Sometimes I think we fail to recognize the automotive industry for the efforts they make to lead engineering in new directions. And personally I think outside of the box thinking and different ways of doing things are keys to advancing our field. I think outside of the box engineering and advancing the way we do things are the greatest ways young engineers can grow. And for people that read this article who happen to be in a management position, understanding that allowing people to try different things as well as different ways to do things is great motivation that will result in increased ownership of the design and thus increased productivity.
Very few people really like to hear, work harder and longer. I think most engineers work as hard and as long as they feel they need to. However, when given the opportunity to work more efficiently I believe a lot of engineers will begin to feel the ownership of not only the design but the process. And I think that's an area that we fail to see.
Quite often we allow the engineers to feel ownership of the design but we fail to allow engineers to feel ownership of the process. By allowing ownership not only in the design but in the process we can encourage polynomial growth rather than just linear growth.
I think that is why you see the automotive companies being such big adopters of PLM and being among the first to branch out of the traditional PDM (engineering data management) focus that marked the early adoption of that tool set. With PLM now encompassing requirements, portfolio management, and voice of the customer types of modules and functionality in an integrated platform, perhaps organizations will have more success getting to the heart of what customers' are seeking and when they're seeking it and letting that guidance more effectively steer product development.
I agree with you comment. It is the streamlining and implemenation of best practices that needs to be incorporated into the R & D processes (more than ever in today's business environment) for companies to survive. Companies can no longer afford to spend months going back and forth in meetings and discussions that lead to delay.
In most of the R & D projects I have been involved in a timeline is used to monitor the progress of a project. It will tkae 3 months to tool that part. It will take 1 week to sample that part. So forth and so on. The uopfront work must also begin to work on such a timeline. We just can't afford to spend months and months up front trying to decide which product we want to give to the customers. We need to understand the market and the consumers and then build the design around them.
This is not easy. For quite often there are several different opinions of what the customers want. And what is selling in today's market because the customer wants it now, may not be selling in the marketplace by the time your product gets to market.
@jmiller: I think your observation is keen about how this process can streamline much of the back and forth that goes on with R&D projects that only serves to derail critical decisions and push companies off their engineering schedules and time-to-market deadlines. While I don't believe for an instance that major automotive companies or other sectors can effectively embrace such a model for large-scale production, there are certainly best practices to be gleaned and work to be done to integrate some of the more effective processes and disciplines from crowdsourcing and open development into traditional R&D and engineering practices.
What I love best about this is the way it follows a strict timeline and decisions have to be made. It's not like they had 20 meetings after the decision was made to decide to make the decision they all agreed on in the beginning. Once the votes are in they proceed. This allows the quick timeline. I don't know if there's anything more annoying to an engineer than having to wait for a decision to be made regarding a design decision.
It is certainly an interesting model and one I'm sure the big guys will keep their eye on. Local Motors isn't trying to gear up to mass production format--they are committed to limited run vehicles, designed by the greater design community, and will only produce 2,000 of each car model.
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