Communication is one of the most challenging aspects of our work. My favorite quote and mantra about communication – you cannot over-communicate. When it comes to manufacturing organization, the communication between engineers, teams, departments, customers is crucial. You need to communicate the purpose of the design, engineering change, the purpose of change, customer problems, etc. Engineering and manufacturing is getting even more distributed then ever.
The demand for communication is huge. It is largely comes from over everyday life where we demand communication to be instant and ubiquitous. Email is considered an old tool. IM, social networks, video chats – you can stay in touch with people you know (Facebook) as well as be aware about information provided by other people (social navigation systems).
TechCrunch article The suddenly exciting future of enterprise communications speaks about the landscape of technologies and companies focusing on solving problems of communication for enterprises. Here is the interesting passage:
Companies like Slack, Fuze (formerly ThinkingPhones) and Twilio have carved out large and growing businesses in new categories to improve the way enterprises communicate. One of the main drivers for this shift is because communications is moving from one of the most closed tech ecosystems to one of the most open. In the era of telecom monopolies and copper wires, only a few trusted wizards actually knew how to build and maintain complicated systems that needed to deliver 99.999 percent uptime.
As infrastructure has moved to data, faster networks and the cloud, it has become much easier not only to provide basic connectivity, but also to layer on additional services.
We also see a big opportunity for workflow and analytics. Companies are just beginning to make use of all the great integrations that are possible with cloud communications. Now tools can be developed to give exact advice to a sales rep about when and how to contact customers, or to automatically log Salesforce data when a call is completed.
The last statement is a key in my view, The communication itself is not a problem. There are lot of tools today that can help you to communicate. Infrastructure is good for most of use cases, but rich communication channels are coming into a focus. What is critical is to provide a rich content that can give you a context for communication.
Let me bring few examples. As an engineer, you demand is not only to contact design contractor, but also provide a contextual information about the design change or problem. Customer support is demanding to provide rich information about problem including pictures of videos capturing the problem. Manufacturing operator demand is to have a rich information about manufacturing instructions and issues related to specific problems or steps.
High demand to provide rich content during communication raises the question about product information availability across the organization. How to make CAD data, Bill of Materials, ECOs, Manufacturing instructions, support tickets available at the time you need it and in a contextual form? Industry pundits can tell me now – the information is available in PLM system, you just need to ask everyone to use it. Here is the thing, there is a barrier between current state of PLM systems and wiliness of people in an organization to use it. It is complex, sometimes confusing hardly available and very expensive.
What is my conclusion? The demand for better communication is raising a question how to make relevant contextual information available. The information can come as a rich content, in a way that doesn’t require for people to think how to consume it. Video with annotations, spreadsheet with Bill of Materials, Diagram or chart with data analysis. These are example of rich content that should become available on demand for every stage of product lifecycle. PLM systems should make this information available. Simple. No complex interfaces and workflows. Available on every device. Just my thoughts…