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How Workflow Integration Boosts Engineering Productivity

Published by Mike Solinap
on February 22, 2022

How to solve the problem that hides in plain sight

Engineers rarely talk about “workflow integration” for items like CAD files or project data management (PDM). They’re too busy doing their jobs!

However, that exact mindset presents a major issue. Many engineers think they’re too busy doing their jobs, while actually operating at a lower efficiency rate. Often, these engineers face complex processes that frustrate their efforts and sap their morale. Worse—and unfortunately just as common—engineers follow procedures and use outdated systems which invite error.

Despite the potential for updated systems — and subsequent growth in productivity — many engineering teams continue to operate with subpar procedures. The abundance of stress under tight deadlines leaves little room to reconfigure systems while also completing their jobs. 

Here at SPK and Associates, we work on creative, unique solutions for each engineering team to prevent excess stress and fatigue.

Why is workflow integration hard?

Most companies start small. When you only have two engineers, you don’t need a complex process. But upon company growth, especially the integration of multiple teams or remote work, a process becomes essential.

The worst processes begin with the best of intentions. For instance, “I’ll make a rule book!” or “I’ll just save it on my personal computer!” Or, in an attempt to meet regulatory compliance, leaders will design overly complicated procedures with too many manual steps. The result is disastrous: little to no workflow efficiency, confusion across departments, and decreased progress. Engineers also do not want to waste their time on needless paperwork. Many try to work around these systems; think of the “emailed Excel sheet,” or “Google doc” or “USB flash drive.”

Or, if they get frustrated enough, they simply leave.

Thus, the key to successful workflow integration is balance. It represents control versus freedom, or creativity versus compliance. No wonder so many companies find it so difficult!

IT to the rescue… to an extent

Every company has an IT team, which presents a quick, fall-back solution: “IT will solve this.” If only! Their work requires vigilance and speed, from basic password resets to entire software installs. Although IT teams are experts with maintaining infrastructure and corporate applications, adding engineering workflow integration to their workload will only cause further issues.

However, IT does focus on workflow automation for business (aka non-Engineering).  Business processes, such as invoicing, order entry, and such are more easily automated by software that is purpose built for this

How SPK approaches workflow integration

Our approach varies based on our customers’ unique needs. Still, there are common challenges:

  • Can our East Coast, West Coast, and overseas teams collaborate and share a single source of truth for their data, in real time?
  • What can you do to accommodate work-from-home teams who are used to “that server down the hall”?
  • How much of the solution is “software”? How much is “procedures”?

Based on our 20-plus years of experience, we provide flowcharts, checklists, and run books tailored for engineering teams who never want to suffer another “Oh no!” moment. (Remember when that typo—“m” instead of “mm”—made it all the way to manufacturing?!)

However, this is just a starting point. The solutions are available for further customization. For instance, one of our recent projects involved a client with many dispersed teams, all of whom needed to review the same files… of high-definition video. These massive files create quality issues, and our client, understandably, did not wish to spend $30k to upgrade each of these servers across multiple locations. With help from our SPK team, this client received a creative, cost-effective solution that avoided $120K of expense. 

Avoid the pitfalls, reap the benefits

Furthermore, we recently increased the productivity of a client’s offshore team by 500%! In addition, we routinely eliminate expensive, error-prone processes and liability-laden workarounds. Best of all, we can help you achieve the ultimate goal: balance. Happy engineers are productive engineers, and SPK and Associates excels at increasing satisfaction in equal amounts.

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