In the context of New Product Development, an Engineering Design Review is an opportunity for an objective critique. The idea is that fresh or more experienced eyes may find flaws or identify opportunities for improvement.
While it sounds like an obvious step, simple and beneficial, it is frequently executed in a way that is inefficient and potentially contentious. There are several factors at play:
- Preparation for a Design Review is a burden on the development team. It involves resources and time bringing an unfamiliar reviewer up-to-speed to ensure they understand the constraints and the design intent.
- The Design Review is typically held rather late in the Product Development Process when the design is well-documented. Suggestions in this phase are often less welcome due to sunk costs and, in some cases, personal pride.
- A product launch schedule may not tolerate otherwise excellent suggestions to improve cost, performance, reliability, and end-of-line yield.
- Most projects eventually involve some compromise between conflicting goals. It is impossible for a reviewer, new to the project, to know whether an observed opportunity represents an oversight, or is the result of intensive negotiation between different technical priorities.
Rethinking The Process
These deficiencies can be addressed by rethinking what a design review is, how it is executed, and when. A better process may be achieved with specific goals, including:
- Assessment appropriate to every level of detail, from system engineering to part drawings.
- Reduction of the burdens on the project team.
- Improvement of the likelihood of catching mistakes or identifying improvements.
A Better Way
The most important thing to recognize for a successful Design Review is that one Design Review is not enough. We recommend several, each with a narrowly-defined scope and purpose appropriate to the stage of work.
This is where the “big picture” items are debated and agreed upon. In the context of program goals, what is the best way to measure a parameter, drive a mechanism, or convey data? For example, a latch must be retracted. Should it be Solenoid? Servo? Wax motor? Pneumatic?
Don’t revisit architectural decisions. Focus on exactly how each decision is to be implemented. If you have agreed to employ a solenoid then focus on component selection, friction, alignment, speed, power, noise, etc.
This review is responsive to test results. Prototypes in early testing will almost always reveal some failures. Use this review to focus on the root cause, and on the least disruptive way to address each issue.
Some companies perform design reviews after product launches to deal with opportunities that present themselves only in volume production. This stage of Design Review focuses on modest improvements and running changes.
Once you acknowledge that several Design Reviews are needed, it becomes efficient for the same person (or team) to perform all of them. That reviewer is inherently familiar with the project and results of previous reviews, so the burden to educate them is much lower.
Finally, be sure to “close the loop” on all suggestions. The reviewer will propose changes and those should be formally cataloged and addressed by the Engineering Design team. That doesn’t mean that they must accept or comply, but there should be a record of the team’s response and intentions.
Really Fresh Eyes
The Engineering Design Review presumes appropriate and relevant experience of the reviewer; not every business can afford to keep that kind of expertise in-house. Many companies choose to outsource the Engineering Design Review to external consultants to get a truly fresh perspective from experts. This service helps mitigate company conventions and problematic “group-think” scenarios.
Porticos provides Engineering Design Review services for new and existing clients across a multitude of industries. Reach out to our team to learn more about this type of project support.