Here’s to a New Year and a happy one with a capital H. And a Capital C and S wrapped around the H. A new decade and a new rash of predictions from pundits I notice from my holiday period reading. So I thought why not join in!
Here is what I think it will look like to stay ahead of the competition, protect your customer relationships and have excellent service offerings over the next 10 years. It is a mixture of advice and predictions.
I don’t claim much for these judgments – I’m offering them to stimulate your own thoughts about your position in a highly competitive market. You may agree or disagree with my insight – the important point is that you may take some action points for your own business and profit.
Success will entail:
Motivating and retaining people – nurture them give them incentive and encouragement to develop their professional life. (Hang on a minute – surely this heading was “technologies” - I assert you cannot find a more versatile, flexible, adaptable and all-over advanced technology than the human being as you look around you.) People who are competent, empowered for success, acknowledged for their value and encouraged to improve their skills are the number one contributor to the success of your enterprise.
Bring to bear the right computer hardware, software and network resources. This involves:
Putting the heavy lifting computing power under the noses of the people actually doing the work. Remember how accelerated your efficiency seemed when you got your last new PC last year?
Striking the right balance of commercial-off-the shelf software and in-house solutions. Choose off-the-shelf solutions which are more flexible via configuration and extensibility layers to handle customization and localization.
Round off the infrastructure with the right data management and data integration. Technically the most overlooked aspect of having an efficient workflow is not to attend to the permeation of the right data to the right people at the right time.
The data framework – needs to serve an inherently complex business – and the subtlety of the data has been successfully modeled in relational database tables in the last couple of decades. Linking underlying data sets to CAD tools and their functionality solved lots of problems for customers – CHS being for me the first example that comes to mind. Obviously.
What does a design consist of nowadays? It is a virtualization an abstraction of some kind – it is the data.
For a relational database to be holding the representation of the electrical interconnect design plus manufacturing BOM is a stable and well understood technology now.
Multi-dimensional database views, associative models divorcing data from its schema, object-relational databases and other advanced techniques will go mainstream from a somewhat marginal position now. Over the next ten years therefore you can expect increasing emphasis on the benefit you can get by analyzing you data in your workflow process. With Capital Architect and Capital Enterprise Reporter CHS has already taken a next step of visualization which puts the product data immediately on show. With tens of thousands of library components and tens of thousands of harnesses the results of mining and information extraction data warehousing and data views technology will promote new understandings of the relationships between entities. These objects are the molecular pieces of your integrated electrical system and will open up new possibilities for you to understand what and how of your working life. There will be new insights into your products and how you develop and manufacture your product at best quality and best cost.
Learning to thrive with decentralization and federation. Over the next ten years I predict a relinquishing of the ambition to store everything in one place. Meta plans for having one repository for all aspects of a design are less in fashion now than five years ago and will continue to lose attraction Mechanical CAD models and all the underlying data, electrical CAD outputs and all the fine detail of the underlying pin level and signal level changes could reside in one mega-repository. The benefits of being able to drill down and traverse across domains are more efficiently reached with a set of tools which can reach across domains and application to exchange data with each other. Building links using good interoperability functionality is preferable to having to make a model of all models in a PDM/PLM environment and then revolutionize working relationships and design responsibilities to achieve a top-down change management process.
In the evolution of interconnect systems design and wiring harness manufacturing over the last 10 years there have been examples of leveraging trends in computing technology which looked promising but did not result in widespread adoption. In the next ten years I expect some of the current wave of innovations may be more productive for CHS customers than others.
But which innovations?
A definite hit of late has been so-called social networking and wiki-type collaboration.
Something like Twitter for electrical systems design I don’t forsee. Ten years ago I recall a software vendor initiating a forum/portal environment for wiring harness engineers. It aimed to create a public marketplace for engineering skills and agency/contract work. It did not catch on. It consisted of interesting technology and a was a reasonable speculative venture and pretty well executed. It was a ship of discovery which struck a reef of indifference.
Similarly I predict that the current emphasis on cloud-based computing and Software as a Service will not significantly penetrate the electrical systems interconnect and harness design and manufacturing sector. I think so primarily because in the sector there is a conservatism relating to early adoption of technology (based mostly on price sensitivity) so that companies are generally lagging behind what’s latest and greatest in the hi-tech world.
Some things which are going to be significant.
I have seen in client organizations co-workers on projects communicate using instant messenger (IM) very well to eliminate questions quickly in the workgroup. IM technology lessens reliance on formal reviews as surely as a credible validation plan with design rule checking alleviates quality problems and cost of development. If you work in a company which forbids the use of Instant Messenger communications software I suggest you agitate to have the rule relaxed for chats within the fire wall. How can it be bad if people exchange information briskly and immediately? That is not wasted time; it goes to the heart of collaborative engineering.
The Mentor Graphics Community is an example of group-based interaction. It is low cost (free!) sharing of plug-in code and best practices between users and access to expertise. Information pertinent to your CHS deployment whenever you care to reference it is openly available. This knowledge is going to have a long shelf-life and I predict it will be still be in use to a high degree in ten years time, although the wrapper around the package may look different. It is a mistake to think that knowledge resides only in the brains of your leading experts. Wikis and other collaborative documentation techniques enhance the total available knowledge in your organization. Bottom-up participation in capturing knowledge is best practice – otherwise you are going to get the views of the vociferous few and the know-how of the more reticent many will be lost. In the next ten years it will become a truism that encouraging inclusive democratic participation in capturing the corporate knowledge has a direct bottom-line benefit. Start now and get the benefits starting now.
The “socialization of computing” trend is affecting us all. Collaboration between users, individually and in groups interacting with your systems interconnect application is a powerful driver to organizational efficiency in engineering.
Information exchange over the web is also commonplace and not just an emergent technology. If you don’t take the benefits on offer count on your competitors doing so.
On-demand access to data and libraries. Probably on a subscription basis I foresee that during the next decade component vendors will grant access to their catalog of parts. This may be for a fee, or some vendors may exchange access to their component data for customer loyalty or for the payback in market intelligence gained from their customers’ interaction with their proprietary information. On a paid-for basis I anticipate that add-on services will become widely available through data creation agencies selling their knowledge of library and data management. As I have helped to frame engagements between Mentor Graphics Consulting Division and CHS customers I have become aware of a need for greater flexibility in delivering data creation and maintenance solutions to clients. There is a desire for corresponding reduction in resource capacity as more and more companies run leaner and leaner. It follows that a scarce and valuable skill in your organization will be the ability to draft and/or negotiate service level agreements to outsource this work.
Remote learning yet direct knowledge transfer. Mentor Graphics has already made steps in this direction with web-based training courses. The IESD University for some self-paced introductory generic training is a reality now. The human factor is still important despite predictions of redundancy of the in-person on-site or in-classroom trainer, and I think will still be around in ten years. However the balance of personal/not personal training is switching. I think there is going to be a majority of time spent using remote and internet-based collateral for application training with CHS and a minority of the total training time devoted to face-to-face training by the end of 2013.
Web based support and diagnostics and issue review – internet based viewing and co-piloting of client systems is normal practice for Mentor Graphics’ Customer Support Division and for some CHS customers. I expect that design review events and multi-site teams will almost without exception use web based co-pilot and viewing technologies very quickly if plans are not already in place.
Tools for personal and workgroup efficiency are going to see much improvement. Whiteboard and mind-mapping and audio conferencing and smart phones and document revisions and file sharing and meeting scheduling and calendar management and time recording are overdue for a consolidation. You will soon be carrying all your personal productivity tools on your phone. For personal productivity the principal human to computer interface will be driven by voice recognition translating speech to text on your hand-held device. Wireless communication and synchronization will lighten your current admin load and you will be faced with a stark choice of having more chit-chat with your coworkers or simply getting on with doing things which add value to your business.
This is a starting point or a counterpoint to your own analysis I hope.