As technology evolves and global competition heats up, companies are showing more interest than ever in engineering transformation (EX). A subset of digital transformation (DX), EX entails overhauling tools, processes, and roles to boost engineering productivity. EX further promises to improve outcomes and make companies more competitive in a marketplace that is increasingly challenging to navigate.

So is it working? Does EX deliver value? As it happens, much of Lifecycle Insights’ research on a range of topics has touched on this question in recent years. The studies served different purposes, but each fundamentally evaluated how companies are coping with rapidly changing conditions in engineering and product development. 

Overall, the study findings show that companies everywhere are actively adopting EX initiatives in the face of rising product and process complexity. Furthermore, the most progressive among these companies generally reap the biggest benefits. 

In short: Yes. EX delivers value. 

The Model-Based Systems Engineering Study: More Projects Completed on Schedule and Within Budget With MBSE

In an effort to address rising complexity in design and development processes, some companies have adopted systems engineering as part of their engineering efforts. With systems engineering practices and processes, companies can coordinate work across domains early and throughout design and development. This should lead to fewer late design changes, more cost savings, and better overall outcomes. Yet, some organizations still pursue systems engineering using traditional office tools, such as documents and spreadsheets.

The 2022 Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) Study evaluated the impact and efficacy of leveraging model-based approaches instead of documents and spreadsheets. The study, conducted with support from Ansys, surveyed more than 285 professionals from numerous industries at companies with revenues generally between $50M to $250M. The research further segmented respondents into three groups based on their systems engineering activities: least progressive, moderately progressive, and most progressive.

The study compared the most progressive companies to the least progressive and found significant differences. The most progressive companies:

  • completed more projects on time (65% vs. 45%); 
  • met or beat cost targets (58% vs. 43%); 
  • met or beat quality targets (58% vs. 47%); and 
  • required fewer post-release change orders per project (16.7 vs. 23.1).

The ROI of DX Study: Investments in Digital Transformation Boost Company Performance

Product, process, and organizational complexity are all rising. That’s one reason many companies today actively pursue DX initiatives, including the overhaul of their engineering tools and processes. 

The Return on Investment (ROI) of Digital Transformation (DX) Study, carried out in 2021 with the support of Siemens, looked for evidence that DX improvements are making a difference for the companies that adopt them. Participants answered questions about the status of their DX initiatives as well as their investments in technologies that support, enhance, and empower those initiatives. Based on their responses, subjects were divided into three groups: most progressive, moderately progressive, and least progressive.

The results were striking. Respondents from the most progressive companies pursued 12.5 investment initiatives compared to a mere 3.5 in the least progressive group. What’s more, those investments paid off: Fully 10% more of the most progressive group’s product development projects hit or exceeded their margin targets. The overwhelming takeaway from the research is that targeted investments in DX initiatives can and do translate into tangible improvements in organizational performance.

The Agile Adoption in the Consumer Product Industry Study: Agile Practices Lead to Better Product Design Outcomes

Agile methodology is a highly adaptive approach to project management and product development that revolutionized the software industry in the early 2000s. It has since been adopted more broadly by other industries seeking to deliver greater value to customers and stay competitive in a crowded, global marketplace. 

The Agile Adoption in the Consumer Product Industry Study, implemented in 2022 with support of Autodesk, surveyed 183 consumer product manufacturers to assess how they currently use the agile framework. Respondents came from companies with revenues ranging from under $100M to $5B, with most identifying as director-level or higher (62%). 

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of study respondents indicated that their companies were currently carrying out process changes toward an agile product development methodology. A further 24% said they had completed such process changes, while 10% said their efforts were still in the planning phase. Just 4% had no plans to adopt agile development. 

As the consumer product industry takes on growing product complexity, customer requirements, and competition, it seems well-positioned to address those demands with agile development.

The Shift-Left Strategy for Electronics Systems Study: Progressive Manufacturers Spend Significantly Less With Alternative Development Approach

Demand for smart, connected products has led to more sophisticated multi-board electronics in everyday items. At the same time, product development processes now must run on shorter schedules. To adapt to these changes, some product developers have deployed a shift-left strategy. This approach carries out testing and quality assurance practices early in product development with the aim of improving quality, reaching the market faster, and reducing costs. 

The Shift-Left Strategy for Electronics Systems Study, undertaken in 2021 with support from Siemens, examined how, where, and why manufacturing organizations are moving toward this new strategy. The study surveyed more than 300 manufacturing professionals, subdividing them into groups based on their adoption of this progressive development method.

The results revealed interesting differences in activities and results for companies that use shift-left strategies. Compared to their less progressive counterparts, shift-left adopters:

  • deploy systems integration, design reuse, and digital prototyping during development;
  • require fewer circuit board respins and system prototypes; and
  • spend $328,000 to $1,300,000 less in development funds during a project.

The PDM/PLM Study: Adoption of Data Management More Necessary Than Ever

Today’s manufacturers must manage product development data and processes effectively. But difficulties often arise in coordinating work across domains, capturing and preserving communications, and tracing the effects of product changes across the operation. To navigate these challenges, many manufacturers turn to product data management (PDM) or product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions. These tools generally promise to make teams more productive, simplify communication and collaboration, and speed up development.

The PDM/PLM Study, performed in 2022 with support from Autodesk, surveyed engineering and manufacturing professionals for insight into why manufacturing companies are changing (or considering changing) the way they manage product development data and processes. 

The study concluded that numerous internal and external conditions are driving manufacturers to try new ways of managing product development data. Email and shared files too easily lower productivity and delay projects. However, PDM or PLM solutions offer an alternative that a significant percentage of 2022 PDM/PLM Study respondents have adopted.

Realizing Value From EX

No matter the industry or size, companies today are reshaping their engineering practices to remain competitive in a fast-changing global market. Products have become more complex and competition more fierce, but at the same time, opportunities still abound. In the surveys discussed above, companies embraced multiple forms of EX, including:

  • advanced systems engineering (MBSE); 
  • agile development methodologies;
  • more progressive CAD tools;
  • shift-left strategies; and
  • PDM/PLM solutions.

Furthermore, the companies that invested the most in these initiatives often benefited more fully. 

The Engineering Transformation Study: What Makes Value Realizers Successful?

While the studies discussed so far suggest that EX optimizes engineering, some skeptics advise caution. You can’t blame them. These initiatives involve considerable change, which can lead to expensive delays, unsustainable engineer workloads, and missed deadlines. Too much disruption might even trigger pushback among team members.  

The Engineering Transformation (EX) Study, developed independently by Lifecycle Insights in 2023, compared organizations that benefited most from EX and those that benefited least. The study separated respondents into four cohorts: Value Realizers, Edge Riders, Breakevens, and Poor Realizers. The takeaway? Value Realizers enjoyed the most success and the least disruption, while Poor Realizers experienced levels of disruption that outpaced the benefit from their EX efforts.

Results show Value Realizers invested in technological change, such as software solutions, at higher rates (39%) than Poor Realizers (27%). Furthermore, Value Realizers made organizational changes to structure, roles, and responsibilities at a higher rate (40%) than Poor Realizers (25%).  

These are just a few of the compelling findings uncovered by the 2023 EX Study. Find out more about which companies succeed with EX—and why—by downloading the full report of study findings, Engineering Transformation: Realizing Value, Avoiding Disruption.