The engineering work we do for our clients is challenging, exciting and fulfilling. The projects we tackle come from a variety of industries, and even though the team is highly experienced in our focused areas – mechanical design, scanning, simulation, etc., we often find ourselves facing specific applications that are highly specialized and often new. It’s never “Groundhog Day”, and that’s both exciting and cautioning. With engineering projects so unique, we need some serious tools to help communicate with, and understand, our clients needs.
While our expertise is what enables us to tackle these engineering projects, the importance of communication between us and our clients cannot be overstated. Exchanging vital data, managing timelines and sharing the progress are all just as important as solving engineering challenges. We pride ourselves on the ways we collaborate and communicate with our clients. To maintain communication excellence, we keep our eyes open for ways to make our communication increasingly better.
Fundamental Tools of the Present
There are fundamental tools that we and our clients – and pretty much everyone in engineering – use to communicate ideas and data.
Email is great for getting across ideas and documenting the next steps. It’s also a workhorse tool for transferring data such as spreadsheets, presentations, data and 3D CAD models. If the files are too big, we use file-sharing tools that are accessible from almost anywhere. When we need to get immediate, interactive feedback, a web meeting is a go-to standard. These tools are great for what they do and don't look like they are going anywhere.
One drawback to these tools, however, is that they are communications that are good for a single moment in time. Emails often require the sender to wait for the reader to reply, and they may require multiple back-and-forth interactions to ensure clarity. Web meetings are great for live interaction, but once they’re done communicating, the discussion requires a text synopsis – usually in the form of an email. File exchange sites require confirmation between all parties that the most recent files are on the exchange site.
So what can we use to overcome these common shortcomings?
Fundamental Tools of the Future (Today)
With the advent of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, we find tools that allow us to work in a more real-time manner with one another. This speeds up feedback between stakeholders in the project and lessens errors due to miscommunication. And the best part is that the client does not need to own 3DEXPERIENCE to join a project and view certain elements.
Probably the most straightforward communication tool in the 3DEXPERIENCE is Communities. Communities are set up to include any and all relevant stakeholders such as engineers, designers, manufacturing personnel, management, etc. Ideas and files can be exchanged by community members through various tools, but the most straightforward of these tools is 3DSwym, which creates a discussion string that members can constantly refer to and everyone will be on the same page. Any aspect of the project can be discussed, images and markups can be shared and tasks can be assigned. All members can see the string, so there’s no need to ask another team member about an email that may or may not have been saved. It’s all there for anyone on the team to access.
Idea pipelines are another feature within a 3DEXPERIENCE community that allows everyone to see the progress of an idea. An “Idea” could encompass the entire project or just one facet of the compass. All community members can see where any part of the project is at any given time. Everyone can keep track of progress and make adjustments with full transparency and access for the entire team.
3DLean whiteboards are an exciting tool that can help us communicate in real-time with our clients. These whiteboards have tons of features, but we’ll focus on two of them for now. Product reviews allow for live interaction between our project engineers and our clients. Each person can make notes and post them on the screen. The notes can be organized and color-coded to match timelines, responsible personnel or tools to be used for that item.
Other whiteboards can be used to plan and track action items for the project. TriMech project engineers and our clients can interact live with the whiteboard and make decisions about what needs to happen and when. It’s almost like being in the same room.
For our clients that are on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform, these tools provide live, up-to-date information that is always available. For our clients that aren’t on the platform, there are still benefits. Even though they may not have access to the information on the platform at any moment, they still get to benefit from interacting with our project engineers while we use these tools during web meetings. This results in better planning and execution.
A Solution-Based Future
In TriMech's Project Engineering Group, we continue to make use of the standard tools of the trade including email, web meetings and file exchange sites. They are proven tools, and they aren’t going away anytime soon.
At the same time, we look forward to embracing the tools on the 3DEXPERIENCE platform that improve our communication with our clients. Our job isn’t just solving engineering challenges for our clients, it’s about collaborating with them to get the best solution at the right time.
If you are a company working hard towards getting a critical product into your customer’s hands, we hope you will consider TriMech as a complement to your organization. Our diverse team of talented engineers and developers, who know the right questions to ask, can assist you from project initiation through completion.
When you don’t have the internal expertise, time, manpower or technology required to complete a project, it’s time to consider outsourcing your
engineering and design services. Contact us today!