Issues in distributed Engineering of SMEs over the Collaboration Life Cycle
Collaboration in product development has played an increasingly important role in the past decades. However, distributed engineering creates a wide variety of challenges that, in some cases, are highly context dependent. In Germany, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) play a vital role to the economy and engage in many collaborative engineering projects. So far, it remains a practical challenge to design a joint engineering environment that is not well-assisted by the science community. In addition, collaborations evolve over time. This study examines problem fields in collaborative engineering of SMEs and presents the collaboration life cycle (CLC) framework. This framework aims at classifying and contextualizing different problem domains within the greater context of a collaborative partnership. Therefore, we have conducted an interview study with industry experts regarding challenges in distributed engineering with SMEs and validated the results through an industry workshop. We argue that a high-level perspective on collaboration with different life-cycle phases in conjunction with the description of practical problem fields can assist in understanding collaboration in distributed design better. Going forward, the findings provide the base for ongoing research in a project that aims to make the maturity level of any distributed engineering environment assessable and provides guidance for improvements.