Focus: The Connection Between PLM and Workplace Efficiency

This morning as I peered out onto a foggy Oregon landscape from my home office, it struck me just how far I had come from the typical American corporate workspace of my past. A far cry from the bullpens and team conference rooms of my earlier years, I realized that I had become more productive than ever in my isolated yet serene home office.


This phenomenon is explored in Susan Cain’s recently published book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.” An advocate for quiet spaces where one can work uninterrupted, Cain’s claims come as no surprise to those who work in engineering. How many of us have known talented designers whose work suffers when they are interrupted by seemingly endless status reports, requests from outside departments, and collaboration meetings yet thrive when they are left alone to do what they do best – design innovative products of superior structure and quality.


PLM & Introversion: When Technology Fosters Productivity

This natural inclination to work alone in order to maximize output is largely responsible for the “PLM effect” of product lifecycle management software – in other words, its ability to make a strong and positive effect on the revenue and profits of organizations due in to the efficiency in product development that it encourages by eliminating distractions.

For example, within a high-functioning PLM environment, members of the engineering department do not need to stop the development of their project in order to help a team member access a certain file.

Just how detrimental even the smallest of distractions can be is detailed within Cain’s New York Times editorial “The Risks of the New GroupThink”. Within this piece, she cites research that workers who face interruptions and distractions make up to 50% more mistakes and take twice as long to complete any given task. The introduction of PLM into an organization ushers in an efficiency wherein any team member can complete a task without the need to interrupt other teammates.

This newfound efficiency cannot be discerned in company metrics or a ROI document. Instead, it is a “soft” number. Introverts particularly need quiet places to focus and work. So our instincts lead us to conclude that if smart folks like the engineers described above could be allowed to design instead of being interrupted by team members in the organization for small tasks, products could be:

  • Delivered to market on time
  • Completed under budget
  • Produced defect free

In the meantime, the open, team-centered structure in which we design our offices should also be rethought. Patty, a product design engineer using SolidWorks, and self-proclaimed introvert, pointed out: “The open cubicle environment is not conducive to creative design thinking. I would be a lot more productive in a quiet space with good lighting, and with a lot less interruptions. I do like the coffee though.”

If you’ve observed the same phenomena in your organization, maybe you should also consider reading Cain’s new book or determine the impact that PLM could make on your organization. Stop and think before putting your introverted engineering teams in collaborative work spaces and check out products produced with efficiency in mind, such as Zero Wait-State’s newly released RAPIDaccess program which allows engineers to focus on their designs and not on delivering drawing files to outside teams. As mainstream organizations drift further into the groupthink and collaboration traps, increase your efficiency by focusing on the work at hand.

Stay tuned for our announcement of RAPIDaccess during SolidWorks World 2012. If you were ever the victim of interruptions and distractions, stop by our booth, #137, to view a demonstration of its capabiltiies!

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