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Survey Says Better Design Data Management Drives Better Product Development


This is a quick peek into some new survey-based benchmarks on managing technical data from Tech-Clarity’s Best Practices for Managing Design Data survey report. This is a comprehensive report with participation from well over 2,000 manufacturers from across the globe. The study gives us some great insight into how companies are managing their design data, the challenges they face, the technology they are using to overcome those challenges, and most importantly – how that has impacted their business performance. Tech-Clarity teamed up with Siemens PLM and Cadalyst to collect data and analyze what top product developers do differently in the way the manage their product data. The results are very interesting, and you can read more about the survey results from Dave Chadwick on the Siemens PLM blog as well. Rumor has it he has a couple more posts up his sleeve, so you might want to look for those shortly.

Introducing the Research

I am only going to share a snapshot of the findings here. First, though, I think it is important to understand how we determined which of the respondents were performing at “World Class” levels. We asked companies to rate their performance on their product development in four critical areas:

  • Speed
  • Innovation
  • Quality
  • Efficiency

These are the characteristics that drive product development success and lead to higher levels of product profitability. We chose the companies that scored the highest on an aggregate level across these metrics as the most successful product developers and dubbed them “World Class.” Then, we took a look at the survey results to see what they did differently from the others that had lower levels of performance and drew some conclusions. What are the key takeaways from the report from my perspective? I will share a few here, and then please take the time to read what Dave has to say and then read the report. There are plenty of nice graphs and charts to dig into as well!

Key Finding 1: World Class Data Management = World Class Product Development

I tried something new in this report. In addition to having companies report on the end results (business performance in time, quality, innovation) we also asked them how well they are doing in operational performance related to data management (finding data, sharing it, completing design tasks, managing projects, and providing accurate data to manufacturing). Our original intent was to see if the same things that drove operational improvements also drove business improvement. What I didn’t expect was to find a direct tie between better data management performance (tactical value) and better business performance (strategic value). In the words of the report, ” The analysis uncovered a high correlation between effective data management and world-class product development performance.” I am not sure what more you could add to that statement. The point is that doing better at managing data has business value. Maybe we all felt that way, but it was nice to see the data drive the point home.

Key Finding 2: World Class Companies Waste Less Time on Data Management

If you want to get products to market quickly and efficiently (as the World Class companies do) then you can’t have your engineers and designers spending all of their time on non-value-added data management tasks. I will just share a couple of key points here that I think will give you the picture of what we uncovered.

  • On average, companies report they spend 15% of their technical staff’s time on non-value-added design data management tasks
  • About 1/4 say they waste more than 20% of their time on non-value-added data management – that is a day a week!
  • Perhaps most importantly, the World Class companies spend 25% less time on nonproductive data management tasks than others

That probably explains a lot about how they get products to market faster, right? And more efficiently? OK, I think you get the picture.

Key Findings 3 – 30: What World Class Companies do Differently

No, don’t worry, I am not going to share all of what we learned. I will share a couple of highlights, though:

  •  Lost data has caused days of time spent re-creating data (direct quote from automotive company)
  • Top performing companies are more likely to use structured, collaborative data management solutions like PDM, PLM, or Microsoft SharePoint.

The last point is really compelling. I am sure you are not surprised, but you could probably have titled this entire report as:

Better Data Management Tools lead to Better Design Data Management which leads to Better Product Development Operational Performance which leads to Better Product Profitability and Business Performance

… but that would make too long of a title for a report, wouldn’t it? Seriously, the data shows that these enabling tools make a big difference in performance.

Key Finding 337: Just Kidding, but one more Important Finding

I will keep this one short, I think Dave is planning to spend some more time on this in his blog. What do you think drives data management challenges in product development? Company size? The short answer is no, company size doesn’t play much of a big role. What we found instead is that product complexity – not size – leads to more challenges in product development. Maybe not so surprising when you think about it, but might challenge your assumptions.

Closing Thoughts and Putting this in Perspective

The results prove what a lot of us have experienced. Better processes and tools for design data management leads to better product development. Of course we already knew there was a lot of value in managing product data from prior research. Tech-Clarity Insight: The Business Value of Product Data Management shared experiences from three companies across a variety of manufacturing industries. The conclusion from that report was a clear indication that Product Data Management (PDM) helps companies control control and secure product-related data, improve the ability to quickly find and reuse information, and share product knowledge with other departments. The report went further to point out that the companies indicated the results of better control, search, and collaboration are increased efficiency, improved quality, reduced cost, and the ability to bring products to market much faster. So it was easy to make a conclusion from that report that PDM helps companies improve the metrics that drive product profitability. There is more to that report as well, including some helpful guidelines to implementing PLM quickly. In fact, you can read more about that aspect in my Can PDM Value be Achieved Quickly? Painlessly? post from last year.

OK, so that was me sharing just a few things from the report. There is actually a lot more, although I realize I managed to share a lot and turn this into a really big post. I guess I get a little excited about these kinds of things, we worked on this one for a long time. I hope you managed to get something out of the bits that I shared, look for more from Dave on the Siemens PLM blog and please feel free to download the report – the full report is available from his blog and it is free (registration is required, though).


  1. Great blog post Jim! This should encourage any on-the-fence manufacturers to look again at what they are doing for design data management. I just posted the 2nd blog post in my series on our survey findings – this one focuses more on what the top performers in product development are actually doing for data management and the benefits they are achieving:


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