2008

The Brighter Side of Globalization for Manufacturers: New, Innovative Product Development Models

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By Fielder Hiss
Director of Product
Management
Dassault Systèmes
SolidWorks Corp.
Concord, MA

Global competition is an oft-cited reason for any number of ills in manufacturing, from job loss to price erosion. Viewed through another prism by savvy companies, however, globalization is something else altogether — specifically, a competitive advantage.

While globalization can drive down prices, it also gives companies in highcost regions a way to exploit their advantages in design skill and experience. Globalization creates new product development models based on collaboration between geographically separated teams, data reuse, and greater levels of partnering. By consolidating vast pools of talent, these development models yield innovative products that blunt low-cost producers’ price advantages and make global competition more equitable.

The foundation of these development models is data sharing. Design teams must be able to share design information regardless of their geographic location or the type of data they generate. That maximizes efficiencies and avoids confusion as design teams in different countries speaking different languages contribute to common projects. Product data management (PDM) software systems create the secure, accessible design data environments that facilitate global cooperation. A variety of other special tools can also promote collaboration, either with or without a centralized PDM system. Regardless of whether it’s built from a PDM system or a combination of other tools, this data sharing framework is where collaborative product development occurs.

Once the data sharing environment is established, the next step is to establish its common language. Providing a visual representation of product designs in a convenient, flexible manner helps overcome language barriers and incompatible data formats. This is especially important for companies that partner with outside design firms in different geographies. A new generation of easy-to-use communications tools can deliver complete 2D drawings and 3D models with multiple view, geometry rotation, and redline markup capabilities, in a compact, self-executing e-mail file attachment. They are an ideal vehicle for communicating design information to teams that speak different languages.