To get the most out of your design process, it is important to optimize how your company utilizes its engineering staff. As a former engineer in the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) world I have four tips on how to (or how not to…) “maximize” your engineers’ time while improving the skills of your workers and generating additional revenue streams.
#1: Eliminating collaboration reduces time spent in meetings. To reduce unnecessary “discussion” about designs, innovative managers can apply a variety of techniques. One of my favorite techniques is to implement different design tools, none of which work together, throughout the team. This way, you not only prevent designers from collaborating, in the off-chance an outsider does manage to penetrate the design process, contamination is limited to a single system.
Fact: The best way to encourage a healthy design process is to ensure that there are open lines of communication within the design group. Hand-offs should be smooth, not “thrown over the wall.” And standardization on common platforms and programs is a proven way to help to promote collaboration, shorten time to market and improve quality.
#2: Avoiding customer feedback shortens design cycles. One surefire way to reduce your time to market is staying focused… staying focused and not letting people with opinions, like customers for example, distract you. Who do they think they are anyways?
Fact: Getting customer feedback throughout the design process saves you time and money. Yes, it costs money to get customer feedback. Yes, it takes time to collect and analyze customer feedback. But a product with a slightly longer time to market that hits the mark is infinitely more profitable than one that doesn’t sell. Need another reason? Making changes in the design cycle is MUCH cheaper than trying to make changes after the product is in production.
#3: Ignoring problems promotes problem solving skills. Sure the manufacturing guys might find ways to improve the design for production, but there’s no need to change the original design. When you are ready to release the next version, manufacturing will probably remember what they did last time…
Fact: Pushing manufacturing changes back to design, essentially marrying the eBOM and mBOM, ensures that your next version will be that much better. And in cases where parts are used across multiple assemblies, these changes create cascading efficiencies. Creating bridges between design and manufacturing also grows the skills of your design team, showing them what does and does not work in production.
#4: Faulty parts generate service revenues. Aftermarket Service, or Service Life Cycle Management, can be a profitable business, especially when you have parts that constantly break. One way to ensure that this business is not threatened is to make sure that no one replaces the faulty parts with ones that actually last.
Fact: Poor quality is a proven way to lose customers. By making sure that service informs engineering of faulty parts, this problem can be addressed, increasing both the quality of your product and the satisfaction of your customers.
There you have it, four guaranteed ways to “improve” your design process through engineering isolation. But seriously, as you look at the roles that various groups play, or could play, in your design process remember that the designs we engineers create are only as good as the information we have.
Extending design beyond engineering, with collaboration and active downstream feedback, can only help to improve your end results.