Grading Design Performance

Sept. 12, 2008
A look at product development initiatives across vertical industries.

Market studies indicate a significant growing reach for product lifecycle management (PLM) as an enterprise solution, but how well are industry sectors performing? Analyst firm Aberdeen Group has some answers in its latest research study, "Profitable Design Chains: Global Product Design Comes of Age." Aberdeen identifies three key best-in-class themes for global product development initiatives: protecting product intellectual property (IP), designing in parallel, and coordinating global design teams.

To further the research, Aberdeen looked at the global strategies of five vertical industries and examined what these themes mean to each industry.

"Our research indicates that companies are viewing global design more strategically," says Aberdeen's Michelle Boucher, research analyst, product innovation and engineering practice. "However, to realize the full potential of the global design strategies, manufacturers should reassess their progress in implementing these strategies to adopt best-in-class practices so they can remain competitive in their respective marketplaces."

A study summary follows:

Aerospace & Defense: Aberdeen finds that while A&D manufacturers have begun to change the way they think about global design, they lag behind other industry averages across all key performance indicators. Furthermore, A&D manufacturers face the greatest consequences of losing product intellectual property given the complex nature of the components and subsystems involved. A&D manufacturers are behind the industry average in terms of implementing capabilities that would help protect IP -- 44% compared with 69%, respectively. As A&D manufacturers look to capitalize on the growing global workforce, it will be even more important for them to implement secure global design strategies that address the challenge and help better control who has access to the data as well as the amount of time that access is available.

Automotive: With more and more automotive companies finding it hard to turn a profit, the report finds that lowering costs is the top concern. In keeping with this focus, meeting revenue targets is the area in which automotive manufacturers lag behind the most compared with the industry average -- 55% compared with 67%. As automotive manufacturers address the challenge of lowering costs, they are taking advantage of different labor costs around the globe. Furthermore, automotive manufacturers are beginning to leverage a global workforce to not only reduce the cost of product development, but to gain more insight into unfamiliar markets.

Consumer Packaged Goods: In a challenging retail marketplace, consumer packaged goods companies are constantly faced with the challenge of getting products to market faster while making sure costs are kept at a minimum. Working across multiple disciplines (R&D, marketing, packaging, sourcing, regulatory and manufacturing, among others), CPG manufacturers must coordinate all of these teams to ensure the successful launch of products within short launch windows. Overall, CPG manufacturers indicate performance that is consistently at or below multi-industry average levels. While they are behind in meeting cost targets, they remain ahead of the industry average in meeting launch dates. In order to take full advantage of their global design networks and to remain competitive within the retail marketplace, CPG manufacturers must continually look to global design initiatives to help them get products to market faster in a cost-effective manner.

High-Tech & Electronics: One of the biggest challenges that high-tech manufacturers face is getting products to market faster before technology becomes obsolete. Despite this recognition, the report finds that high-tech manufacturers are only slightly ahead of the industry average when it comes to meeting target launch dates. The majority of respondents report that they have had global design initiatives in place for over a year (71%). High-tech manufacturers will need to capitalize on the opportunity for further improvement by leveraging these design chains to effectively accelerate the design process.

Machinery: Global design is a newer trend for industrial equipment manufacturers as only one-third of respondents to the study report that their initiatives are less than a year old. Industrial equipment manufacturers fall behind the industry average across all metrics, with a gap seen in the ability to meet product revenue targets (56% compared with 67%). Moving onward, industrial equipment manufacturers will need to learn from the experiences of other manufacturing industries with more mature global design processes in place.

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