Although it might not seem like it at first glance, manufacturing is one of the most highly impacted industries when it comes to collaboration and UC. There are several components involved when it comes to developing, manufacturing, selling and supporting a product. Pertaining to design and manufacturing, I've seen examples where the design team is located in the US and the manufacturing team is in China. Once a prototype was designed, it had to be shipped to another country for evaluation.
Real-time Collaboration Improves Speed and Efficiency
Today there are design and manufacturing teams working together in real-time using videoconferencing, as opposed to working in silos at various stages of the process.
Bobbleheads is a great example of how real-time collaboration improved their speed in getting to market. In the past a manufacturer would make a mold of the bobblehead design and send it back to the designer. The designer would give feedback saying that the ears were too wide or the eyes were too blue, etc. and the manufacturer would create another mold and send again and the process would go back and forth until the right design was agreed on. It made the process lengthy, often a cycle time of 12 weeks needed to be allowed.
The use of real-time collaboration cuts cycle time down to 3 weeks - a reduction of 75%! This allows products to reach the market must faster, which comes in handy when viral crazes take off, like Linsanity.
Three years ago Jeremy Lin came off the bench for the New York Nicks, resulting in a global following known as Linsanity. To jump on the bandwagon a designer created a bobblehead of Jeremy Lin. However if the old method of design and production was used the product would not have made it to market on time to capitalize on the trend and it would have been a missed opportunity. Who knew Jeremy Lin could have such a close connection to real-time collaboration in manufacturing?
Real-time Virtual Runways Alter Spring Collections
Fashion is another area where real-time collaboration tools are accelerating manufacturing, this time in the form of real-time virtual runways. Instead of shipping the garment, a model can wear it under neutral white light so someone in a remote location can assess the way it fits and drapes. Designers and manufacturers have extra flexibility to get last minute designs out in their current collections. If we can use collaboration tools to bring the design and manufacturing teams together, the cycle time will shorten and the line of blouses may still be able to hit the spring market (instead of being ready to go in the fall, when nobody wants them anymore).
Live Video Enables Remote Maintenance Staff on Manufacturing Floor
On the manufacturing floor, you see collaboration everywhere—if a piece of machinery goes down, the experts that are in another location no longer have to fly in to take a look. Now, someone on the floor can roll up a cart and show the video to a remote expert. They can make an on-the-fly decision to keep production running for another ten rolls or change the equipment immediately. If there is ever an incident, someone can go to a video monitor and bring up a recording for documentation. Whenever anybody on the manufacturing floor has a question about quality, they can consult with the design people immediately to get an answer. Efficiency of manufacturing is greatly increased because of this added collaborative capability.
Advancement of Real-time Collaboration Tools Improves Access
Previously, we had to decide whether to do a video conference, web conference, or a voice call. The trend today is that it no longer matters—if I held a meeting with several people, one person could use audio, one could use high definition video, one could use WebEx, and one could be sitting on a park bench with a tablet. If a person is video-capable, we'll see video. Otherwise, it will fall back to audio. We no longer have to all make the decision to choose between instant messaging, web conferencing, video, telephony, or mobile apps. Everything comes together now, so that we don't have to care what device you're using or what capabilities you have. We can still interact and move the project forward, which further shortens the cycle time.
We're seeing increased innovation in environments where people can meet with others, understand the work state, have rich interactions, and ultimately drive productivity. Let's look at an organization that doesn't have instant messaging in place, for example. If someone has an issue, they would have to attempt to contact someone by phone. If they aren't available, they might have to leave a voice mail or send an email and await a response. By the time they finally get an answer, it might be information that is no longer wanted or needed.
With better collaboration tools in place, people have the ability to see exactly who is available, right at a glance. That will save tremendous hours of productivity in the process. If one person brings two hours of work down to one hour, that results in a 50-hour savings. In a 1,000-person organization, that's 50,000 hours of productivity that are driven back into the business engine just because these collaboration tools are in place.