Compared to the traditional model, in which the design is carried out in a chronological and orderly manner, concurrent engineering – also called simultaneous engineering or total engineering – is a methodology that allows working in coordination and in parallel.
The basis of this working model is that the developers take into account all the stages that the product goes through, from the original idea to delivery to the customer. This ranges from concept design to completion, including quality, available budget, market demand, and positioning against the competition.
Objectives of concurrent engineering
Concurrent engineering has its roots in the aerospace industry of the 1980s, and is now widely used in other sectors such as the automotive industry.
As we have seen, the traditional model conceives the process in stages, where each phase is carried out after the other. The different departments (design, engineering, plant manufacturing, distribution …) do their work in a compartmentalized way, which first of all involves a significant expenditure of time, since each team must become familiar with the product and its specifications at different times of the work flow.
This fragmented information is also a source of coordination errors, since each department operates with different instructions and objectives. For example, if a department does not agree with the material that reaches it at a certain point, it can force a repeat of the previous work. This causes an unnecessary waste of time, money and human resources.
However, when working with concurrent engineering methods, all phases are set in parallel, so that the objectives are common and the advances in each field affect the overall approach.
Some advantages of this methodology are:
- Reduce development times
- Solve problems in early stages
- Quick adaptation to the market
- Position the product against competitors
Phases of concurrent engineering
Definition phase, where the objectives and functionalities of the new product are established. Here it is usual to include a comparative analysis of the competition, to see how the existing offer in the market can be improved.
Conceptual phase. Once we have defined what we want, we go to how we do it. One of the most common techniques is brainstorming, ideally with representatives of the different departments involved.
Detail and simulation phase. The design is done thanks to computer tools. At Stalwart we use BIM (Building Information Modeling) , which allows us not only to work in 3D but also to integrate the different phases of the project and share it between several departments that work in parallel. Running simulations detects potential problems before they physically arise.
Production phase. First, a prototype is made and once it is satisfied, manufacturing is integrated into the factory production process, either by adapting machinery and processes, or by creating a new production line.
Marketing phase. In the spirit of continuous improvement, once the product reaches the market it is important to analyze the feedback and reactions of the end consumer, in order to make the necessary changes.
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