More on Mechatronics

Best-in-Class Companies Are Better at Adapting Resources and Leveraging Technology

Joe FeeleyBy Joe Feeley, Editor in Chief

A few months ago, I reported findings from an Aberdeen Group study claiming world-class companies are much more on the ball when it comes to mechatronic approaches to product development.

Last month, I told you how machine builders TetraPak and Eagle Technologies used their versions of a mechatronic approach to improve their decision-making. It reminded me I wanted to mention a few more things from the study that I didn’t have room for in April.

The study used five key performance criteria to define what they call best-in-class (BiC) companies. These companies were the top 20% that meet their quality targets 95% of the time, which is 12% more often than the industry average—the middle 50% of the companies—and nearly twice as often as the bottom 30% of the companies.

In these troubled times, it’s significant to note that those favorable numbers are the same for revenue targets and product costs. They’re better still for meeting launch dates and development cost targets.

Another differentiator of the BiC companies was striking in this age of outsourcing. The industry average and lagging performers are four times more likely than BiC firms to go outside the company to find help for mechatronic needs. BiC companies have a greater focus on how to adapt their existing resources and leverage technology to alter the way development takes place, rather that just add designers.

This internal resource development, says the study, means these companies are five times more likely than the industry-average companies and seven times more likely than the laggards to validate system behavior with the simulation of integrated mechanical, electrical and software components.

How are they doing this? The report quotes an unidentified senior vice president for what it calls a high-volume, intelligent software-driven machine builder about his ability to break down knowledge silos. “I have done a lot of cross training of my people to develop their skills in mechanical and electrical disciplines and, on occasion, in software as well.” He says supporting this type of interdisciplinary collaboration enables the manufacturing and design groups to have better insight into the downstream repercussions of design changes.

The study data seems to bear that out. BiC companies are 51% more likely than the industry-average companies and approaching three times more likely than laggard companies to notify other disciplines of a change when it has a cross-discipline impact.

The BiCs, says the report, are 74% more likely than the industry-average companies to model the system with block diagrams and 91% more likely to then use these block diagrams to capture and execute functional requirements.

Can you identify which group you likely fit into? Is it the one you want to be in?

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