Front-End Engineering Design: Overview
Front End Engineering Design is based on characterizing problem/product development. This does not necessarily have to be a problem, but a conceptual idea or a possible invention. It has a set of objectives that have target specification, and there are currently eight categories with Front End Engineering Design process:
1. Account of Initial Problem
2. Design Parameters
3. Team Management
4. Market Assessment and Benchmarking
5. User Needs Assessment
6. Product Exploration
7. A Development Plan
8. Target Specifications
This process is evaluated through a design review to make sure it is properly done. This is then followed by a solution development stage and, finally, a critical design review is performed. Throughout these stages the design process and validation is subjected continuously to review in order to show design as a reflective and well planned process.
Designers can often overlook problem development and become fixed on a certain conceptual solution that might later on fail to address the issue/problem originally designed for. Even at this point, some may try to redesign the solution to workout the flaws instead of considering a new design and drafting proposal. It has been seen that novice designers tend to focus more on solution development than on problem development.
Better Return on Investment (ROI)
Research has been conducted to show that those who use Front End Engineering Design tend to finish projects on time. This means that the Return on Investment improves with the design process. The National Research Council, located in Washington D.C USA, has estimated that at least 70% of the costs of product development and manufacturing are determined in the beginning stages of design.
Using Front End Engineering Design
Front End Engineering Design can be used differently, but here we will address a standard approach that companies can use as a basis.
1. Team Management
a. Co-workers draft up a schedule for work to be done based on the priority of the task
b. Work breakdown and assignment of task to each member
c. Workers are then asked to assess the risk of their project
d. Create a common, accessible, filing location where documents can be shared
e. Weekly progress logs for reporting on development of their individual assignments
Good project planning is essential when creating and effectively implementing a structured schedule. For a project to follow a timely schedule the team needs to gage, and with the greatest accuracy, on the deliverables of the project and the proper amount of time to allocate to them. Anticipation of delays and issues, not expected, needs to be incorporated when determining overall time schedules for each deliverable.
The bill of materials is necessary to get things rolling for the project and it should be constructed early on, for the cost estimation is done. Each member of the team must address what their project requires and state it in details. Understanding the needed materials is essential, as well as forecasting other possible items at this point will save time in the future, without hindering the projects progress. There is no doubt that unexpected items, not listed on the bill of materials, will arise and must be handled with care when determining the best option for the product, and not subject decisions while under duress.
The weekly progress logs are not necessary, but they are beneficial to the team, especially when leaders have to understand where each member stands with their project. A short and to-the-point weekly briefing provides insight for leaders to gage how the project is moving and if anything is causing delays. This will eliminate the hassle of leaders having to hunt down and discuss progress with each member.
Minimizing errors in the project is ideal and if not appropriately addressed can cause delays and temporary project cessation. The total amount of time that errors consume during the project can only be determined at completion. Unfortunately, this does give an understanding of which deliverables consumed the most time and money. This would provide perspective for future projects similar in respect. Comparing the actual results with the initial timeline and looking at the circumstances that hindered progress will reveal items, or tasks, that were not thoroughly thought about. The unanticipated events will provide a benchmark for future projects so similar mistakes will not be made.
2. Project Planning
A structured design process to evaluate progression flows visually. Usually a flow chart is drafted based on tasks assigned through the schedule.
3. Initial Analysis and Design Consideration
After management activities are completed, workers are asked to consider initial analysis of the problem, including a preliminary document stating the problem and the initial design considerations. The problem statement will evolve as the Front End Engineering Design Process proceeds, and once completed, the problem would fully be identified for the solution development stage.
The initial analysis also addresses questions in regards to clients and stakeholders for the problem statement. This is also the stage when the first design considerations need to be addressed. The consideration involves the problem statement, as well as the objectives of the designs and how can the latter be impacted by sustainability, durability, maintainability, and so on. Everything will be thoroughly looked at during product exploration.
4. Benchmarking and Market Assessment
This is the stage where the team should gather data and technology trends for the best available products on the market, technologies used, and any technologies that might interfere with market share. This is where access to available and upcoming trends provide a benchmark for their own product development.
Looking at the market size will give perspective on the potential buyers and sellers that actively exist. This can give either numerical or quantitative measure that can prepare the business before going to market.
Observing technology trends will allow the company to see how their type of product is doing relative to other technologies. This could be something as simple as looking at similar technologies or observing the trends of technologies that have similar capabilities. This is necessary to predict how the product might perform before going to market.
Regulator environments is a formality that every product must adhere to in one form or another. These are the regulations that existing faculties place on products that fall into certain categories. This could be the emission regulations for cars, or regulations for the solvents used in cleaning chemicals. It all depends on the company’s product and which type of category it falls into. If it is expected to go to the market, it must adhere to the standards set in place by local governments.
Its always good to look into potential competitors before throwing a product into market. Observing its marketing strategies, evaluating customer loyalty, and cost comparison will help in understanding the best approach a company should take. An effective one will provide a good fight for competitors and will make them notice the company's presence.
Market structure is good to evaluate a head of product release, as this will provide the necessary information on competitors with similar or closely related products. This also describes the companies that exist in the market,how many there are and how the market share is distributed between them.
Trend research is necessary in anticipating market trends in the future. Companies need to understand how its product will fair presently as well as in the future. A product with a short market life will end with little to no returns in the near future. This would be a waste of time and money to produce a product that won’t see much customer attention after a short period of time.
5. User/Customer Needs Assessment
Considerations need to be addressed on all present and future users for the product design. This is where gathering information takes place through questionnaires and surveys on how the product will be used and who will use it. This can be helpful to assess user behavior.
6. Product Exploration
This stage is meant for understanding product exploration through functional analysis, design consideration, risk assessment, planning, and taking the systems used into perspective. This can be done using tools from mind mapping, which is a conceptual representation of the project as a whole.
Functional analysis is where functional requirements of the product, as well as those requirements needed for users, are considered. At this point the integration of the product with components, or integration of product into a system, are taken into account. This stage also considers if the technology exists for product development, supply chain, design, testing, and manufacturing of the product.
Now, with a better understanding of the market, customer needs, and functionality, the second iteration of the design will address its main objectives. Besides consideration of unintended consequences, unknowns, and other uncertainties, will provide better foresight into the possibilities of issues arising before the production stage.
7. The Developmental Plan
This is when all gathered information and materials are collected and a mission statement is developed for the design. The mission statement provides input into solution development, which follows the beginning of the design review. The main point of this stage is convert user needs and design for predictable performance in which it can be manufactured for.
8. Critical Design Review
The early design review should be a well documented team meeting where the members review what has been completed to date, and they reflect on anything that may be missing or any new developments. The critical design review achieves the same goal, except with a solution development process. This is used for focusing efforts on problem understanding and development of more than one solution. This is the best time to discuss the most important decisions, because the process costs are lower. There will be multiple options for early planning before production, and they will effectively gauge each solution’s merit based on cost, manufacturing needs, and labor considerations. Selecting a solution while the project is in motion, could result in delays and issues in the future. More time spent on the problem development will increase ROI and the creative design progress will be more effective.
Taking the extra time into problem statement development and considerations will eliminate possibilities of running into unsatisfactory results in engineering design, for there will be less time wasted and production cost increase will be avoided.
Is there a good way to gather all important documentation within one type of program, that a team can actively share and access?