Concurrent Engineering

Concurrent Engineering
Concurrent engineering has developed over the last few decades as an important part of the development of new systems and production. It has an important role in system life cycle. As we will see, integrated product teams (IPTs) can be an important aspect of concurrent engineering.

Definition of Concurrent Engineering
First, it may be helpful to have a definition of concurrent engineering. Several different workers have developed definitions.

1. The “Systematic approach to the integrated, concurrent design of products and their related processes … consider all elements of the product lifecycle.” [1]
2. “Concurrent Engineering (CE) and integrated design is a systematic approach to integrated product development that emphasizes response to stakeholder expectations and embodies team values of cooperation, trust, and sharing.” [2]
3. “Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) evolved in industry as an outgrowth of efforts such as Concurrent Engineering to improve customer satisfaction and competitiveness in a global economy.” [3] While not a definition, this does provide insight in to the intention of concurrent engineering.
4. “Concurrent Engineering is a management/operational approach which aims to improve product design, production, operation, and maintenance by developing environments in which personnel from all disciplines (i.e., design, marketing, production engineering, process planning, and support) work together and share data throughout all stages of product life cycle.” [4]

From these definitions of concurrent engineering, it is clear that the emphasis is on the creation of teams from all disciplines that work together in a spirit of cooperation, trust, and sharing throughout all stages of the product life cycle. This means that concurrent engineering must start at the needs analysis phase and continue through concept development, development, production, and deployment.

Possible Problems Assembling The Team
Second, there are possible problems in assembling an IPT and making it effective. One possible problem is that the required team members may not be available for the team. This may require the systems engineering to identify the missing expertise and obtain the required personnel. Another problem is that the team may not be collocated. Often, IPTs are located in multiple locations and yet, they must work together in a trusting and effective manner. One way to achieve this is to have several face to face meetings early in the process so that team members are able to get to know each other. It can be especially helpful to have team building activities during these face to face meetings. Another issue may be that a team member personality does not fit with the rest of the team. In this instance, the systems engineer must develop a plan to overcome this or to replace the team member. There are many obstacles that can arise during the formation and operation of an IPT and the systems engineer must work to overcome them so that the team can be effective.

Wrapping It Up
An important thing to remember is that the leader sets the tone and expectations for IPTs. The systems engineer must set the tone of trust, cooperation, and sharing so that the rest of the members will clearly understand the expectations.

[1] G.D. Gardiner, “Systems engineering and concurrent engineering: synonymous, complementary or contrary?,” IEEE Colloquium on Systems Engineering For Profit, London, March 22, 1995.
[2] NASA Systems Engineering Handbook, NASA/SP-2007-6105 Rev1, p. 234.
[3] DOD Integrated Product and Process Development Handbook, August 1998.
[4] INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook, January 2010, p. 186.

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