Summary: Collaboration isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a viable business strategy that can uncover business insights for better outcomes both now and in the future.
Collaboration is a buzzword that feels like a good idea, but that it’s difficult to explain exactly why, especially when it comes to building a business case.
It feels truth-y, but it’s hard to know what sort of ROI you’re going to get.
The problem is that most of the benefits are experienced at business seams — the edges of divisions and departments, at handoff points, at project completion, and during review processes. Because benefits are split between different teams, the overall value can fall through the cracks.
That’s why we put together these 9 benefits of collaboration that you probably haven’t considered but are guaranteed to get.
1. Identify new market opportunities
New market opportunities present a unique challenge for manufacturers. Most businesses can afford to build a new product or explore a new market opportunity with relatively low investment.
Not manufacturers. The cost of exploring a new market is high, and the risk associated with building a new product (especially if there’s no client) is considerable.
But they’re not exactly making it easy for themselves. Design, engineering, sales and marketing, plant managers, and team leads all have different data silos.
By uniting that data and using tools that make collaboration easy, businesses can identify and exploit new opportunities faster and more effectively.
2. Better error correction
There’s no point in designing a system/process on the assumption it’s going to work perfectly. Mistakes happen. It’s important to build a business infrastructure that both recognizes this fact and makes error recovery as fast and efficient as possible. Particularly in manufacturing, where time literally is money.
Collaborative business practices and tools bring together people from different areas who can work together to troubleshoot and solve problems without wasting a lot of time gathering together the right tools/people for the job.
3. Oil existing processes
Every time a process is difficult or time-consuming, there’s an unseen opportunity cost to the business.
For instance, imagine you’re an airline supplier who makes airplane seats. You’ll probably have a design, engineering, and procurement team.
As the design and engineering teams make changes to the CAD files, there needs to be a corresponding update to the bill of materials (BOM). If a designer, engineer, or procurement officer is spending, say, 10 hours a week keeping that BOM updated manually, that’s 10 hours they’re not doing something else.
If you can build an integrated and collaborative process that automatically updates the BOM when each CAD file is updated, then your staff can focus on high-value tasks and drive better business outcomes.
4. Time-to-market delivery
Collaboration accelerates time-to-market in four key ways:
- It increases team efficiency by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks.
- Approaching problems holistically means they’re solved in a way that work for everyone, reducing back and forth between different teams.
- Faster communication reduces the average time at each stage of production, especially the time spent waiting on approvals or reviews.
- Centralized feedback processes mean issues are addressed once, rather than having the same objection raised and overcome again… and again… and again…
Overall better communication and collaboration fuelled by centralized and integrated tools means better products go from idea to reality in less time.
5. Coordinate with geographically disparate offices
Supply chains are increasingly global in scope. Even within companies, it’s not unusual for manufacturers to have a head office in one country, a regional hub in another, and different plants in two or three more.
Which is why collaboration tools that build a single source of truth are more important than ever. Gone are the days where you can just call up a team member to clarify some aspect of an email or a note on a design. Time differences mean offices are open at different times, and a single aspect of confusion can cost a full day of manufacturing.
With a centralized collaboration tool, it’s far easier for organizations to manage their processes across the world. Every office has access to critical documents and feedback by default. The risk of confusion goes down and with it the risk of significant project delays.
6. Reduce file confusion
First, there’s the issue of archived files. How do organizations keep previous projects organized but separate from current or ongoing work? Second, each in-flight project has multiple versions as the design and engineering teams iterate. How do organizations keep these files straight as projects move through a product development lifecycle?
By building a collaborative environment, businesses create transparent systems for file versions. Users from all over the world can see:
- What version is the latest version
- What has changed from the previous version
- Who changed it
- Who approved it.
The result is less confusion and reduced risk of sending the wrong file to the floor.
7. Leverage networking effects
For instance, Facebook is only a valuable social network because everyone is on Facebook. If it was only people’s weird aunts, then no one would use it.
For manufacturers, network effects mean that the collective contributions to a project a more valuable than any single team.
For instance, let’s go back to our airline supplier. The design team might offer a design solution, the engineering team might offer some feedback to ensure it’s actually going to work, the procurement team might tweak the design so it’s less expensive to build, and the project manager might offer some feedback to make the process more efficient.
Each of these is a valuable insight, and by collaborating, that valuable feedback is quickly captured and fed back into the design stage (where changes are cheap).
8. Better business insights
Business teams are often excluded from product lifecycles because they’re not primary stakeholders. A product can technically be built without talking to sales, whereas it can’t be built without talking to the engineering department.
But business stakeholders are what drive a business forward. They have valuable insights into the market, clients, customers, existing pain points, and market forecasts.
By making collaboration with these teams easier, organizations can achieve a better market fit and leverage deep business insights to drive better products and a better bottom line.
9. Engage your staff
No one likes to do an engineering degree only to spend their time reconciling engineering BOMs with production requirements and scrolling through Excel looking for typos.
By making cross-team communication easier, you empower staff to work on high-value, creative tasks like solving design problems or working with business units to dream up new products.
Staff remain engaged, happy, and most of all, around for the long-haul, building experience and becoming more valuable to the organization.
Collaboration is something that sounds really good, but organizations are often unwilling to spend money on because of the opaque ROI.
In reality, collaboration (and the tools and processes that facilitate it) drive better business outcomes at every possible turn.
It makes it easier to solve problems, correct errors, and work with teams all over the world. It makes product delivery faster and achieves better business insights and faster recognition of new market opportunities.
It also keeps staff happy and engaged, focused on tasks that add big value to the organization by automating boring, repetitive tasks (which also has the upside of further reducing errors).
When you really think about it, collaboration isn’t some vague HR policy — it’s a viable business plan to make businesses just… better.
Ready to collaborate but not sure where to start? We can help. Get in touch to see how our collaborative solution can transform your business today.
Image credit: chuttersnap via Unsplash