Concurrent Engineering

What is concurrent engineering?

Concurrent engineering is when activities are paralleled that could be sequenced. Concurrent engineering can help us deliver the product earlier since we have compressed the schedule by overlapping the various development activities.  There are certain risks associated with this way of working. To be successful and not incur massive rework, it is necessary to keep the entire team in step, essentially plenty of communicating and synchronizing the design direction. This requires constant attention to the design interactions and dependencies, specifically, the links between the design areas.  For example, if we are developing a new vehicle, we will need to coordinate the structural, hydraulic and pneumatic, as well as the electrical design.  Continuous reviews and a well-defined configuration and change management process can help to keep the team in step.

Concurrent Engineering Failures

There can be a down side to concurrent engineering.  Done poorly, there will be an abundance of rework.  We “detect” problems when the physical parts come together in a bundle of parts that cannot be assembled.  We do not help our situation any when we have a variety tools for each of these areas. For example, consider a company that uses Pro E for some of the CAD work, and Catia for other design elements. Sharing of the various digital models that will eventually comprise the system is necessary. The ability to view shared digital mock ups (DMU) ensures we are constantly aware of the design direction.  We know the other system elements design state. This is a key component to successful design.  Additionally, the construction of models in one tool will make the assembling of those modules into the final product will in advance of the construction of the system via prototype parts. This is one of the key benefits of building DMU of the system to provide a virtual construct of the product.  A design that fits together in CAD may be a design that will work in reality.  With this disjointed or inconsistent use of tools, building a virtual representation of the product will not be possible or will require human manipulation which will consume time and adds an opportunity for a mistake to creep into the design.

Concurrent Engineering Summary

Concurrent engineering is not as easy as it may sound.  To be sure, if you proceed with a measure of diligence, sharing of the design data and good communication, we can be successful. If we are unwilling to take this approach, expect concurrent engineering to produce rework, and waste – and only occasionally successful.

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