These are exciting times for your team. Whilst a lot of panel building is already being moved abroad, you have to ask yourself, will it be engineering's turn after that? The challenge for your team is to engineer faster, better and cheaper. That is why you have a vision: optimising the engineering process. A standardsation of your designs should ensure that your engineers can largely compose solutions from reusable, functional modules AND in a fraction of the time.
Chances are that the panel building department (or your supplying panel builder) is also working on optimising the production process. Therefore you probably think you're all doing well. But are you really? Your team is still on an island, and although it is a standardised island, it is still an island.
Don't get me wrong: both standardisation in engineering and automation on the shop floor are of vital importance. But to keep panel building and engineering at home, more is needed: an in-depth relationship between the two departments is necessary.
The islands of panel building and engineering need to join forces. Together they can offer unique benefits that customers will want to keep returning for. As a manager of the engineering team, you have the challenge to give shape to this collaboration. Together with the manager of the panel building you will build a solid bridge between the two islands. This also applies if your company outsources the panel construction. In that case, the cooperation with your external panel builder(s) will be of strategic value to both companies.
Both departments must work together.
In the old situation, a lot of valuable information was lost during the transfer between engineering and panel building. In the new situation, this data transfer takes place via a single digital platform. The binding factor is 3D virtual prototyping of the cabinet layout. This means there will be much more overlap between engineering and work preparation. It's up to you to shape this overlap. Will virtual prototyping be part of the engineering or panel building department? Or a separate function that forms the cement between the two departments, as it were? Whatever scenario you choose, the crucial question is: who will man these key positions? It's up to you to find someone who understands both worlds. Being an engineer with panel building experience or a panel builder with an affinity with engineering are ideal candidates for this new role.
The third, and absolutely crucial achievement that you are going to attain together with the panel construction manage is standardisation. By this I mean: a platform standardisation of both departments. With digital data as the connecting factor. A standardisation in modules with not only functional and electrical data, but also 3D models, dimensions, drilling pattern and wiring diagrams of the components. Therefore, your new 'department' virtual prototyping can be implemented early on in the development process, and a first 3D design can be made in no time at all.
The design will include the enclosure layout and automatically generate all the data the panel builder needs to build the cabinet.
This all results in your company becoming much more enticing to clients. By involving panel building knowledge earlier in the design process, you can make better products. The customer gets an earlier insight into the design and better documentation. And last but not least: together with the panel building department, you will save a considerable amount of time. In other words, shorter lead times and lower costs. Customers like to come back for that!
Is your company in need of a 'bridge builder'? Do you see yourself becoming that person? Download 'The engineering manager of the future' white paper and discover the changes you need to make for a success future as a engineering manager.