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An Engineer’s Greatest Design Challenges: Part 2

Mon, 01/28/2013 - 11:56am
David Mantey, Executive Editor, PD&D

In late 2012, Product Design & Development (PD&D) conducted its annual Time-to-Market survey. Each year, the data is collected from hundreds of individuals to help gauge the ever-changing role of the design engineer in the marketplace. This is the second half of the two-part series.

Feature Creep Adds 42.2 Days

According to PD&D readers, scope/feature creep adds anywhere from zero to 365 days to the design cycle, but as you can see, the problem adds an average of 42.22 days to each design cycle.

Read: An Engineer’s Greatest Design Challenges: Part 1

Technology with the greatest impact on improving time-to-market.

In 2012, we added a few new questions to the survey in order to gain a better understanding of upcoming disruptive technologies that may or may not have an effect on engineers striving to improve time-to-market.

As PD&D readers see it, desktop 3D printing technology (27.7% of respondents) will have the greatest impact on improving time-to-market in the next few years. Combine that information with the 23.1% who suggest that industrial 3D printing technology will make the greatest impact and it’s easier to make a case to bring those 3D printing capabilities in house.

When pressed for specifics, those who opted for the “other” category became a little cheeky. Here are the top four “other” answers:

  1. More engineers.
  2. Technically trained shop people with a sense of urgency.
  3. A selection of competent people.
  4. Industrial 3D printing — if the materials and build times improved.

Do time-to-market controls stifle creativity?

When asked if time-to-market design controls stifle creativity, many simply said, “Yes.” When pressed to state how, the readership offered a myriad of answers, notably:

  • If the controls are sufficient and appropriate, there should be time/room provided for innovation.
  • It’s just part of the process.
  • It causes insufficient time to check all of the potential assembly issues.
  • Reduces available time to develop concepts.
  • If a design path is discovered to be barely good enough and a better path is discovered, the better path is abandoned because there is not enough time to fully develop it. It’s better to bandage it later than fix it now.
  • Meeting a time target requires as much creativity as meeting a feature target.
  • I seldom run out of ideas.
  • Concentration more on "due" date/s than on the product.
  • When time is compressed you need to go with what you know works, you can't try something new.
  • Time-to-market locks the design in at an earlier point in the design process.
  • You can’t try out a risky idea on a tight schedule.
  • Materials flexibility, manufacturing capability, and standard lead time.
  • There is no time to explore or research options.
  • Sometimes a much better idea comes along after the fact.
  • I can make a mousetrap quick. I can make a better one with more time.
  • It is quicker to do what was done before even if something better might be designable.

Does the DFM process improve time-to-market?

It’s clear that the design for manufacture (DFM) process improves time-to-market, 72.7% of respondents can’t be wrong. When asked to elaborate on DFM, some of PD&D’s readers added:

  • Ease of assembly and manufacturing.
  • If "manufacturing" is directly involved in the DFM process, potential start-up problems should be already resolved.
  • It helps get manufacturing up and running faster.
  • Assembly is easier, but the additional work takes time.
  • Reduces changes necessary after original design completion.
  • Consider DFM at the beginning, not as an afterthought that forces redesign when going to production. The biggest challenge then is to get production to participate in the design process instead of bitching about it after the prototype is done.
  • Reduces need for creativity in production processes.
  • Catches problems.
  • Design for manufacturing can cost time if the design is too complex.
  • Less problems as you build prototypes.
  • DFM improves modifications of existing products, but not for new development products.
  • Manufacturing challenges are a big headache if not addressed early.
  • It makes you think ahead.
  • It usually happens after the original concept phase.
  • I find it is a lot of talk and not much else.
  • It lowered build time.
  • Getting manufacturers involved early saves time in the long run.

Read An Engineer’s Greatest Design Challenges: Part 1 to view more survey results.

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