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Putting Concurrent Engineering into Practice
Graeme Holmes Winwood Marketing Ltd, Manchester, UK
Acceptance of the need for vastly improved new product development processes has become almost universal among companies within a number of industrial sectors. Moreover, there is now a growing recognition that the basic process improvement concepts and techniques, and associated business benefits, are applicable to more than just high-volume manufacturing companies, competing in the automotive and consumer electronics markets. In particular, the practice of concurrent engineering (CE) is rapidly gaining importance within the aerospace industry. One already wellpublicized illustration of this has been Boeing’s development of its new 777, in which the adoption of CE techniques formed part of a radical departure from traditional design development practices. Development requirements in terms of product complexity and customer needs may be significantly different for new aircraft, compared with new cars or computers. There are, however, still the common factors of increasing global competition and the resulting market pressures which demand an improvement in the development process in order to provide a better product within reduced time-scales and costs. In fact, such tough demands for better and cheaper products, delivered to market faster, are becoming increasingly important for most businesses, regardless of whether they are multinational pharmaceutical organizations or small specialist producers of one-off items. One company which has recently gained a greater insight into the adoption of CE tools and techniques is Ricardo Hitec Ltd, one of the operating divisions of Ricardo Group plc, a major independent engineering design organization. Although its recent experience has been gained through being an integral part of a major aerospace programme, the company has recognized that the basic concepts and the attainable benefits would be equally valid for any of its engineering design projects.
In late 1992, the UK-based Ricardo Hitec Ltd, which employs around 300 qualified personnel, secured a £4 million contract from Belfast-based Shorts Brothers to design and engineer all aspects of the aft fuselage section for the new Learjet Model 45. Gaining this contract was a major achievement, with all the other work for the aircraft, including the remaining three sections of the fuselage, being awarded to companies within the Bombardier group; De Havilland for the design and manufacture of the wings, Shorts as the main contractor for the fuselage, and Learjet undertaking the final assembly of fuselage and wings, completion of the aircraft, and its testing and certification. Moreover, this was no ordinary project. With the Learjet 45 programme, the Bombardier group has put considerable effort into successfully adopting a concurrent engineering approach, and this has represented a significant shift in working practices for both Ricardo and its client.
Process and Management
Ricardo’s task was to take the concept work produced by Shorts right through the
© Ricardo Hitec Ltd.
World Class Design to Manufacture, Vol. 1 No. 5, 1994, pp. 38-42 MCB University Press, 1352-3074
by reducing the traditional rework loop inherent within a sequential development process. To achieve this. plus production. and all the assembly. Instead of team members reporting to their traditional functional heads. which is managed by an engineering data management system. where the company interfaces with the work done on other sections – such as the fuel cell area – it has been able to pull design data across from Shorts. all necessary design inputs – stress and weight considerations. The mock-up is generated within the CAD system. dedicated group heads for each discipline are included within the project team. the use of CAD with full 3D solid model definition (both Ricardo and Shorts use a Computervision CADDS system) has eliminated the need for a high-level full-scale physical mock-up of the product. weights. and maintainability requirements – have to be considered up-front with all the disciplines “buying in” to the design. assembly. Further. stress engineers and planning and production engineers. Within the fuselage project. interdisciplinary meetings. This ensures that information released by Ricardo goes directly into Shorts’ system.VOLUME 1 NUMBER 5 1994 development of production schemes. these managers meet weekly to discuss general progress. impromptu meetings between small groups of engineers occurred frequently. For specific project areas. and in particular the IT needs. In accordance with the adopted approach. In addition. and establish “sign off” at the progressive design stages. tool design engineers. The Ricardo DBT includes design engineers. Success The overall aim was to arrive at a design solution more efficiently. and a small group of production engineers supporting Ricardo’s production input by providing process knowledge. These meetings record progress. This has been achieved and the process demonstrates a high degree of Design build team Screen capture componentry in the aft fuselage of the Learjet 45 39 . To facilitate the interworking of the disciplines. and at the same time check the status of that information. owing to the collocation. to the completion of the detailed design together with the support activities for testing all the structures and systems installation associated with the aft fuselage. at its peak. Direct data transfer between the Ricardo and the Shorts databases is achieved through a transparent data link. To support fully its part of the project Ricardo invested in the latest design and engineering tools. The team included representatives from Shorts covering each of the three main design functions to provide a link to the client’s design resource. are held on an “as required” basis. called by the group leaders. the link provides Ricardo with a line into Shorts’ computer-aided planning system. reliability. with an overlay of project and programme management to co-ordinate the work. involved over 90 engineers dedicated to this single project. and it also provides Ricardo with visibility of the work that is going on elsewhere. a cross-functional design and build team (DBT) was formed which complemented Shorts’ own DBT in Belfast. is collocated in a single open-plan office at Ricardo’s Bamber Bridge headquarters. and interfaces are validated on the screen. The DBT which. so that all the production planning is done directly on this system. Therefore. Technology Adopting a CE approach for a large project requires a big commitment to the supporting infrastructure. attain “buy in” to decisions.
He adds. much quicker. Also. the company’s own project management system has had to be further developed to manage this requirement. especially those which are complex and require a large team of people from various disciplines. there can be a tendency for n Shorts have seen “exceptional first article” inspection pass rates n As William Morris. but the scale of the involvement in terms of the breadth of disciplines involved and the relationship with the client was a new approach. to manage this effectively for a CE process. reports. showing just how well the theory has been brought through into practice. As Sheehan observes. The CE approach has enabled the design of tooling and the generation of build information to be undertaken in parallel with the fuselage design. and back to design for reworking. plus the consideration of production and assembly requirements from the outset. reports. such a process places emphasis on individual discipline.WORLD CLASS DESIGN TO MANUFACTURE robustness. but also the ease of build – due to the “better quality” design – is further evidence to the success of the approach. However. However. The result is that there is considerably less rework and you get to a fully developed product. Until this is completed. it is not really feasible. and then undertaking redesign for manufacture. “Discipline is important in making sure everyone works to the procedure”.” This achievement is to everyone’s benefit. with many projects. followed by stress analysis.” Thus all input to the design still has to be made as early as possible. maintaining this “right” level of interdisciplinary communication within a large team is difficult. A designer may have an idea. He adds. when it is required. Lessons Learned Working in teams was not new for Ricardo. but not necessarily constantly or right from the start. Shorts are gaining directly from the design and assembly quality which has benefited from the early inputs of their production and assembly workforce. stresses Sheehan. how far it has progressed. The resultant reduction in the number of build problems also means fewer design changes with which Ricardo. As Mike Sheehan. VP Learjet 45 project. and what needs to be done next. but without some initial work he is unsure if it will work. jigs and assembly procedures) is already under way at Shorts’ Belfast site. a critical issue for concurrent working is task visibility – who is doing what. not only is this assembly work proving out the electronic mock-up. Even at this stage the expected benefits are being surpassed. constant input from outside can only cloud the issue. then manufacturing input. so that the design evolves from a correct basis and separate activities can be carried out in parallel. but some work has to occur serially. This is illustrated by the fact that. From a management perspective. enhanced programme management procedures are required. but in much smaller discrete chunks. with its inherent complexity. Communication among these team members is vital. the project has helped the company to define some essential issues that will prove invaluable for all future projects. Critically. the use of 3D modelling. To maintain this visibility all the individual jobs must be monitored through their various stages. who will support this project through to certification. to have all the disciplines sit around a terminal and generate a design from scratch. assembly of the “first article” (the pre-production fuselage built as part of the process to test rigorously and “buy off” tooling. “Especially when people are coming from a culture where they are used to working on their own. “The first article build is progressing remarkably well by any standard. thereby releasing valuable resources. with a better than ten times reduction in failures. and with some overlapping. or necessarily desirable. have to deal. Communications and Discipline The essence of concurrent engineering is that all the necessary design inputs are introduced as early as possible. Shorts have seen “exceptional first article” inspection pass rates. explains Morris. For this reason. Moreover. Ricardo project manager. where all of the inputs have been taken into account. while Ricardo have only just completed all the detail design. with the quality of the fit outstanding. However. “Instead of a sequential process of long periods of design. what we have found is that activities still have a tendency to occur serially. and are now working on assembly and installation drawings. has successfully eliminated the traditional intermediate stages of building a prototype for testing. 40 .
Ricardo has recognized the importance of eliminating this risk as much as possible by establishing higher levels of concept definition confidence before committing to detailed design. For example. We have had occasions where a design has got through the system and reached final sign-off before people realize that they have not seen it before. but who is also prepared. Mike Sheehan confirmed that “With the CE approach it is essential when making decisions to move onto the next stage. Capturing Development Decisions Finally. so then the team discussion can be blended in relation to this main priority. it is important to provide a method of recording the observations and decisions that are made. reports Sheehan. Ricardo uses a responsibility matrix. Through this IWS document it is possible to review. individuals may take ownership of work. and this enables them to incorporate these perspectives in their work.” Decision Making Within cross-functional teams it is easy to find the different disciplines pulling in slightly different directions. and have thus refused approval.” Overall. and a way of making this information available to everyone. explains Sheehan. as he stressed. Therefore it is essential to a have a decision maker who will listen and is capable of understanding different views. or problems. for a particular design area. even if there is not total agreement. most engineers have gained a greater insight into the requirements of the different disciplines. with the resultant cost and time implications that this entails. Therefore. contained within the Shorts engineering database. with each discipline adding their comments about agreed design decisions. Within a CE environment. This basically identifies what work has to be done against who has responsibility for doing it. thus getting designers to accept outside input more readily and subsequently to reduce further the size of the serial work activities. although great strides have been made in adopting CE.VOLUME 1 NUMBER 5 1994 the designer to plough on with his own thoughts without consultation with the other disciplines and agreement with the way it should be done. “There might be some areas where a particular discipline’s view takes priority. To achieve this Ricardo have adopted the use of an integrated work statement (IWS). The team may decide to ignore such input at the time. but also provides people who have any misgivings with the oppportunity to have these recorded. that records the evolving product definition. a design cannot progress without the agreement of all the disciplines.” However. but it must remain a team effort for their resolution. This system not only records that agreement. Elements of Integrated Product Development Decision Making and Ownership There have been a number of issues in the area of decision making that Ricardo have found to be essential ingredients for successful CE. but the opinion has been established and made available for others to see and take note. The system also provides a “buy off” agreement between Ricardo and client – specifying agreed required configuration – and stops creeping 41 . Within the development process. along with all the necessary team meetings. This is a multi-user document. the comments logged on how and why a design has evolved. Also. any serious problems can have major knock-on effects across the whole process. to make a decision. But admittedly there are still pockets of inflexibility where individual personalities come into play and work against the CE activity. through the DBT approach. states Sheehan. for the sake of progressing the design. Ricardo have managed successfully to establish the principles for operating as an effective team. with many different disciplines working on different aspects of the same design simultaneously. the company recognizes the need continually to improve communication and teamworking skills. ensuring that it is taken into account that you are committing not only to the design but also to the planning and tooling. In order to help to place the right bias on any decision making.
managing director of Ricardo Hitech. “There is no one answer. Bamber Bridge. However. to pull all these skills together there needs to be constant communication of procedural requirements and of how work is progressing. claims Sheehan. Newton Silk Mill Business Centre. 42 . technology can prove a major component in supporting the DBT philosophy. Graeme Holmes can be contacted at Winwood Marketing Ltd. In fact project management is an area the company is looking to reinforce and strengthen further. Furthermore there must be leaders who will take ownership of problems and who will seek out solutions through the DBT. prove a considerable enhancement to the company’s competitiveness. Moreover. Tel: 061 682 4424. without the need for physical prototypes. or particular method by which to conduct a concurrent engineering project. “In summary”.” It has been one of Ricardo’s strategic aims to pull all its disciplines together to offer a fully integrated development capability. the company has now put theory into practice and demonstrated that within the right process structure and working environment it is possible to achieve this goal. “The Ricardo strategy is to progress from supplying skilled resources on demand to offering integrated design solutions to complex critical-path tasks”. it has shown that through establishing concurrent working practices it can gain the advantages of increased flexibility and a more robust process. confirms Adam Bodnar. The use of such a system. There is also the potential for developing strategic partnerships with tool and component manufacturers in order to provide a complete design-to-manufacture service. Team players are also vital. providing a high level of confidence that everything will go together properly. rather than think that they have all the answers. Oldham Road. Conclusion As Sheehan concludes. Fax: 061 682 4441. Manchester M10 6HB. the lessons learned and recent experience gained by Ricardo will. Ricardo Hitech Ltd is based at Club Street. The electronic 3D mock-up – digital pre-assembly – has proved to be very beneficial. Fax: 0772 627972. rather than simple subcontract designers. Preston. n There needs to be constant communication of procedural requirements n Whatever the combination.WORLD CLASS DESIGN TO MANUFACTURE definition from occurring without recognition and further agreement. Tel: 0772 34051. whether within the aerospace industry or transferred over to our other areas of activity – general manufacturing and the nuclear industry. and other disciplines. along with transparent links that connect Ricardo’s engineering team directly with engineers at a client’s site is applicable to the design of any product. This could include feeding in the Advanced Manufacturing Technology skills available within the consultancy group at Ricardo Hitec Ltd. but there are specific points that make the difference and these will undoubtedly be valid for future work. With the increasing number of companies looking for outsourcing partners. Lancashire PR5 6FN. insists Sheehan. Finally. people who are prepared to work and learn from others. while a team focus reduces development risks and provides an overall higher design quality.
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