Cumbersome Processes and Lagging Capabilities Among the Biggest Obstacles Facing Manufacturers Today, According to Survey

Speed and efficiency are two of the core tenants of manufacturing. Unfortunately, domestic manufacturers struggle to meet them when it comes to developing sound processes. In a new survey by PTC, a consensus of more than 1,000 manufacturers shows that domestic firms struggle to design, engineer, and implement vital processes for product development, leaving them lagging behind when it comes to tooling and other pre-manufacturing standards. A majority also cite a lack of available technologies as a damper on their agility and capabilities.

Delving into the report and manufacturers’ struggles

The purpose of the PTC report was to better understand the challenges facing manufacturers not only post-COVID-19, but in anticipation of reshoring efforts likely to follow. The survey probed the following questions:

  • How do executives, managers, engineers, and designers rate their own productivity?
  • How do product development professionals rate their companies’ ability to drive innovation?
  • Do executives and engineers have differing views about the capabilities and performance of their product development teams?
  • How satisfied are product development professionals with the technology being deployed to do their jobs?
  • What aspects of the product design process need to be improved the most?
  • How prepared are companies to equip their employees to work remotely?

The results were staggeringly lopsided, voicing the need for domestic manufacturers to improve processes and capabilities as they relate to manufacturing innovation.

According to the results, as many as 82% of respondents believe their engineering teams are over-encumbered by administrative work. Less than half of respondents feel confident in their engineering processes as it relates to innovation (43%) and only 40% of respondents believe they have the necessary product data management (PDM) or product lifecycle management (PLM) tools to stay innovative.

The lone bright spot in the data? Roughly 87% of design engineers surveyed feel they’re able to effectively work from home.

Hurdles to overcome before reshoring can happen

In the wake of COVID-19, the possibilities for reshoring are growing. Disrupted supply chains are settling closer to home and manufacturers are looking domestically for partners, rather than face the prospect of more global uncertainty. Cumbersome processes and lagging capabilities stand in the way of these reshoring efforts, as evidenced by the PTC report.

Speed to production and product development efficiency need to improve before reshoring begins, enabling manufacturers to exhibit the agility required to meet demand from a domestic standpoint.

What can domestic manufacturers do? Follow the lead of industry stalwarts who have already begun making investments to speed their ideation-to-fulfillment times. Investments in mobile edge computing, robotics, and 5G are all direct investments in the speed of manufacturing, according to Angus Ward, CEO, BearingPoint//Beyond. These investments enable engineers and automate processes, removing obstacles from the design and development phases of manufacturing. According to Ward, right now, just 43% of projects reach the deployment stage of manufacturing. With investments to streamline this process, that number will go higher.

As opportunities for reshoring become clearer, manufacturers must put speed and efficiency in their crosshairs — especially as it pertains to processes for product development. As is the case most often, technology offers solutions. Now’s the time for manufacturers to explore them to position themselves for new market share in a post-COVID-19 world.

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