“Engineering is behind schedule on this new size. This happens every time. This is the 3rd size that is delayed. How are we ever going to get this product line to the market?”
Have any of these statements or questions been directed to your team in a design review or stage-gate meeting? If you are an engineering leader, you may have to explain schedule delays, reliability issues, and cost overruns. How can you avoid this uncomfortable situation? The answer may be simpler you may think.
To begin with, ask yourself these questions. Do all sizes in this product line share the same configuration, use common parts, and conform with the same industry standard?
If your product line has multiple sizes, and the answer to any of the above is NO, then the product line lacks design consistency. Symptoms include long development time, high manufacturing cost, long manufacturing lead times, assembly errors, and poor reliability.
TRUTH: Inconsistency in design is a hidden cost and has organization-wide impact.
What causes inconsistency in design? One reason is staff turnover (employee mobility, right-sizing, mergers, etc.). When engineers take ownership of a product line without knowing product line history, design focus will vary. Another reason is that Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) leave companies, taking their knowledge with them. Poor engineering documentation is yet another explanation, which can result from inadequate engineering processes and/or staffing levels.
When a product line is developed, an optimal combination of components, materials, geometry, and other attributes emerge. This is called “the preferred configuration”. Its design philosophy and technical aspects must be documented so that all subsequent sizes can be designed with consistency. The resulting document is referred to as a Basis of Design, or BoD.
TRUTH: The more strategically important the product line, the more critical the BoD.
A BoD document reduces development time, manufacturing cost, assembly errors, and promotes higher reliability. Because the BoD provides total design guidance, it enables your engineering team, especially those who are new to the team, to develop products quicker.
BoDs will also help eliminate uncomfortable questions regarding schedule delays and reliability.