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You must optimise today, if you want to work tomorrow!

Author: Barry Chatham

Are you an Engineering Manager? This question is becoming more topical than you might think. A lot of prefabricated buildings have already disappeared in cheaper foreign countries. This also means that a great deal of knowledge disappears. In the long run, this will also make it easier to carry out the engineering work abroad. How do we stop this?  

The market is unstoppable: everything must be faster, better and above all, cheaper. The engineering department also has to deal with it. Some engineers stick their heels in the ground and shout, "We can't optimise the engineering process any further because every project is unique". Really?!. In every project, sections from our old schematics are copied and reused. Which makes sense, as it's more efficient. Therefore why can't we take it another step further and optimise our engineering and reuse our schematics in a more structured way. 

Optimise through functional engineering  

The future therefore calls for a different view on engineering. The approach is shifting from production-oriented to functional engineering. By building a library of functional, parametric sub-blocks, your engineers can create custom projects much faster and with less risk of errors. More and more managers share this functional vision on engineering, but before this point on the horizon becomes reality, there are a few pitfalls to avoid.  

Pitfall 1: We will optimise when we find the time. 

Functional engineering requires a substantially different way of thinking and drawing. This is a big step for a department, but a crucial one. If your engineers believe  that there are more important things to do than designing parametric functional modules, the change will not be a success. Only the teams that take this optimisation battle seriously will profit from it, making both the time and people available for it. Quite an investment? Sure, but one that will pay off later on.  

Pitfall 2: The panel builder can't do anything with it.  

You have broken down your products or projects into easily reusable, flexible modules. This enables your engineers to put together solutions for 70 to 80% of projects in no time at all. You can then fully devote yourself to the remaining 20 to 30% through detailed engineering. Now simply let us print out the schematics in pdf format and email them to the panel builder. Now I hear you say: this panel builder has nothing to gain from these nice functional diagrams. The enormous efficiency gains that we have achieved in engineering disappear into the workshop, or don't they?  

The wall has to be knocked down.

More and more CNC machines are appearing on the shop floor of successful panel builders. Control panel construction often anticipates engineering during optimisation. The workshop is ready for the digital revolution, but engineers are still sending out schematics and lists as pdf files. This wall between engineering and panel building has to be knocked down to make way for better, digital collaboration. Only then does the functional, modular optimisation of your engineering make sense.  


Do you want to discover more about your future as a Engineering Manager? Read our whitepaper 'The Engineering Manager of the Future' and find out the changes you need to make to improve your team's efficiency and productivity:

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