In a previous post, we briefly described what concurrent engineering is, what are the associated benefits and what are the challenges to be faced in order to approach it correctly. However, too often this fundamental approach in Product Development is misinterpreted by development teams.
In this short post, we will refer in particular to 3 concepts to better clarify how this approach should be used.
# 1: What Concurrent Engineering is NOT
Focusing on Design For Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA), David M. Anderson, author of the book “Design for Manufacturability: how to use concurrent engineering to rapidly develop low-cost, high-quality products for lean production“ lists in a series of points on what DFMA is NOT:
- it is not a step that takes place at the end of the design phase which, once checked, lets you pass a project review gate to advance to the next phase;
- it is not only done at the component level, but most of the opportunities are at the system architecture level. This aspect is in fact crucial and of fundamental importance. From personal experience, in fact, there is a tendency to create simultaneous engineering teams only in the component detail design phase, while the system design phase is relegated to the designers only. This leads to a loss of fundamental improvement opportunities that can subsequently be introduced only by changing the architecture of the product, therefore with a high expenditure of money, time and resources;
- it is not performed by one person: concurrent engineering is done by a multidisciplinary team by definition. In particular, the 3 key areas of the company cannot be missing: design, production, marketing;
- it must not be “captured” later in project reviews: introducing simultaneous engineering only at an advanced stage makes little sense.
# 2: resource availability from the beginning is critical
As Anderson reported, the main difference between an advanced and a primitive approach to product development lies in ensuring that all the skills required throughout the life cycle are present and active from the beginning.
“In the best Japanese “Lean” projects, the number of people involved is the highest at the beginning. All relevant specialist skills are present and the task of the project leader is to force the group to face all the difficult compromises and they will have to work hard to achieve an agreement on the project “
Finally, the authors conclude:
“In contrast, in many mass production design exercises, the number of people involved is very small at first but grows to a very close peak at launch as hundreds or even thousands of skills are brought in to solve problems. that should have been clarified at the beginning.”
Resource availability issues can be solved with good prioritization of product development efforts and efficient use of team members’ time. Strategic priorities should be articulated by good planning of the product portfolio (see our New Product Development Masterclass).
Finally, it is necessary to define the matrix of the required skills and the capacity of the necessary resources, and in the event of a gap, possibly resort to training (internal or external) and outsourcing solutions.
# 3: typical resistances in the use of a concurrent engineering approach
Despite the clear benefits of this approach, there is still some resistance to it:
- Linear thinking: now you just need it to work, we will think later about manufacturability, cost, quality, reliability, practicality, etc.;
- Deadlines to meet: I don’t have time to worry about producibility now, I have deadlines to meet.
- Misconceptions about constraints: don’t limit my design freedom with unnecessary constraints.
- “I don’t have time”: however, if you don’t have time to do it now, how will you ever find the time to do it later when it is much more difficult, perhaps impossible?
In this short post, we have highlighted 3 fundamental concepts to exploit all the potential of concurrent engineering in the new product development phase:
- concurrent engineering is a multidisciplinary approach to be used from the very beginning of product development;
- the availability of resources with adequate skills is a critical factor that must be planned upstream;
- it is necessary to change approach and move from linear thinking to circular thinking, in order to evaluate the benefits at 360° and not only limited to one’s own functional area.
If you want to learn more about concurrent engineering, we recommned to have a look at our New Product Development Masterclass!