22, 1998 Design News
DESIGN for the Global Marketplace
With companies in all industries
scrambling to sell their products internationally, the
engineers who do the designing are facing the challenge
of satisfying foreign standards and tastes. Engineers
from ten leading companies share their insights on what
it takes to compete internationally in a special roundtable
discussion sponsored by Design News and the Square D
In the Fall of 1987 Zebra Technologies successfully
completed open field EMI testing of a new bar code printer
slated for the world market. Engineers figured they
would also nail the ESD (electrostatic dissipation)
test, which is a requirement for most electronics equipment
sold in the European Community (EC). But upon coming
into contact with the ESD probe, the printer exploded.
Tiny bits of plastic and metal rained down.
The trouble was with a part of the printer Zebra had
licensed from another firm, a bar code verifier that
presumably already met all EC standards. Unfortunately,
the original designers failed to include an insulating
window over the LCD display, a practice so fundamental
that Zebra's engineers never even thought to question
Zebra's experience in designing for the global marketplace
is not atypical. Some of the best war stories come from
engineers who have had to cope with such things as keeping
up with the ever-changing multitude of standards, communicating
with partners halfway around the world, and as was the
case with Zebra, last-minute surprises. But for every
horror story out there, there are at least as many remarkable
tales of success, as revealed in this special roundtable
discussion headed up by Design News.
Design News: All of you work for companies that
design products for a global market. Is this international
focus now a given?
Emig/Robert Bosch: It certainly is at our company.
All of our customers--who are automobile makers--operate
all over the world. And when your customers are everywhere,
you have to be, too.
Waldor/FMC: That's true. FMC itself is leaning
more toward suppliers that have a global presence. It
used to be we were dealing with ten different suppliers
in one country. Now, many suppliers are expanding internationally
and giving us the support we need. With our machines,
harvesting equipment, it's critical that they operate
around the clock, seven days a week. We need to have
the local parts and support, otherwise we would have
a big problem.
Jurkowski/Dukane: The customer base is so inviting,
no one can afford to ignore it anymore. The U.S. is
such a small piece. Just look at Asia, look at Europe,
look at China.
Butzen/Zebra: We make bar code printers, and
we're approaching all of our product designs with the
global market in mind now. We just released a new printer
that might be sold all over the world--to people who
speak different languages and have widely varying skills
sets. The challenge for us was to design a product that
could meet all of these different requirements, because
we didn't know in what specific markets it was ultimately
going to end up.
DN: Where do you perform your engineering design
work for products you plan to sell overseas?
Emig/Robert Bosch: More than 80% of our products
are developed outside of the U.S. by design teams located
all over the world. We have something like 17 or 18
different design locations.
Drivas/Abbott Labs: We design health care products
for an international market and unlike Bosch, most of
our research facilities are in the U.S., with the exception
of one in England. So nearly all of the engineering
and design work is done here. However, when we are developing
a product for the international market we will go to
that locale to get customer input. If the customer base
is in Europe, we'll go to Europe. If the customer base
is in South America, we'll go to South America.
Medina/3Com: We actually have to get involved
with local markets at the design level because of the
widely varying telephone networks. We make modems, and
each country has different requirements. We have two
permanent design teams located in England and one in
France, and then we'll send teams out to other countries.
DN: How do you communicate with design teams overseas,
and how frequently are you in contact with them?
Emig/Robert Bosch: It depends very much on what
you want to achieve. For one-to-one communication, e-mail
and voice mail are the most convenient way to operate.
But when you have more than two people involved, video
conferencing is the way to go. We have it almost as
a standard practice for all products. And twice a year
we gather all of the engineers together at a meeting
so they can exchange information in person.
Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: We have two design
centers--one in the U.S. and one in Germany. The entire
engineering team communicates on a monthly basis using
a video conference center, but we also regularly use
the Internet, FAX, and overnight mail. I think e-mail
is the best, although sometimes it can be a pain because
you have to wait for a response. Sometimes, you have
to wait pretty much a whole day to get an answer from
someone. But it allows you to attach and send files,
which is great.
Jurkowski/Dukane: Personally, I think you have to
be careful with e-mail because you can't see the person
and really don't know what he or she may be thinking.
You have to choose your words carefully. But I think
once it gets to be more reliable, it will be a really
good way to transfer data.
DN: Are any of you transferring CAD files or other
design information electronically?
Quinn/HK Systems: Our company, which designs
material handling systems, gets involved in a lot of
custom work for our customers. In many cases, they will
send us a CAD drawing of the layout of their existing
building for our design engineers to work with.
Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: Since we use the same
design tools in Germany and in the U.S., we are able
to share information between the companies, and the
Internet has worked quite well for us. The problem we're
facing now is that we're evolving to a new system, and
we have to make sure that our German counterparts come
along at the same rate as we do.
Butzen/Zebra: We're sending CAD files to vendors
who make die cast parts for us. It's really streamlined
the process for us because we'll send them the solid
model and they will tell us right away if there is a
problem with something like the location of a parting
line. As we get more involved with solid models, we
expect it is going to help us with detailed drawings,
which are more of an afterthought for us now.
Jurkowski/Dukane: We do the same with our customers.
Ford will send us a drawing of an interior door panel,
and we'll lay out the machines to map the contours.
We will send them the file back, and at that point they
might say, "Well we were going to change that next
week, so don't do anything just yet." That kind
of thing. The ability to communicate electronically
is critical today, especially with the larger, international
companies. They are all pushing the industry that way.
DN: Just how important is defining the requirements
for a product that is to be sold internationally?
Stover/Cummins Engine: I would speculate that
the job of gathering the requirements is almost as big
as the job of designing the product. Certainly it's
a huge undertaking in our case. We make diesel engines
that we sell all over the world, and in addition to
emissions and noise requirements, there are many local
differences. Indian fuel, for example, is different
than Asian fuel, which is different than South African
fuel. And gases and emissions are regulated in very
different ways in different parts of the world. But
dealing with standards is not a matter of choice on
our part, it's a fixed requirement that we must comply
with. So we deal with it.
Drivas/Abbott: I agree that you really have
to do you homework upfront in getting input from a regulatory
standpoint, but you also need to make sure that it meets
your customer's requirements, too. I think one of the
biggest pitfalls is to assume that if it works in the
U.S., it's good enough for the rest of the world.
Quinn/HK Systems: And what is considered really
valuable differs from country to country. In two countries
as similar as the U.S. and England, the same product
may be viewed very differently. You have to be sensitive
DN: What types of problems have you encountered
with international standards?
Stover/Cummins: It's just extremely tough to
keep up with local requirements. There are some places,
for example, in Europe where diesel engines have to
operate more quietly at night. In heavily urbanized
areas a lot of construction work is done at that time,
so there is a premium on low noise. Requirements like
that--which can change substantially and rather rapidly--put
a lot of pressure on our product development community
to stay on top of things.
Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: We make large milling
machines for a global market and no two markets seem
to have the same requirements. We've got machines going
into Asia now with environmental requirements that range
from -5 to 50C. We've never run into anything like that
before, and it's a tremendous challenge keeping up with
all of the different standards.
Vanderwiel/Weber: Developing products for a
global market is somewhat of a new experience for our
company, we haven't been doing it that long. Learning
a whole new set of standards has been a real revelation.
We've been oriented toward what was going on here domestically
with UL, electrical codes, and so on. And now we have
to be versed in a whole other language, if you will.
We have to put on one hat one day and another hat the
Osborn/Ingersoll Milling: Even when we are in