The strategic value of standardization and process control in product development processes has long been recognized. Its initial value was documented in the production phase of product development, which was popularized by Ford’s Model T assembly line system. Six Sigma and Lean Engineering methods popularized by General Electric and Toyota saw the value of standardization and process control extended to other stages of the product development lifecycle and for non production processes (i.e. business processes). However, in spite of the accepted value of standardization for many company processes, its implementation particularly for engineering analysis has long been an elusive goal for many engineering organizations.
A Harvard Business School case (9-604-084) on the implementation of Engineering Standard Work (ESW) at Pratt & Whitney (P&W) highlights both the value as well as the challenges in deploying engineering product development standardization across an entire engineering organization. In it’s basic form, ESW is a form engineering standardization that captures engineering workflows, design criteria, design standards, and lessons learned. According to the case, ESW was expected to reduce new product development costs by 50% (from $1 billion to $500M) and reduce development time by 33% (from 45 months to 30 months). ESW created these returns by reducing the number of engineering mistakes that resulted in later stage redesign and/or re-analysis to correct. It is important to note that implementing ESW for P&W was not simple. The case highlights the significant internal obstacles and false starts P&W faced in implementing ESW in spite of having significant executive management support for it. Some of these challenges included resistance from engineers who viewed ESW as preventing innovation. Other challenges involved the enormity of the task of making explicit engineering embedded knowledge and knowhow.
In the end, however, ESW was a big success at P&W and today it is one of the centerpieces of engineering standardization across the entire UTC conglomerate. Both the Executive Sponsor (Paul Adams) and the President of P&W (Louis Chenevert) have since been promoted. Mr. Adams is now the Senior Vice-President of Operations and Engineering at P&W and Mr. Chenevert is the CEO of UTC. At the time the case was written (2004), P&W was a $7.6B gas turbine jet engine manufacturer with 6,800 engineers and part of the $28.2B United Technologies Corporation (UTC) conglomerate. Today (2011) P&W is a $13B business and UTC is a $58B conglomerate.
An important and often overlooked aspect of implementing engineering standardization initiatives is the enabling and central role technology can play in these deployments. Technology not only can enhance the already noteworthy returns of engineering standardization, but can ease internal transition barriers to adoption. For instance, one of the center pieces of implementing engineering standardization is for the analysis packages to capture engineering analysis flows that comply with company best practices and industry standards. Mathcad with its engineering notebook look and feel, allows engineers to capture both engineering intent as well as perform the required analysis. This reduces the possibility of errors from transferring data between different applications as well as dynamically checking calculations and unit. In addition, Mathcad Prime 3.0 will be introducing templates, which will allow engineers to save worksheets as templates and to create new worksheets from stored templates. This allows engineering organizations to set analysis best practices- preventing errors and costly late stage redesign and re-analysis.
To conclude, Engineering standardization has the promise of noteworthy returns by reducing engineering errors producing costly redesigns and re-analysis. However, the implementation of these engineering standardization initiatives is mired with challenges. Technology, such as the capabilities found in Mathcad Prime can ease some of these challenges and increase both the initiative’s ROI as well as the chances of successful implementation. The template capability to be introduced in Mathcad Prime 3.0 will permit engineering organization to more easily have engineers follow company best practices thereby producing products that are develop right the first time.