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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Value of Engineering...

Over the years I have heard engineering referred to as the necessary evil many times. I don't know all of the reasons it is referred to that way but the main one I can think of is the cost of engineering. But think of this. Let's say you are designing a product that will marketed and sold to potentially millions. Let's say it is some electronic device that all the kids will want. :-)

Now that we have the situation set up lets think about this, let's say because we designed this thing as quick as possible to save on engineering costs we have one of two things happen. First we made a bad design decision that didn't get caught until production (Very Costly). Second is we didn't take the time to route electrical wires, or possibly think of the best way to machine the enclosure for whatever this device is, resulting in wasted material. The wasted material might even be more costly than the first scenario of a design flaw that didn't get caught until production.

The reason I use these examples is if we were to take a little more time up front in the engineering stages we could save so much money either in mistakes that get caught during engineering or in material costs. Let's use Autodesk Inventor Professional as an example for the wire routing. Here is a tool that the engineers can use after they have made the mechanical design of their new product that all the kids want. They can then pick the start and end of the wire and group wires together for the harness. Let's say they are only able to save a couple of inches of wire in the design. Assuming there are maybe 12 wires that is 24 inches of wire in total. Lets make an assumption that the wire is only $.03 per foot. They would save 6 cents per unit, if you are talking millions of units it is a $60,000 savings per million units. That is a lot of money and in some cases that might be a persons salary for the entire year however it was only a hour or two of extra work.

What about all the other opportunities to save a few bucks by better engineering. Think about it, Yeah we can get carried away in engineering but if we can quantify the savings on the back end it is totally worth it. We end up with a better product and save money. The product also has lest waste which then makes it potentially better for the environment.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours. email me at stein.rob@gmail.com

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