There's a revolution occurring in product design and development. And it's got nothing to do with computer-aided design tools or cutting-edge polymers and alloys. Instead, it involves a radical shift in thinking about exactly what the design process is and who should be involved in it.
Under pressure to shrink design cycles, leverage new technologies, and lower development costs, many manufacturers are transforming product design from a solitary activity handled solely by engineering, to a dynamic process involving the input of multiple company functions as well as key suppliers.
In a survey of Design News and Purchasing magazine readers, more than 80% of respondents report that their companies use cross-functional teams to develop new products.
Design teams typically include representatives from engineering, purchasing, manufacturing, and quality assurance (see chart). These teams focus on developing higher quality, more manufacturable products at lower cost and in less time than in the not-so-distant past. Purchasers bring their business sense, management skills, and knowledge of suppliers and their capabilities to the party. Engineers lend their technical knowledge, understanding of processes, and creativity and innovation. Working together makes new product design better, faster, and more efficient.
And don't forget suppliers. Nearly 60% of engineers and 42% of purchasing professionals report that suppliers sit on their companies' design teams. Both engineers and purchasing pros say suppliers offer valuable insight into new technologies, materials, parts, and manufacturing processes.
In this special report from the editors of Design News and Purchasing, we examine why and how leading manufacturers in the automotive, information technology, appliance, and aerospace industries are using cross-functional teams to develop new products.
Readers will find that the following examples prove the old saw, "They don't make products like they used to." Except, in this case, that's a very good thing.