Real-time Collaborative Architectural Modeling Enhances Complex Product Development

Bryan Moser spoke to our Denver PDMA (Product Development Management Association) chapter about the value of models such as the one his company, Global Project Design (GPD) developed  to forecast, optimize, allocate and measure coordination in complex product development projects. These models take into account different cultures, time zones, language barriers, and dispersed decision-making. They also incorporate engineering behavior among different cultures based on their typical interaction.

Today there is pressure to succeed in a dramatically concurrent fashion, which increases the risk of rework, quality and design. The thinning of the workforce affects production as does the loss of deep knowledge and connection from workers who have been laid off or who have retired. Another finding in these complex product development initiatives is that the cost of coordination is high and is on average 30%-35% of the time consumed.

Bryan walked us through the example of the Sikorsky S92 helicopter product development project. Their biggest concern was defending their intellectual property as they selected companies in various countries to work as an integrated team. The team was spread across the globe in countries such as Brazil, Taiwan, Spain, China and Japan, and included big company names such as Embraer of Brazil and Taiwan Aerospace, for example. Sikorsky USA was the decision-making company.

Sikorsky had predicted that it would take 5 years from product spec to prototype development. It took 9 years, and GPD’s model prediction was only off by 2 months from the actual time. Sikorsky hadn’t taken into account the dynamics that would add considerable time to product development, such as coordination, culture, language, time zones, and a lot of dead time that one team would experience if another was late in delivery, for example.

We can’t turn the clock back on product development since the expertise for various segments of complex product development is best served by a global team. However, putting on a nationalist hat, previously teams all worked for one company, in similar time zones and had strong connection and communication since they all spoke the same language, and could develop products more expeditiously from having worked together extensively over the years. This is lost in these complex product development projects where people who have never worked together, are thrust together to develop a product.

This real time collaborative model takes into account the various languages and points of view, and the time needed to build relationships with people who have never worked together before.

One of the key findings for these complex projects is that there is a fair amount of wasted time as work time averages:

~54% Direct Work
~30% Coordination
~16% Less Useful Time

The key takeaway is that coordination is often way underestimated in these complex product development projects across multiple countries. It’s better to run the model earlier in the process, so as to re-schedule or re-work pieces to reduce the less productive coordination time. GPD’s model is agent based on simulation models about how teams make choices and includes the last 30-40 years of research of behaviors in engineering work.

In conclusion, product development professionals face:

A decline in judgment based on experience alone. Traditional centralized and detailed plans ignore and misrepresent the complexity of projects.

Coordination – Interaction of teams to satisfy dependence across subsystems can be 35% of the effort, cost and duration of these development projects.

Choosing the best coordination architecture can lead to a 20% improvement in time/cost performance and will improve your competitiveness! Judgment through situation awareness is also gained.

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