In the manufacturing product development space, Engineer-to-Order (ETO) product development software has been all the rage for over a decade now. But you might not have heard about it.
A good example of an ETO product is industrial cabinets & shelving that precisely fit your warehouse and are made to work well with the forklifts that you drive. A more complex ETO example is a turbine/generator that produces the exact mega-wattage your plant must produce.
The idea is that an ETO product line is built to meet different specifications for individual customers, but it stays within certain boundaries. ETO software helps manufacturers virtually design their products from a foundational architecture so that they can quote, sell, and produce efficiently and reliably.
According to Jim Brown at Tech-Clarity in his article, What’s Happening In Engineer To Order (ETO) And Design Automation, there's just one problem. His research shows that top performing companies are not more likely to engineer to order.
It seems that manufacturers have the very same problems with ETO software as without it: they can't be BOTH efficient and reliable in their customer price quotes. In other words, they don't gain any efficiency or reliability from their ETO methodology.
Why not? The simple answer is that average companies use software to automate broken processes. Technology is the greatest leverage that humankind has ever created, but it still requires critical guidance and direction to be implemented effectively.
Tech-Clarity finds that companies who study the interactions of the product platform, modular design, and rules-based configuration have an advantage over those who do not.
They use the software to identify which product configurations work perfectly and produce only those. They do not stretch the technology to make all possible products for all customers. It's simple, seemingly obvious, and downright effective.
Whatever side of the value chain you are on -- manufacturer, customer, or investor -- seek to ensure that production is not just enabled with technology, but that product development best practices are clearly understood and fully implemented.