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It’s an exciting time to be a product developer.
Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are inspiring an explosion in new product categories.
In this increasingly complex industry, the partnership between developers and manufacturers has never been more important.
So for this year’s report, we wanted to survey developers as well as manufacturers to understand where the greatest challenges and opportunities exist for streamlined collaboration.
The Survey in Numbers—
ANNUAL REPORT BY FICTIV
( 1,039 Developers + 97 Manufacturers )
What we found is that while speed to market is top priority for developers, there are a number of inefficiencies that constrain the process of moving from digital to physical quickly.
Both manufacturers and developers are busier than ever, managing multiple projects at once on tight timelines, and communication workflows appear to be a source of limiting friction.
Despite challenges, demand to work with U.S. manufacturers peaked in 2017, highlighting an opportunity to strengthen domestic supply chains for faster, more efficient product development cycles.
Here are the insights for 2018:
The State of Supply Chains
Echoing our 2017 State of Hardware Report, speed continues to be a strong focus for developers. Teams are racing to get products to market faster, demanding more from their local supply partners. These demands push local shops to their limits and reveal a need for continued support to prevent further splintering of domestic supply chains.
SPEED IS PRIORITY FOR DEVELOPERS
To iterate on designs quickly, product teams rely on external manufacturing shops with fast lead and response times as well as expedite services.
71% of developers use external shops in development
With 36% exclusively using external
When selecting an external service for 3D printed or CNC machined prototypes, “Fast response time” and “Fastest lead time” are the top 2 criteria for developers
selected as most important/very important
prior experience with the shop/service — 66%
Trusted referrals/recommendations — 57%
On my company's approved vendor list — 24%
Ability to scale into production — 21%
Industry certifications (e.g. ITAR, ISO) — 18%
Open purchase order exists — 14%
of developers reported “Always” or “Usually” paying fees to expedite delivery
Manufacturers concur—reporting that 19% of their customers “Always” or “Usually” pay expedite fees
MANUFACTURERS ARE STRAINED BY LIMITED RESOURCES
Although hardware teams rely on external shops to help them move quickly, shops are time and resource constrained, which limits their ability to deliver on speed.
75% of manufacturing personnel report that they perform three or more roles in their organization
85% perform one or more roles
of manufacturers talk to four or more customers or prospective customers in a given week
# of customers or prospective customers talked to in a given week
42% of Manufacturers say 8 or more business days is the typical turn-around time for low-volume CNC machined prototypes
31% say 4-7 business days, 23% say 1-3 business days, and only 3% say same day
Skilled machine operation talent is difficult to find:
Machine operation today requires a greater range of technical skills, which limits the available talent pool. In a recent survey by the Institute of Supply Management (ISM), manufacturers reported difficulty in finding highly-skilled labor.
—ISM survey, reported by Bloomberg
Manufacturing jobs held by non-college graduates have declined by almost 45% since 2000.
“The big winners in this transformation are college graduates with technical degrees located in large urban places.”
STRONG DOMESTIC SUPPLY PERSISTS
Despite challenges, development teams rely on local suppliers more than ever, likely because of fast delivery times.
Nearly half of developers (49%) say their external vendors* are “Often or Always Local”
*When using an external service for 3D printing or CNC machining
Recent survey from ISM shows U.S. manufacturing expanded in December at the fastest pace in three months, as 2017’s gains in orders and production capped the strongest year for factories since 2004.
—ISM survey, reported by Bloomberg
“The acceleration in bookings indicates production will remain robust in coming months.”
How We Communicate
One of the most time-consuming aspects of manufacturing is not the part production itself, but the communication that surrounds it. According to our survey, there’s a strong opportunity for both suppliers and developers to save time and reduce manufacturing errors with improved communication workflows.
COMMUNICATION LINES ARE CROSSED
Perhaps unsurprisingly, developers and suppliers are often not on the same page. Our survey revealed a wide gap in perceived manufacturing knowledge between the two groups as well as infrequent manufacturability feedback and common miscommunication.
of manufacturers reported that they “Often” or “Always” receive parts that aren’t manufacturable
Only 10% said that “Never” happens
of developers consider themselves “Very” or “Extremely” knowledgeable about manufacturing processes
of manufacturers consider their clients to be “Very” or “Extremely” knowledgeable about manufacturing
Only 13% of developers are “Always” getting feedback on their parts
And 7% “Never” get feedback
of developers say they have experienced a miscommunication with a CNC machining or 3D printing shop in regard to design intent on a part
of manufacturers report a similar miscommunication
COMPLEX COMMUNICATION DELAYS PROJECTS
In addition to an array of challenges faced in communication workflows, the time it takes to communicate with stakeholders can also be significant, leading to project delays.
Nearly 1 in 5 developers (18%) reported spending more than five hours preparing an RFQ package and receiving quotes for each CNC prototype order
79% reported spending at least one hour per order
Most reasons for project delays (76% total) might be addressed by better communication
Extensive revisions based on internal stakeholder input
Production failures or unexpected delays
Slow communication between stakeholders
Extensive revisions based on manufacturer's input
Management approval delays
Manufacturing runs on email
While most software development teams have moved beyond email-based communication systems to save time and improve efficiencies, both product developers and manufacturers rely heavily on email, followed by phone, to discuss part designs and manufacturability.
Communication methods used “Often” or “Always” when discussing a part order
In-person at supplier's office
In-person at developer's office
File-sharing tools (ie Drive, Dropbox)
Email is the preferred system for communication for developers and manufacturers because it’s:
(fast, convenient, quick, direct, clear)
(trackable, traceable, recorded, permanent)
(files, links, images)
(standard, available, required, formal)
The manufacturing industry needs to make strides to keep up with the pace of innovation product teams are driving toward.
Software automation, applied to both machine and workflow technologies, paired with technically-skilled employees can help manufacturers maintain a competitive edge in today’s landscape.
There’s also an opportunity for both developers and manufacturers to prioritize improved communication systems, which could help mitigate production errors and delayed timelines. This is another area where software automation has the power to improve efficiencies and propel innovation.
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Fictiv is manufacturing for the modern world, empowering hardware innovators to bring products to market faster and more efficiently than ever before. Our software-driven manufacturing platform makes it simple and fast to work with manufacturers in your city or around the globe.
Thank you to our amazing partners and product innovators who helped make this report possible!