How to Save Time and Money on the Engineering Design Process

Engineering Design

Whether you’re designing a product, a process, or a plant, you’re likely faced with pressure to do it faster and for less. Today the need for speed and the desire to cut costs have hit new heights as companies strive for growth and profitability in an increasingly competitive landscape.

No matter what you’re making, the engineering design process is complex. Your project may involve hundreds of engineers working in different disciplines. There may be countless revisions, which increase not only the time and cost of a project, but also the likelihood of error.

But drawn-out timelines and cost overruns don’t need to be the norm. Here are five ways to save time and money during the engineering design process.

1. Use one software (yes, it’s possible)

How many software platforms do your engineers use regularly: 5, 10, 20?

Your engineering firm may use one or more tools at each phase of the design process. This can result in several extra costs:

  • Licensing fees for multiple software programs
  • Time spent importing/exporting data
  • Engineers’ time spent waiting for their colleagues to complete a project before they can get started
  • Time and money spent fixing errors related to imports/exports and ECOs/ECNs

Instead of wasting time and money coordinating work across platforms, consider using a tool like Engineering Base that supports all phases of the engineering design process.

Engineering Tasks Covered by Engineering Base

Conceptual Design Basic Engineering Detailed Engineering Construction and Commissioning Maintenance
Importing simulation data

Block diagram

Superstructure design

Basic PFD

Detailed PFD

Basic P&ID

Material balance

Control concepts

Documentation of sizing/rating

Project estimate

Detailed P&ID

Control loops

PLC DCS configuration

DCS integration

HMI integration

Electrical diagrams

3D integration

Revisions

As-built documents

Up-to-date reports

Revisions

As-built documents

Data history tracking

Updates

Certificates

Permits

Orders

2. Use templates and predefined modules

Almost no one designs anything from scratch today. And there’s no need to. You can design a complete plant using typicals.

You don’t need to create thousands of typicals. That would defeat the purpose. All you need is a solid set of 50 to 60, with options and variance for each. Then your engineers can select the appropriate typicals, options, and variance for each design.

3. Implement standard part libraries

A recent survey found that 93% of engineers recreate supplier parts in their CAD application, spending just under an hour every day on the task.

If you think that doesn’t sound like much, imagine you have a small team of 10 engineers, each spending 1 hour/day recreating parts:

1 hour/day x 5 days/week x 52 weeks/year x 10 engineers = 2600 hours = 108.33 days

That’s a lot of wasted time!

Just like you can use predefined modules and typicals, you can also implement standard part and model libraries that will allow you to reuse parts across your designs. These parts can also be directly imported from vendors’ online libraries.

4. Reuse your data

Once you have a database built out, reuse it as much as possible. The efficiency gains here can be immense, especially when you’re completing multiple projects for the same client.

According to a 2016 study by the Aberdeen Group, 44% of best-in-class companies report a positive impact of capturing and reusing product knowledge. They suggest that “companies who don’t properly address the need for…efficient reuse are often mismanaging their time.”

5. Optimize your change management process

Finally, change management is arguably the single most difficult part of the engineering process.

This is because an engineering change is rarely, if ever, just one thing. Even a small change in one component of a project creates a ripple effect of changes throughout the rest of the project.

Engineering change management is a huge topic that requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are three ideas to get you started:

  • Have a documented plan. Change management success depends on effective cross-team communication and collaboration. Having a documented plan is the best way to ensure that these crucial steps occur.
  • Choose software tools that support effective change management. Using just one software across the entire design process means that your teams won’t miss any relevant changes or get bogged down by changes that don’t directly affect their work.
  • Create cross-functional project teams. For a paper in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, researchers at Syracuse developed a simple framework for managing engineering change propagation. One of the key factors they discussed was having cross-functional project teams to identify all possible dependencies.

If you want to compete in today’s fast-paced market, you don’t have time to be inefficient. Aucotec’s Engineering Base platform can cut your design time and costs by 20% to 40%. Learn more.

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