How Collaboration and Innovation Change Engineering Efficiency

Joe Weinlick
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Manufacturers are able to improve engineering efficiency thanks to tools that allow better collaboration and innovation. Advanced processes allow plants to increase productivity and, therefore, profitability when companies choose to implement technological changes to keep pace with the supply-and-demand side of consumer economics.

Global Reach

Technology, such as cloud computing and connected devices, allows companies to collaborate with anyone at any time. A plant manager in Michigan can examine the same data as a parts supplier in China and Mexico due to information stored in the cloud. All parties involved in the collaboration can examine manufacturing processes to improve efficiency from the beginning to the end of the production line.

Virtual engineering teams can give companies support at any time, any shift and anywhere. These engineering teams cut labor costs as firms do not need to hire new engineers or contract consultants to come in for a certain period of time. Plus, companies can solve problems faster as more people collaborate on the same problem. The more data engineers have, the better, when it comes to increase efficiency.

Wireless Components

Some parts of machines include tiny sensors or switches connected to other devices through wireless connections. The wireless connections allow several ways for manufacturers to innovate engineering efficiency. Sensors can detect deviations in temperature, composition or speed of the manufacturing process. Proximity sensors detect anything out of place. Engineers can examine the data to alter machines to improve the line.

Switches do several things along the line. If a switch detects something out of place on the line, it can signal the line to shut down so engineers can fix the problem in real time. A limit switch can connect to the proximity sensors to combine for even greater efficiency.

These switches and sensors are so small, they do not need plugs for electricity. They operate on batteries and send data wirelessly to management software. Thanks to cloud computing, engineers can connect to data through mobile devices, laptops and connected computers from anywhere in the plant. Companies can store this data securely and give collaborators access to the information from remote locations.

Big Data

Information compiled by computers help managers make decisions to improve the quality of products. Data analysis also leads predictive technologies that can forecast demand of a product some time in the future. Predictive analysis lets engineers predict how long machines will last, when machines need maintenance and how equipment needs to be fine-tuned to run the most efficiently.


Software, apps, computers and automation continue to come down in price. That means small- and medium-sized manufacturers can compete with large ones. Government programs also help smaller manufacturers compete to get products out faster. Several of these software suites have comprehensive software packages that take care of wireless connections, analytics and cloud computing. As systems become less expensive, companies can afford to collaborate and innovate to improve efficiency of the systems involved.

Engineering efficiency will improve thanks to technology that aids collaboration and innovation. Manufacturers have little excuse to invest in this technology as computer and wireless technology in the plant has become the norm rather than the exception.

Photo Courtesy of khunaspix at


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  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    I witnessed this kind of upgrade in my younger years when I worked in a factory. The equipment and manufacturing process changed over a few weeks, and we found that sensors were not a part of quality control. This kind of technology did not replace human quality assurance at that time, and it really streamlined the process and speed of manufacturing the product. Having sensors monitor the line electronically was a great upgrade for that company.

  • Kristen Jedrosko
    Kristen Jedrosko

    I really like the idea of virtual engineering teams, but how does that cut costs in total? Wouldn't companies still need to have engineers on the ground to fix certain problems? So in a way, wouldn't companies be paying double to have virtual teams as well as on the ground teams? Or would they have the added expense of sending their virtual team out to the site with the issue to correct the problem?

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    Perhaps American-based manufacturing companies can use the same cloud-based data sharing techniques to increase efficiency and compete with rivals who outsource production? When combined with the relatively newfound American consumer desire for US made products, that type of technological innovation could give domestic companies a real edge...

  • Erica  T.
    Erica T.

    I agree that having the technology to work remotely to solve engineering issues or to work with other engineers who are stationed in different locations helps improve efficiency, but I think it's still important for engineers to see equipment in-person to adequately fix or make improvements. A hybrid approach is probably best - some engineers work in or near manufacturing plants to relay first-person accounts and conduct data gathering, while others work remotely to add their insights and analysis. As this article points out, the technology is available and accessible to most businesses - it's how businesses choose to use this technology that matters most.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    @Jane I have to, politely, disagree with your point that manufacturers are focusing more on efficiency than the quality of goods they produce. This is because the very systems put in place to ensure efficiency in the manufacturing process actually stretch their effects to improve the quality of manufactured products. I believe a system that can handle raw materials more efficiently is also likely to transform them to become the desired high quality products.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    Will engineers have to start relying solely on data in the future? Do today’s engineers have the education and training needed to work without seeing the product? I know that interpreting data is a large part of engineering, but I wonder how many engineers rely only on the data and never even get to see or touch the product they are working on.

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    As prices come down on manufacturing-related technology, it also opens up the door to staffing facilities more effectively and at a lower cost. When engineers and innovators work remotely, they can tackle multiple responsibilities without being on site. This also allows for more sharing of work spaces, lowering the cost of maintaining facilities. Overall, I see this trend leading to lower cost products in the future, which will benefit everyone.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Great comments! @Shannon so very true that both software and hardware programs are cheaper today than they have been in years. That is really great for companies that have been holding off because they couldn't afford to invest. @Jane so very true. Products today just are not made to last. My grandparents and parents had the same furniture for years because it was made to last. Today, we change furniture out every few years because it just doesn't hold up like it used to. That's just one example - there are thousands. @William automation is great in factories - to a point. Some items just can't be manufactured on an assembly line but need individual attention. I think that will always be the case. I also think that, as things change on the political front, that factories are going to come back to life and will need to hire more workers. Even with automation, though, someone needs to know how to run the machines; how to repair them and how to maintain them. So I see the need for manufacturing workers increasing in the future. I would also hope to see a manufacturing revival here in the US where we can create more products made in the USA which is what the public really wants.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    How do you think the Internet of Things changes the manufacturing industry in the next five years? The more data a company has about the processes that create products, the better engineers can interpret the information and get results. Do you think this means even more automation in factories down the road, or should manufacturers expect to hire more workers?

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    While I agree that efficient processes are valuable for competitiveness and affordability, it seems to me that oftentimes companies place their focus on efficiency at the expense of quality. Products are being made faster and cheaper than ever before with fewer labor costs, but my concern is that there is inherent value in making a great product, and it seems like the improvements in collaboration and innovation somehow aren't fueling this aspect of manufacturing.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    The increase in use of software and hardware programs in the engineering industry is definitely related to the decrease in price of these programs. Before, only the wealthy or elite companies could afford to use these innovative solutions, but reduced costs have now evened the playing field, thus making this field a much more competitive market.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I don't think that virtual engineering is as much of a efficiency solution as it sounds. I've worked alongside engineers in office space but the manufacturing facilities were right next door. It seems like too many issues could fall through the cracks when engineers are remote and never have access to production facilities.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I love the idea that a virtual engineering team saves a company money by providing support instead of staffing a full-time group of engineers. However, how will this affect jobs in this sector? Will we see a loss of engineering jobs, or simply a shift from workers on the factory floor to workers in an office?

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