As innovation continues to increase, so does the demand for flawless, exquisite designs. Engineers, therefore, have to work round the clock trying to meet tight deadlines. But while going as fast as possible, they also have to pay attention to detail as everything counts, down to the last inch.
As a design engineer, you’d understand this because you’ve been there. Sometimes you have to sacrifice speed for quality, and sometimes it’s the other way round. But speed and quality don’t have to be mutually exclusive in engineering processes. And that’s why you now seek ways to speed up your design process.
Just as Toyota could bring new vehicles to the market twice as fast as any other car manufacturing company, here are ways to optimize and accelerate your design processes for greatness.
1. Refurbish or do away with old design processes
Unfortunately, many engineers are of the mindset, “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” You tend to focus on the pressing issues without paying attention to those seemingly trivial ones that may end up destroying the progress of your entire project when they suddenly break down.
Think about your current design process. Is it the most efficient? Are there ways you can cut down on time? Is there new tech in the market you can use to replace your old ones? Would your design tools and devices do with some maintenance?
As Toyota did, taking time to address your processes and identify possible mishaps that may occur whilst on a project can help you maximize your efficiency.
2. Improve designer-developer handoffs
The designer-developer handoff is the point where the designer hands the conceptual design or prototype over to the developer, who then implements the finished plan.
It is a vital stage in product design and development. But, unfortunately, the designer-developer handoff hardly ever goes as smoothly as it should, even for top businesses like Bloomberg BNA. Developers often have to waste time waiting for information and specifications from the designer. To avoid such time wastage and tackle this challenge, design teams can streamline the process by gathering product information, taking measurements, and creating style guides and templates from an existing prototype.
This enables both designers and developers to know what specifications are expected for a particular kind of product at each given time.
3. Leverage latest time-saving CAD software
As your business booms, your market demands more from you. And sadly, you can’t increase how many hours you have a day to meet up with that demand. What you can do is leverage time-saving software available to you.
You would often need to edit or revise designs. This can take hours. But new computer-aided design tools like the NX CAD Software are being developed to accelerate such processes by easily creating and editing geometry through push-and-pull editing, product ideation, and development. Such time-saving tools often come with various templates and tools to work on different kinds of engineering designs. They may also be configured to be compatible with other CAD software so that you can import and then quickly edit.
Leveraging such software can help you save time as they bypass many processes through automation.
4. Test early designs before making the finished products
As a designer, whether product or app designer, you may think it saves time to finish your design before releasing it to the market. But more often than not, designers who do so have to go back to the drawing board and rectify issues the customers rejected or found faulty.
It’s therefore imperative to offer up prototypes for testing. This doesn’t waste time; it saves it. You achieve that through rapid prototyping.
Rapid prototyping should be a priority when developing improved products, but you don’t know exactly what to tweak. To avoid guesswork and retracing your footsteps:
- Release prototypes quickly to testers
- Get fast feedback from users
- Refine your product design according to their feedback.
This prevents you from finishing the product with lots of features you’ll later have to remove.
5. Practice FTS management
Follow the Sun (FTS) management is a simple but highly effective way to reduce project time for remote teams working in different time zones. It follows the simple principle that, while a team member may be asleep in California, the one in China would be fully awake.
The FTS concept is an effective management system to save time for virtually any type of project, including designs.
However, there has to be easy access to information on the cloud so the awake team can work without having to wait for those asleep.
Your design team can implement the FTS management system in the following manner:
- The engineering/design team in California works on a product from morning till closing time by evening or as the case may be.
- The team in China then takes over since it would be morning over there.
- Once the team in China closes, another one in London then takes over since it’s morning time.
This way, work never stops. Hardly any hour is lost due to the need for sleep. The project continues as long as the earth rotates.
However, only teams working in widely-spaced time zones can effectively practice this expedited design method.
6. Don’t always multitask; focus is more efficient
Most people have the notion that they can execute multiple tasks simultaneously. But research has found that only 2.5% of humans can truly multitask effectively. Some experts have even suggested that multitasking can limit productivity by up to 40%. You clearly don’t want that.
You’ll find that focusing on one task at a time is faster. You would no longer have to waste important seconds while your brain tries to switch from one task to another entirely different one.
But with so many tasks at hand, how can you not multitask?
7. Collaborate on the cloud
Many engineering companies are now harnessing the power of cloud collaboration. Mechanical, electrical, and control engineers can collaborate over the cloud while presenting results to one another and customers in real-time through simulation.
This enables each department or section of the design team to work efficiently without having to wait for each member to be present in a physical working environment. Additionally, cloud collaboration reduces the need to multitask since you can get help from another engineer miles away from your location. By working together over the cloud, it becomes faster and convenient for you to meet tight deadlines.
8. Reuse parts that are proven reliable
Another way to expedite the design process is to use anything that has been proven to work in past projects.
A common way to achieve this is through part reuse. By using those parts that have worked efficiently in former designs in your new design, you eliminate the need to custom-design new components. This offers reduced resource consumption and time savings.
You reduce product costs, make procurement easier, and streamline the design process. This enables the product to get to the market a lot faster.
Additionally, you get to avoid a lot of headaches that come with engineering new parts.
Engineering design requires skill, patience, and time for the designer to deliver quality. But harnessing the above practices and tools can significantly contribute to effective task management and, ultimately, time savings.
The author is an IT expert by profession and a writer by passion. While he works as the CTO with a reputed IT services company, he loves pursuing his writing skills as well.