Global competition, demand for innovation, and rising quality standards are pushing manufacturers to rethink the traditional ways of getting things done. A sequential approach to product development, where designs are thrown “over the wall” for manufacturing engineers to figure out, puts businesses at a distinct disadvantage because problems may not be uncovered until late in the process and the resulting end quality often suffers as a result.
As American technology pioneer Steve Jobs said, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” Jobs, who famously believed in his own ability to think differently, still recognized that collaboration was the key to innovation and improvement. This rings true in both tech and manufacturing.
Collaborative engineering, an approach that brings all key stakeholders into the engineering flow, is crucial for companies who want to carve out a competitive edge.
What is Collaborative Engineering?
Collaborative engineering is a key component of smart design chain management. It brings engineers together early in the manufacturing process and can be practiced both within vertically integrated organizations and across supply chain tiers. When design engineers and manufacturing engineers work together from the beginning (known as early supplier involvement or ESI), it can present significant advantages for everyone involved—the OEM, the tiered supplier, and the end consumer. In this article, we’ll discuss a few key benefits of a collaborative engineering approach and why it’s important to work with a contract manufacturer who can provide expertise in this area.
Collaborative Engineering Benefit #1: Innovation
The more ideas in the room, the better. Because design engineers and manufacturing engineers have different priorities and different perspectives and priorities, collaboration between the teams can bring ideas to the forefront that would not occur if they were both siloed. Diverse teams have been proven more likely to challenge the status quo than homogeneous teams, which is a critical advantage for businesses striving to differentiate themselves from their competition.
Collaborative Engineering Benefit #2: Save Time and Money
Changes that occur early in the product life cycle are much less costly than those that happen later in the game. When design and manufacturing engineers work together, they can ensure that the product design is optimized for manufacturability before the part enters full production. They have more opportunities to identify potential problem areas or design flaws earlier, which can eliminate hours of rework and testing.
Collaborative Engineering Benefit #3: Faster Time to Market
Concurrent engineering of product design and manufacturing processes allows for product development cycles to be compressed. As we discussed in the previous section, when potential issues are identified early, manufacturers can reduce lead times and avoid costly downstream production problems. This allows suppliers to meet competitive pressures to design products better, faster, and more cost effectively.
Collaborative Engineering Benefit #4: Better Product Quality
For high quality end products, the design must reflect the demands of the customer and the manufacturing of the part must conform to the design specifications. If either outcome fails, then the resulting component will not meet quality standards. If parts are not designed for manufacturability, then production is unlikely to ever achieve repeatable in-spec results, which can lead to catastrophic recalls or failure in the field. Collaborative engineering between design and manufacturing reduces these risks and is more likely to result in an effective product that meets safety requirements and customer expectations.
Collaborative Engineering at LMC
Metal stamping, plastic injection molding, and applying overmolding to stamped metal parts requires specific expertise to optimize for manufacturability. Our engineers combine decades of experience with today’s technology to help our customers ensure that their parts meet strict specifications from the first run to the thousandth run.
Are you working on developing a part design or updating your components for a next generation version? We can help. Get connected with an LMC Industries expert to discuss your project today!