Left brain, meet right brain

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

Three Jigsaw Puzzle Pieces on Table

When Louis Henry Sullivan said, “Form ever follows function,” he was talking about architecture of buildings. But today his 19th-century credo is cited in many other spheres where engineering and design interact, including technology and software.

The lines are blurring, though, so that in the future, engineering and design will be seamlessly integrated.

Good designers are engineers,” says Blade Kotelly, senior lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and vice president of design and consumer experience at Jibo Inc., which makes a social robot for the home. At the same time, customers are no longer as wowed by raw technology and they expect an easy, and aesthetic, user experience.

Design runs to the core of things,” he adds. “Large companies realize they’re being outdone by smaller companies that are putting design at the center of their thinking.”

Brainstorming Brainstorm Business People Design ConceptsThis design-thinking approach can be hard for engineers to understand, Mr. Kotelly says: “The beginning of the design process looks like very little is happening, because the designers are trying to get their brains around the problem fully. Before that, they ask whether the problem is even a good one to solve. Then they figure out what’s going to make the solution successful, then they begin the typical design process of research, prototyping, testing, iterating.”

Modular structures or open-source components that can be swapped in or out in a modular way reduce the risk of change, so “you can iterate faster,” he says.

“It’s important to think architecturally about the system—how it breaks out at the top level and the smaller and smaller components—to be able to observe technology as the landscape is changing,” Mr. Kotelly says.

The Internet of Things is making it possible to create systems as never before. However, we’re likely to soon stop talking about the IoT as it becomes the norm.

“It’s like plastics in the 1960s,” says Dirk Knemeyer, a founder of Involution Studios, a Boston-area software design studio. “The distinction of things being plastic was super-important. A couple of decades passed, and plastic things are just things.”

In the same way, “in the future, everything that is digital and many things that are not will be in the Internet of Things,” he says.

Systems require holistic thinking. And that requires integrated teams. “Getting to a successful integrated model that puts design in an appropriate strategic place can be challenging,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “It requires overcoming the biases and preconceptions of stakeholders who are already in place and who often have a skeptical view of design and creative expression as part of business. They also have existing fiefdoms they control, and fear that order might be upset by redesign of people and processes.”

Tearing down management silos provides a new problem-solving methodology and mindset that can augment the traditional perspectives, whether financial, operational or technological.

The engineering perspective is raw capability: what is the range of possibilities technology can do,” Mr. Knemeyer says. “Design says, ‘from these technologies, here are the things that can be done specific to the needs of customers.’”

Addressing customer needs is at the core of high-impact design, or design that brings a meaningful change in increasing revenues and reducing costs, he adds.

Business People Team Teamwork Working Meeting ConceptAt the same time, design thinking doesn’t just create efficiencies, but new ideas, says Mathias Kirchmer, managing director of BPM-D, a West Chester, Pennsylvania, consultancy that helps companies increase performance through cross-functional business and information-technology initiatives.

In the classic approach, a company starts mapping the processes it needs to accomplish, then optimizing so the processes will be carried out efficiently, then writing the actual software, then implementing or installing it. “It’s very inside-out driven,” Dr. Kirchmer says. “In today’s world, that’s a huge problem. First, it’s too slow. We need a faster approach. Second, the inside-out view doesn’t deliver results to drive profitable growth. It doesn’t improve the customer experience sufficiently. It’s good to be more efficient, but that doesn’t make enough of a difference for the client and move the organization to the next performance level.”

Companies compete in just 15% of their processes, he says. The rest is commodity—that is, matching competitors rather than differentiating beyond them. That high-impact 15% requires innovation enabled through design thinking.

Dr. Kirchmer sees four aspects of design thinking:

• empathy to look at high-impact processes from a customer point of view;
• transfer of ideas from unrelated fields to introduce innovation;
• storytelling to communicate the customer journey and intended innovations in a way that will resonate with all the involved teams;
• rapid prototyping to quickly get to the visual design of user interfaces and software development.

The melding of disciplines means that in the future, designers will need to be more knowledgeable about core science or core engineering. “The way science is moving is going to pull all of us into a more quantified scientific environment,” Mr. Knemeyer says.

 

Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, now working as a freelance writer and editor with WSJ. Custom Studios in EMEA. For more from Catherine Bolgar, along with other industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion on LinkedIn.

Photos courtesy of iStock

How one company reduced design errors by 50%

By Alyssa
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Chongqing Yinhe Experimental Equipment Co. Ltd (CQYH) is China’s leading research organization.  It develops and manufactures environmental and reliability testing equipment both in series and for specific customer requirements. Its equipment is used by companies in the military, high tech, aerospace and automotive sectors around the world. While it is among the top three environmental instrument manufacturers in the world market, CQYH was facing increasing pressure from competitors. To stay ahead, they set a goal to improve development efficiency and to create a better user experience by focusing on creating products that promote the sustainable growth of its customers.

To accomplish this, they needed to re-engineer their order fulfillment cycle to accelerate delivery of products tailored to customer requirements. CQYH chose Dassault Systèmes’ 3DEXPERIENCE platform® and its Simple Solution Selection industry solution experience. One of the advantages to this new system is that they can input customer requirements and display them in a 3D model. The customer can review and validate the design then instantly confirm it for production. This has essentially eliminated the need for physical prototypes for customer review, which has accelerated order fulfillment by 50%.

The solution also facilities a better understanding of exactly with customers want, reducing design errors by 50%improving time to delivery and customer satisfaction.

To learn more about the benefits CQYH has seen through the 3DEXPERIENCE platform and Simple Solution Selection that have helped them more successfully compete on an international scale, read our recently-published case study.

3D Design and Validation for CTO Products (eBook)

By Matthew
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Customizing products to customer requirements helps manufacturers differentiate and drive higher margins. Creating variants of a single, global product to meet local needs and preferences helps them get to market fast on a global scale. But offering multiple product variants in either of these scenarios creates a tremendous amount of complexity. This complexity results in overburdened engineers, slow quote response times, and costly mistakes. What if companies could take advantage of configured products without having to invest so much time and effort in designing custom-engineered orders?  Or put so much time and energy into creating a quote with a reasonable level of confidence? Or suffer from errors?

As discussed in the new eBook from Tech-Clarity‘s founder and President, Jim Brown, 3D Design and Validation for Configure-to-Order, there are ways to make life easier at order time.  The eBook shares best practices uncovered by Tech-Clarity’s research and practical experiences from GE Power’s Jeff Erno. The answer is to shift as much design and validation as possible “left,” or earlier in the product development process. This helps resolve a lot of the headaches that happen when quotes or orders require engineering effort to estimate costs, create designs, and prepare manufacturing documentation.

CTO-imageThe eBook discusses the value of a configure-to-order (CTO) approach. While there are many products that have to be produced using engineer-to-order (ETO) techniques, and many more that have some elements of ETO, companies that can move the bulk of the workload earlier in the process can create an advantage by responding more rapidly to customers. They also give themselves better insight into costs so they can develop more accurate, confident quotes.

CTO comes with its own complications, of course. One approach that companies use to configure products to order, for example, is creating multiple CAD assemblies in advance. Unfortunately, this is very time-consuming and makes incorporating changes a nightmare. Instead, companies can design across configurations using an approach called the “150% BOM” or “max case” design. This includes all possible combinations in a single CAD model. With the right ability to filter based on configuration options, this can help companies reduce design and validation complexity without having to create a library full of assemblies. Our research also suggests that using a modular design approach leads to better results, and makes this “shift left” easier.

CTO-J-BrownIn addition to designing in a configured context, there are other things manufacturers can do to reduce time and effort when it matters most – when the customer is waiting. Our research shows that rules-based design, design automation, and configurators help manufacturers achieve better financial performance. As the eBook concludes, “Using the right processes and 3D configuration technology, manufacturers can improve efficiency, streamline order processes, reduce errors, and develop accurate quotes much more quickly.”

CTO-J-ErnoManufacturers of “to order” products should investigate the ability to shift design left and leverage automation to streamline quotes, orders, and manufacturing.  While not all products are CTO candidates, and many will have “specials” that require engineering at order time, a shift left can result valuable quote and order performance improvements.

Read the eBook, 3D Design and Validation for Configure-to-Order to find out more about how manufacturers can leverage best practices and technology to improve CTO results.



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