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R&D, Moving faster, with digital threads

Isn't it weird that the R&D engineers charged with creating our next big thing are, for the most part, themselves stuck in 20th century email, shared hard drives and whiteboard meetings, when dreaming up these ideas?

Sounds odd, doesn’t it? However, according to research from PTC and Tech Clarity only 34% of engineers say "data is available to them, even within their own department" . Where suppliers or customer data was concerned it dropped to 8-9%. In today’s 21st century environment this is shocking.

This market data is backed up by real world experience. In our recent efforts to better understand R&D and Industrial engineering customers at Authentise, a collaboration, workflow and process management software provider, we engaged with over 90 organizations to map out their R&D and industrial engineering activities. At Authentise, we undertook this work as we introduce a new set of unique engineering work thread collaboration tools.

Some 87% of the customers we engaged with felt they had challenges around their digital threads, as they’re defined today.

For an industry often at the cutting edge, what they found was eye opening. As Andre Wegner, CEO of Authentise, outlines “Picture a traditional inbox, with reams of paper in it. Now imagine those pieces of paper, replaced by digital files and drawings. Now spread all those digital pieces of paper, across numerous, shared hard drives and systems.”

Over the past couple of decades computer aided design (CAD) and product lifecycle management or (PLM) have delivered some incredible benefits. However, from a process perspective, as an industry we’re still bound by many of the same constraints and mindsets developed last century. The Stage Gate process, for example, which governs many ideas of engineering change, was first outlined in the 1940s.

However, hope is at hand, and things are changing! Of the 90+ R&D organizations Authentise are engaged with, 68% are looking into more agile processes, influenced by what the software development industry has been doing.

For those who’ve not been following the world of software development, think of numerous small, nimble, agile teams, focussed on delivering incremental improvements, at speed to discrete systems. If you haven’t heard of these ideas, you may have heard terms such as sprints, scrums, kanban boards and more. These organizations are not simply “lift and shifting” these ideas. They’re adapting them to meet their own needs and are seeing success.

This is where the Authentise team have been focussed with the new tool - Authentise Threads. With Authentise Threads you can set up a work thread across your R&D or engineering teams in seconds. You can then share live discussion with them, formally capturing any key issues, decisions, actions or resolutions, all while sharing key events, documents, resources, goals, metrics and key performance indicators. Compared to traditional systems it provides a very natural way to work together. Everything the team collaborates around is documented automatically in the thread as a part of their everyday work. Any key events, such as decisions, can be easily captured, and shared across different threads and the rest of the teams.

The results provided some significant insight. A leading surgical robotics company and R&D organisation was up to speed in less than 30 minutes. Within 2 weeks they were seeing a 1.5x ROI on their initial investment, tracking 100% of their R&D decisions digitally, while realising significant productivity improvements, saving 150 hours and 20 meetings across a distributed team including external partners. They doubled the effective size of their team.

Mr Wegner, goes on, “From our perspective this is great news. These customers really liked what they were seeing from Authentise about how to solve their challenges. 3 out of 5 customers wanted to know more from us about what we’re doing. It’s an exciting time”.

If you’d like to know more about what we're doing, check out our website, and read our latest whitepaper outlining some best practices. If you’re really interested, we would be delighted to let you loose on Authentise Threads!

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