Five benefits of concurrent engineering for manufacturers

Concurrent engineering, an approach in which multiple engineering tasks or projects are performed in parallel, provides benefits such as multidisciplinary collaboration, improved productivity, and a faster design process.

05/02/2017


Image courtesy: Bob Vavra, CFE MediaConcurrent engineering, an approach in which multiple engineering tasks or projects are performed in parallel rather than serially, has been around for decades. Recently, though, it has started to be widely adopted in different industries and it offers more benefits than engineers might realize.

1. It encourages multidisciplinary collaboration

Through collaborating, engineers avoid the kinds of miscommunications that can lead to disaster. Collaboration also reduces the time-wasting, inconsistencies, and other inefficiencies associated with the silo effect. In short, collaboration among disciplines eliminates many of the problems engineering teams face every day.

2. It makes the design process faster

Serial design can be slow. Engineers working on later phases of a project can spend a lot of time waiting for those working on the earlier phases to finish. Concurrent engineering eliminates a lot of that wait time by overlapping and integrating tasks. By one estimate, this approach can reduce the total design effort by as much as 30%.

Concurrent engineering also speeds the design process by ensuring change requests are kept to a minimum. Change requests can come in during any phase of the design process. When engineers from different disciplines work together, they can work out the kinks as they go, reducing the number of changes that come in down the line.

3. It reduces costs and increases quality by supporting the entire project lifecycle

In a 2009 paper about concurrent engineering in the architecture, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industry, Jesus M. de la Garza and colleagues wrote:

"Cost-effective and top-quality facilities can be conceived, designed, built, and operated if these activities are not performed in a vacuum, but rather, performed in a life cycle context...[Concurrent engineering] brings together, from project inception, multiple individuals to address all angles of a project and enables the accumulation of knowledge and information so as to reduce downstream risks and anticipate constructability, operability, and maintainability expectations."

Essentially, by considering downstream activities (construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning) while performing upstream activities (conception, specification, and design), "Concurrent engineering can bring cost effectiveness and produce nothing less than top quality for the ultimate buyer and consumer of constructed facilities, i.e., owners and end users, respectively."

4. It increases productivity and helps prevent mistakes

There are many cases where mistakes aren't discovered on a project until it's too late. Concurrent engineering brings more people to the table earlier in the process so that these kinds of mistakes are found while the project is still in the design phase, when they're relatively inexpensive to fix, rather than later on, when even a small change can cost you big time.

5. It can give engineers a competitive advantage

Concurrent engineering means engineers can complete projects faster and achieve higher quality results. That can give engineers an advantage over any firm still doing things the old way. 

Ryan Nabozniak, application consulting engineer, Aucotec. This article originally appeared on Aucotec's website. Aucotec is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

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