Engineers + Endless Meetings ≠ Productivity

Recently I had an epiphany. It wasn’t the kind of epiphany that changes a life forever and drives someone to become a monk in the Himalayas, but it was an epiphany nonetheless. It had to do with collaboration, data management, reporting, and the way many of our customers inevitably deal with their customers.

For the sake of this blog I’m going to oversimplify the “discrete manufacturing” industry into two categories: Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) and OEM suppliers. Many of our customers supply larger companies. This puts our customers in a unique situation in which they operate their businesses within other people’s timetables. They operate their internal projects within larger projects managed by the end customer. This is where things can get tricky, but I digress…

I was grabbing lunch with a couple friends, colleagues, and long-time engineering veterans when the conversation veered into oncoming traffic. A simple question, “Does anyone have any meetings they need to get back for?” opened up a new line of dialogue. One of the engineers referenced a late afternoon meeting and started talking about the time they waste on redundant meetings with their internal teams and the end customer. Throughout any given week they have status meetings, update meetings, and check-ins on the updates and statuses. Everyone is always trying to stay on top of expectations and progress and it seems like it’s, well, getting in the way of progress!

The other engineer sympathetically chimed in because they both felt the same pain and frustration with the overhead of trying to GSD (Get $#!+ Done!). Throughout the conversation, phrases like “they didn’t hire me to attend meetings” and “I wonder if anyone is adding up how much these meetings cost?” were thrown around. I couldn’t help but think there had to be a better way…in fact, I knew there was a better way. You can dive in and learn more about Knowledge Worker Management and Time Boxing here, but for now I’m going to focus on the tools that can help GSD.

Nowadays the acronyms PDM and PLM have become common terms in the engineering and manufacturing world – Product Data Management and Product Lifecycle Management. These tools can relieve some of the frustration. If a company uses a tool like PTC Windchill to collaborate with customers and internal teams, they can set milestones, see real-time reporting based on work states, and manage changes easily and within clearly defined workflows. They can help provide answers to questions without needing to interrupt the engineering staff.

If you give us a call and a few minutes we can help you understand the return on investment in a legitimate PDM/PLM tool (something other than file folders and shared drives). We can help you figure out how much time and money PTC Windchill can save you – hard numbers that help the bean counters sleep at night. But, it is important to remember there are tangible benefits to improving your collaborative space that go beyond cycle times and promotion requests. Investing in a PDM or PLM tool can free up time for engineers to get back to engineering. An engineer’s lunchtime conversation should focus on the amazing innovations they’re working on. It shouldn’t focus on frustrating meeting-itis. Engineers aren’t cheap. Let’s get them back to work and out of redundant meetings. I think tools like PTC Windchill can help do exactly that.