The creation, distribution, and consumption of documentation that supports products throughout their lifecycle is fraught with challenges that can create lasting damage to the organization.
We surveyed over 500 U.S. manufacturing industry professionals, across middle and senior management and leadership, from a range of verticals including: Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Vehicles, Space Technology, Green Technology, Industrial Machinery, and Medical Devices.
We uncovered serious deficiencies in the processes of content creation and collaboration, as well as the usage of that content, leading to downstream impacts ranging from manufacturing errors and wastage to loss of sales. We call this problem Product Communication Disorder.
For any product to succeed in the marketplace, a wealth of information needs to be communicated: What the product does, how it works, how it’s built, the value it provides to abuyer, how it is installed and used, how it is maintained, and so forth. All of this requires the creation of content and documentation – which in turn requires people to collaborate – and the distribution of that content so it can be accessed and consumed by its intended audience.
This process - Product Communication - is critically important and can be extremely challenging to manage throughout the product lifecycle. It typically becomes more difficult as product complexity increases and as then umber of different products increases. And when problems arise with Product Communication, the pain is felt throughout the organization.
Creating Product Communication content is time-consuming and complicated, requiring input from multiple team members. Workflows are sub-optimal and there is clear room for improvement.
Over 95% of manufacturing industry professionals surveyed said that projects or products at their company had suffered errors or delays as a result of inefficient workflows for the creation of critical product documentation.
More than half of respondents said they frequently encounter bottlenecks in content creation. So, what is causing these bottlenecks? Responses suggest a lack of autonomy among content creators and in appropriate software are having a big impact.
Effective collaboration is vital to a successful Product Communication strategy. But manufacturers are challenged by a fragmented approach to collaboration, and increasingly distributed workforces and ecosystems.
The survey suggests that collaboration in Product Communication is even more of an acute challenge than content creation, with 97% of respondents saying their organizations have suffered from errors or delays as a result of difficulty collaborating on documentation for products and processes.
Part of the problem appears to be the use of multiple channels to collaborate and gather feedback. 75% of respondents said the use of multiple channels made it easy to miss important feedback on documentation
Manufacturers struggle to ensure everyone has access to the most up to date content, while the continued existence of a range of different content formats – including hard copy – aggravates the problem.
Product Communication documentation and content exists to be consumed, so that knowledge can be transferred, and essential procedures executed correctly. This brings a number of issues into play, including how clear and up-to-date content might be, how it is distributed and accessed, and the experience of the people consuming the content.
As manufacturing processes improve to allow for accelerated product development and iteration, the likelihood of organizations having outdated content in circulation increases – particularlywhen, as we have seen, bottlenecks in documentation creation and updateworkflows are present.
In line with this, 85% of respondents said that their organization had suffered errors or delays related to projects and products in the past four years as a result of out of date documentation in circulation.
And 54% conceded that their company struggles to ensure everyone who needs access to content is able to access the most up todate version of each document.
The way Product Communication is managed today is damaging manufacturing companies’ performance. It is delaying time to market and revenue, threatening sales, and undermining investments made elsewhere in manufacturing operations.
In the past two years, more than 70% of manufacturing companies have been forced to deal with product delays and errors as a result of: Late or delayed documentation; inaccurate, unclear or outdated documentation; and inefficient documentation creation workflows.
Inefficiencies in documentation and content workflows pull more people into the process than necessary, divert employees from core tasks, and directly impact company performance.
But perhaps nowhere is this interconnectedness more apparent than in the revelation that 73% of respondents felt that inefficiency in documentation workflows could be undermining gains made through other process and technology initiatives.
Does documentation at your company take too long to create? Do colleagues and teams struggle to collaborate effectively and efficienctly? Does documentation sometimes lack the necessary clarity? Is distribution and access to the most up to date content a challenge?
For a lot of companies these problems can be perceived, managed – and in many cases tolerated – as issues associated with departmental content and documentation workflows.
This research suggests otherwise: Instead of a host of disconnected workflow challenges, we see a more systemic and connected problem across the organization and ecosystem. A problem with damaging downstream outcomes which are entirely avoidable.
You can share the documents you’re working on with colleagues and team members wherever they’re located. They can interact, mark-up, feed-back, clarify, and sign off. Perfect for working in distributed teams, for checking product details with your engineering team and for clearing the finished document with sales and business development teams.