers will start taking advantage of collaborative environments and scenarios to achieve better product design methods and outcomes.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Rob Spiegel   4/16/2014 7:59:21 AM
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I was a little surprised by that as well Elizabeth. Tools needed for collaboration are nearly free these days. CAD file are easy to share. SharePoint is everywhere. The only thing that can hold someone back from collaborating is old habits. I have found in more than one situation, the collaboration needs to be forced at first. But once it's forced, it moves pretty freely.

Daniyal_Ali
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Iron
Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Daniyal_Ali   4/16/2014 12:32:06 PM
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Couldn't agree more Liz. Product Design cannot be done in the cubicle, sooner or later you need to go out and discuss it, and the less you collaborate in the early stages, the more time and effort you will waste.
Big firms have dedicated collaboration rooms, where people from different departments meet occasionally and discuss the ideas and collaborate accordingly. There are a lot of tools available in the market to ease this process but like Rob said, it does come down to one's own willingness to change and adapt, giving up the old habits.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Rob Spiegel   4/16/2014 12:49:05 PM
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good points Daniyal_Ali. I've often been surprised by the resistance to collaboration. Some view it as someone looking over the shoulder. 

Nancy Golden
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Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Nancy Golden   4/16/2014 5:48:56 PM
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Old habits are hard to break - and this point in the article is telling as to why it is a slow process:

The designer, the engineer, the manufacturing engineer, and the manufacturer are getting farther and farther away from each other physically.


In the old days of test engineering, we fought to keep everything in-house. We may have worked on teams - but all of the teams were in-house. I think one of the biggest challenges is that it's a different paradigm - primary functions are now separated and us older generation engineers are not as comfortable not being able to grab a cup of coffee and walk to another part of the building to discuss the project with our counterpart on another part of the design team. But "resistance is futile" and as anyone in the field of technology knows, if you aren't wllling to change to meet new market demands - you won't last very long.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Rob Spiegel   4/16/2014 6:41:56 PM
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Good points Nancy. I remember covering Boeing when the company broke ground by bringing suppliers into the design process in the late 1990s and eary 2000s. I would imagine that was a big jump, bringing in engineers from a different company with its own unique culture. But the benefits of collaboration were too important to allow hurdles to stymie them.

Nancy Golden
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Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Nancy Golden   4/16/2014 6:49:06 PM
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That's right, Rob - whenever that happened where I worked, we viewed it as "us versus them" - it is really difficult to create a good working dynamic with other companies when it comes to the nuts and bolts of engineering. Being able to overcome that has to be a corporate cultural value embraced by leadership.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Rob Spiegel   4/16/2014 6:51:42 PM
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I agree Nancy. I've worked on projects where management forced collaboration. It was uncomfortable at first, but so was word processing.

Nancy Golden
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Platinum
Re: Collaboration is the way forward
Nancy Golden   4/16/2014 6:56:45 PM
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Moving forward can be very uncomfortable - but just as in your Boeing example, there is often too much to lose not to. I still find word-processing painful at times :)

bobjengr
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PRODUCT DESIGN AND TEAM EFFORTS
bobjengr   4/16/2014 7:37:05 PM
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During my university years I had real difficulties in studying within a group.  For some reason it just did not work for me.  I was either faster or slower than my team mates.   After graduation, I found working within a team and calling on the expertise of vendors was a remarkable asset in meeting design goals and schedules.  We never had issues with confidentiality or protecting trade secrets.  The vendors understood; one slip and they were out forever.   With the modern day complexities of design; i.e. FEA, solid modeling, CFD, etc etc; it is almost imperative to include a variety of disciplines to get the proper design commercialized and in on time. One issue I might mention was great difficulties we all had with our CAD function being in India.  They were going to bed when we were getting to work.  We would meet each morning at 0630 hrs for a discussion relative to the project at hand.  They uploaded at night—we downloaded in the morning.  It got old quickly and produced real issues.  Co-location, as mentioned is the very best way to go if it is at all possible.    Excellent post Rod.  I certainly agree with the methodology.  

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