Capture and Disseminate Engineering Best Practices
Innovation and best practices can be sown throughout an organization – but only when they fall on fertile ground- Marcus Buckigham
But, fertile ground is hard to find in a customer-driven market. With cutthroat competition to keep up with and a volatile market, innovation is hard to come by and repetition is a way of life. Eyeing the position of ‘lead player’, each organization tries a permutation and combination of various practices before getting the concoction just right. But the need to get it right the very first time and need to deliver on time does not leave much room for this ‘trial and error’ methodology….eventually getting it right. By the time the product hits the market, the customer might have moved onto another set of requirements.
In such a scenario, having ‘best practices’ to adhere to would always prove to be beneficial. But are the benchmarks set by market leaders sufficient? Won’t they stifle an individual’s ability to innovate? Wouldn’t these best-practices vary from industry to industry? Answering one at a time- These benchmarks are usually core principals which are common across domains. The time saved by practicing these ensures lesser errors, lesser rework and therefore, more time to fine-tune this process and…innovate. It all boils down to how these best practices are used by an organization- as a wheelchair or a platform?
Following standardized exercises are integral to a product design firm-
- More than often design team forgets its association with other teams. From design to finished end result various stakeholders work on a product. Anticipating (or, understanding) the concerns which would be faced by the subsequent team is integral. Understanding other team’s dependability on design simplifies the process and keeps the team prepared with answers and solutions. Freeman Dyson states a good engineer as a person who makes a design work with minimal and simple ideas just as a great scientist would make a model work based on original and breakable ideas. He stresses the importance of an idea which is not open to interpretation. And successful firms swear by it. Design ideas which are elusive in nature could be hard for both the design team and also the production team.
- Unity in diversity is an essential lesson in product design as well. A design team comprising of members with a specialization such as Sheet Metal, Injection Molding and the like would drive a successful design. The team would be able to bring the best to the table and knowledge exchange would prove to be beneficial for both the designer and also the organization on a whole.
- A perfect (or, imperfect) design is a string of decisions where some are good, some bad while others unnecessary. Given the weight of each of these decisions, these need to be documented. Best practices only come into existence if an exhaustive document is in place. Not only decisions but customer requirements need to be documented as well. These prove to be a point of reference with no scope for terms like ‘tentative’, ‘rough’ and the like. This tedious task also helps management and design team reconsider and retrospect, bettering the process.
- One is better than many. A good design should always be based on one (or, inter-related) design concept. Multiple principles are confusing and are often difficult to manufacture (or, machine). A multi-concept design is often open to interpretation and lack of adequate tools or knowledge might result in iterations, therefore, it’s ideally suggested to adhere to one design concept.
- Under no circumstance, the safety aspect of a design should be overlooked. Safety should be a constant in every equation which should be always related to other design variables. A part design should always consider the safety involved in assembling / manufacturing a part.
While a designer has to consider some (or, all) of these best practices, one additionally has to aim for a part which can be manufactured at nominal cost, is easy to manufacture and assemble, is reliable and is sustainable.
These practices aren’t magical, its fruits are reaped by implementing it right. But implementing it in an environment which is constantly shaped by shifting market trends and the effort to keep up with updated practices could be a tiring task. An organization would need to invest additional hours and money to capture these changes and train its employees. Considering this, a tool which captures the nuances of the engineering world has a keen understanding of variegated manufacturing operations, lets teams quickly collaborate and instantly lets the designer know the manufacturability aspect of a part, would come in handy.