Design engineering is increasingly an exercise in integrating ideas and components from around the world.
If your own experiences at work haven't convinced you of that new reality, then take a look out your living room window at your car in the driveway. You may think it's an American car, but look again.
The ignition system could be from Robert Bosch Corp. (Germany).
The entertainment system could have come from Blaupunkt (Germany).
The tires: Possibly Bridgestone (Japan).
And the powertrain components? They could be from anywhere.
The truth is, there are virtually no 100% American-designed-and-manufactured cars today, and the trend started a quarter century ago.
And guess what: There are virtually no 100% German- or Japanese-designed-and-manufactured cars either.
But the globalization of design isn't restricted to the automotive industry. For products ranging from airplanes to telecommunications devices, engineers today are working with foreign suppliers, learning new regulatory standards, and designing for international customers like never before.
If you need an explanation of why this is so, one word will suffice: competition.
It's a tough world out there, and companies in every industry are scrambling for the competitive edge, whether it's outsourcing to international suppliers or expanding their customer base beyond their own borders.
"All of our customers...operate all over the world, and when your customers are everywhere, you have to be too," Bosch Engineering Vice President Reiner Emig told a Design News panel on Design for the Global Marketplace.
William Jurkowski, custom engineering manager for Dukane Ultrasonics, added that "the customer base (in Asia and Europe) is so inviting, no one can afford to ignore it anymore."
Of course, there are a few important engineering issues to consider in the globalization of design.
Engineers have to learn to manage and collaborate with colleagues and suppliers across time zones and oceans, who speak different languages.
They have to take into account design standards they may not have used before.
And they have to help others within their company ensure that parts and technical support for their products are available in any country where they are used.
The reports on the following pages describe how some companies have addressed these and other issues as they have designed products for use worldwide.