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Concurrent Engineering

Concurrent Engineering


Concurrent Engineering (CE) is a systematic approach to integrated product development that emphasizes the response to customer expectations. It embodies team values of co-operation, trust and sharing in such a manner that decision making is by consensus, involving all perspectives in parallel, from the beginning of the product life cycle.


Concurrent Engineering is a systematic approach to the integrated, concurrent design of products and their related processes, including, manufacturing and support. This approach is intended to cause the developers from the very outset to consider all elements of the product life cycle, from conception to disposal, including cost, schedule, quality and user requirements.

Concurrent engineering techniques can be used to compress time in the product development cycle, and business cycles in general. Every business has basic cycles that govern the way that paper is processed, parts are manufactured, and decisions are made. They may be documented in the form of procedures or routings.

Examples of business cycles are customer order, product development, production, and procurement.

Cycles are sequences of recurring successions of processes or events. The cycle time is the time from the beginning of the first step of the process until the beginning of the first step of the next process. Processes can be decomposed into smaller activities. Traditionally those activities may be performed in a sequential manner. In this situation each step is completed before the next one begins. The goal in compressing time is not to devise the best way to perform a task, but rather to either eliminate the task altogether or perform it parallel with other tasks so that the overall system response time is reduced.

Long sequential strings of cycles make up the mainstream order flow and contribute to long throughput times. Poor physical logistics worsen the time delays. Mainstream value-add activities are identified on flow process charts. Flow process charts are analyzed for activities that delay mainstream activities. Delays can be moves, slow operations, inspections, as well as waiting time. Cutting cycle times fifty percent per established period of time is a good goal. The process is continuous.

Extending this approach to the office and focusing in on the mainstream activities that add value is key. Each of the steps can be further decomposed into smaller activities. By providing the output, such as transferring information, from smaller activities much sooner to the subsequent smaller activities, time can be compressed.

Basic principle of concurrent Engineering


* Get a strong commitment to from senior management.

* Establish unified project goals and a clear business mission.

* Develop a detailed plan early in the process.

* Continually review your progress and revise your plan.

* Develop project leaders that have an overall vision of the project and goals.

* Analyze your market and know your customers.

* Suppress individualism and foster a team concept.

* Establish and cultivate cross-functional integration and collaboration.

* Transfer technology between individuals and departments.

* Break project into its natural phases.

* Develop metrics.

* Set milestones throughout the development process.

* Collectively work on all parts of project.

* Reduce costs and time to market.

* Complete tasks in parallel.

Stages of Concurrent Engineering and their Primary Criteria

The following list identifies the phases of Concurrent Engineering and the goal for each. After each goal is a set of bullet items that indicate the primary criteria that must be met for that phase to have accomplished its purpose. Violation of any of these criteria will result in damage to the quality process, and subsequent inadequacies to the project.

1. Project Identification

Goal: Ensure a single direction for corporate development to avoid shifting priorities, false project starts, and pre-empted project efforts. Provide a simple, clear process to start the project track.

o Get executive commitment and goal consistent with business objectives and corporate vision for project.

o Define a central point for approval, prioritization, and scheduling for all projects.

2. Project Scope

Goal: Estimate the project's effort, time, and cost so executives can make an informed decision about the project's worth.

o Confirm the expectations of the Customers and get consensus with them and the executive and corporate goals.

o Support the project's success by avoiding unrealizable date or budget constraints or unallocated resources.

3. Requirement and Analysis

Goal: Build and validate a model of the business problem domain to ensure the correct problem is defined and customer needs are accurate before attempting a solution.

o Get requirements jointly with the user and write a specification that can be implemented, tested and explained.

o Provide traceability between the customer needs, system solution, and testing to enable change management.

o Justify project needs are best met by comparing purchase, build, or hybrid solutions (cost/benefit analysis of vendor proposals).

4. System Design

Goal: Provide a technical solution that meets the customer needs and enhances the corporate business position and value.

o Design and validate a technical solution at the high level.

o Define metrics to predict time of implementation and development effort, and to be used later for process improvement.

o Build a test plan from the requirements, not the design or code.

5. Development Planning

Goal: Define a work plan for implementing a technical solution, whether a purchased package, new development, maintenance change, or a hybrid.

o Collect work plans for testing, customer acceptance, development, and documentation, and ratify with all involved.

o Get written consensus on the project plan specification from all involved.

o Define a strong QA policy to ensure process compliance and product correctness.

o Establish configuration management for changes, defect resolution, and project control.

6. Construction

Goal: Install or construct the solution, using a mini-release, risk-driven and priority-driven approach, to run concurrently with testing and low-level design. Validate low-level design, collecting interface specifics (e.g., screen and report layouts) from customers.

o Perform regression testing to maintain quality and avoid later rework.

o Track personnel effort, time, and defect rate to monitor project and set a baseline for calibrating the project team and process efficacy.

o Separate developers from any testing except unit testing and their contribution to system testing.

o Define a procedure by which QA and the customers approve the release, and not the development team.

7. Installation and Assessment

Goal: Ensure a solid and methodical way of moving the product into the customers' environment as smoothly as possible.

o Emulate the production environment to test the final product for capacitance, stress, and performance. Examine growth potential and adjust accordingly.

o Access the project and process with the collected metrics to improve the process and calibrate the teams for future predictability.

Fundamentals of Concurrent Engineering

1- Alternative definitions of concurrent engineering are available, but this list is a fairly typical one. The increased role of manufacturing process design on product design decisions, the formation of cross-functional teams to accomplish the development process, a focus on the customer during the development process, and the use of lead time as a source of competitive advantage are all part of it.

2- All products have a need to incorporate constraints imposed by the manufacturing process in the product design. Depending on which manufacturing process is considered, these effects may be encoded into formal or computer-based rules, or else may be conveyed through individual experience and expertise. Addressing these design concerns early in the development process creates the opportunity to reduce manufacturing costs and improve product quality.

3- The method of accomplishing the integration of design with other functions is through the use of cross-functional teams. These teams may include people with expertise in production, marketing, finance, service or other relevant areas, depending on the type of product.

4 - Another important functional barrier is the separation between the engineering designer and the customer. Under the same philosophy of removing the design-manufacturing barrier, the designer can become more responsive to customer desires and thereby create a more successful product. This is known as design-marketing integration.

5- Lead time has proved to be a significant facet of modern competition. By lessening the lead-time the firm is able to rapidly respond to market trends or to incorporate new technologies. A lessened lead time creates a market advantage for those firms who are able to produce products rapidly.

The Concurrent Engineering Approach


Concurrent engineering is a business strategy which replaces the traditional product development process with one in which tasks are done in parallel and there is an early consideration for ever y aspect of a product's development process. This strategy focuses on the optimization and distribution of a firm's resources in the design and development process to ensure an effective and efficient product development process. It mandates major changes within the organizations and firms that use it, due to the people and process integration requirements. Collaboration is a must for individuals, groups, departments, and separate organizations within the firm. Therefore, it cannot be applied at leisure. A firm must be dedicated to the long term implementation, appraisal, and continuous revision of a concurrent engineering process.

When is concurrent engineering used

The majority of a product's costs are committed very early in the design and development process. Therefore, companies must apply concurrent engineering at the onset of a project. This makes concurrent engineering a powerful development tool that can be implemented early in the conceptual design phase where the majority of the a products costs are committed. There are several application in which concurrent engineering may be used. Some primary applications include product research, design, development, re-engineering, manufacturing, and redesigning of existing and new products. In these applications, concurrent engineering is applied throughout the design and development process to enable the firm to reap the full benefits of this process.

How the companies apply concurrent engineering

Commitment, Planning, and Leadership


Concurrent engineering is not a trivial process to apply. If firms are going to commit to concurrent engineering then they must first devise a plan. This plan must create organizational change throughout the entire company or firm. There must be a strong commitment from the firm's leadership in order to mandate the required organizational changes from the top down. Concurrent engineering without leadership will have no clear direction or goal. On the other hand, concurrent engineering with leadership, management support, and proper planning will bring success in today's challenging mark et place.

Continuous Improvement Process


Concurrent engineering is not a one size fits all solution to a firm's development processes. There are many different aspects of concurrent engineering which may or may not fit in a corporation's development process. Concurrent engineering is only a set of process objectives and goals that have a variety of implementation strategies. Therefore, concurrent engineering is an evolving process that requires continuous improvement and refinement. This continuous improvement cycle consist of planning, implementing, reviewing, and revising. The process must be updated and revised on a regular basis to optimize the effectiveness and benefits in the concurrent engineering development process.

Communication and Collaboration


The implementation of concurrent engineering begins by creating a corporate environment that facilitates communication and collaboration not just between individuals, but also between separate organizations and departments within the firm. This may entail major structural changes, re-education of the existing work-force, and/or restructuring of the development process.

Why do companies use concurrent engineering

Competitive Advantage


The reasons that companies choose to use concurrent engineering is for the clear cut benefits and competitive advantage that concurrent engineering can give them. Concurrent engineering can benefit companies of any size, large or small. While there are several obstacles to initially implementing concurrent engineering, these obstacles are minimal when compared to the long term benefits that concurrent engineering offers.

Increased Performance


Companies recognize that concurrent engineering is a key factor in improving the quality, development cycle, production cost, and delivery time of their products. It enables the early discovery of design problems, thereby enabling them to be addressed up front rather than later in the development process. Concurrent engineering can eliminate multiple design revisions, prototypes, and re-engineering efforts and create an environment for designing right the first time.

Reduced Design and Development Times


Companies that use concurrent engineering are able to transfer technology to their markets and customers more effectively, rapidly and predictably. They will be able to respond to customers needs and desires, to produce quality products that meet or exceeds the consumer's expectations. They will also be able to introduce more products and bring quicker upgrades to their existing products through concurrent engineering practices. Therefore companies use concurrent engineering to produce better quality products, developed in less time, at lower cost, that meets the customer's needs.

How concurrent engineering Benefits companies

There are several benefits that concurrent engineering can bring, although it is difficult to quantify many of these benefits by using spreadsheets and numbers. These are not only benefits which the participating company will experience, but ultimately the end users or customers also will reap these benefits by having a quality product which fits their needs and in many case costs them less to purchase. Therefore, concurrent engineering produces a unified profitable corporation and a satisfied consumer. Regardless of the type of application, there are significant benefits to the firms or organizations that use cross functional teams.



In a concurrent engineering environment, teams of experts from different disciplines are formally encouraged to work together to ensure that design progresses smoothly and that all participants share the same, current information. The project and problem-solving methods and the technologies utilized make up the essential elements through which parallelism in new product design and development can be achieved. Following is a discussion of how each of these elements contributes to concurrent engineering implementation.


Project methods based on team-work, milestone management, and target-oriented work definition and follow-up are paramount. These methods also must be supported by appropriate senior management commitment and incentive systems. Each team is granted a large degree of autonomy to solve design problems where and when they occur, without much hierarchical intervention. However management must ensure that the transfer of information between different activities or tasks is smooth and transparent. Also, the means of experimentation must allow the experts involved to rule out differences in interpretation on the functional and technical design parameters. In other words, for concurrent engineering to be successful, information and interpretation asymmetries between the experts involved must be avoided whenever possible.


During design and development projects, methods are utilized that foster and support smooth interdisciplinary problem definition and problem solving. Methodologies such as brainstorming open the boundaries of the team to allow for wider ranges of alternative design definitions and solutions to be considered. The use of methodologies like Quality Function Deployment (QFD) further aids experts from different disciplinary backgrounds to jointly define a product's functional and technical requirements. Activity flow chart methods such as IDEF3 allow for detailed planning and monitoring of the different parallel and overlapping activities involved in project execution. Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) allows for a systematic investigation of the occurrence and impact of possible flaws in the new product design. The use of Design of Experiments (DOE) enables the systematic identification of critical product/process parameters that influence performance. These are just a few of the many supportive methods that can be used in a concurrent engineering environment. The sources listed at the end of this essay provide more detailed and exhaustive overviews on these and other methodologies supporting concurrent engineering.


An example of the use of Concurrent Engineering can be found in General Electric's Aircraft Engines Division's approach for the development of the engine for the new F/A-18E/F. It used several collocated, multi-functional design and development teams to merge the design and manufacturing process. The teams achieved 20% to 60% reductions in design and procurement cycle times during the full-scale component tests which preceded full engine testing. Problems surfaced earlier and were dealt with more efficiently than they would have been with the traditional development process. Cycle times in the design and fabrication of some components have dropped from an estimated 22 weeks to 3 weeks.


In concurrent engineering, design technologies are utilized that foster efficient cross-disciplinary analysis, experimentation, and representation of new product designs. Some examples of these technologies include: three-dimensional (3-D) computer-aided design (CAD) systems, rapid prototyping techniques, rapid tooling and rapid testing techniques, as well as techniques that enable the representation of product designs in a virtual context. These design technologies are important because of the key information they convey: their 3-D character allows the expert to interpret design features in a more effective and efficient way.

All of these technologies contribute to the reduction of interpretation asymmetries between the experts involved, as well as to fast-cycle design and development, because they allow for high-speed iterations of analysis and experimentation on both concepts and models of the product. Thus, they modify traditional project management approaches by allowing for more systematic and flexible experimentation and iteration to be included throughout the project's design and development process. In fact, the time and cost incurred by the development and construction of prototypes generally are reduced by factors of 2 to 5 when using digital (e.g., 3-D CAD) and physical (e.g., rapid prototyping) technologies. These tools have become an important enabling factor in the concurrent engineering environment. Without their implementation and further upgrading, concurrent engineering might never be able to realize its full potential in terms of design cost and lead-time optimization.

However, a final caveat is warranted. Although concurrent engineering is an important method for handling the time pressures that occur during new product development, rushing products to the market can sometimes be a mistake. First, markets need time to develop. Numerous examples exist where a new product was too early for the market to absorb it or where product variety has reached limits beyond which the product choice decision becomes too complicated for customers. Second, more revolutionary new product development, which often is based on significant technological advances, typically requires longer time horizons to reach completion. Putting too much emphasis on time compression may blind an organization to this basic fact. Third, the conceptual development of new product ideas requires time or "slack." In a high-speed development organization, time-compression imperatives may undermine this need. Therefore, both managers and new product developers need to find a balance between the paradoxical needs for speed and slack in their organizations. Despite its efficiency, concurrent engineering will only prove to be effective when this balance is achieved through the experience and leadership of an organization's senior management.

To be successful with Concurrent Engineering, companies should initially:

* compare themselves to their best competitors (i.e. benchmark)

* develop metrics

* identify potential performance improvements and targets

* develop a clear Vision of the future environment

* get top management support

* get cross-functional endorsement

* develop a clear Strategy to attain the envisioned environment

* get top management support

* get cross-functional endorsement

* develop a detailed implementation plan

* get top management support

* get cross-functional endorsement

Many companies have problems introducing Concurrent Engineering.

Warning signs include:

* unwillingness to institutionalize Concurrent Engineering

* maintenance of traditional functional reward systems

* maintenance of traditional reporting lines

* no training in teamwork

* unrealistic schedules

* no changes in relationships with vendors

* a focus on computerization rather than process improvement

Benefits of concurrent engineering

There are several benefits that concurrent engineering can bring, although it is difficult to quantify many of these benefits by using spreadsheets and numbers. These are not only benefits which the participating company will experience, but ultimately the end users or customers also will reap these benefits by having a quality product which fits their needs and in many case costs them less to purchase. Therefore, concurrent engineering produces a unified profitable corporation and a satisfied consumer. Regardless of the type of application, there are significant benefits to the firms or organizations that use cross functional teams.



Skalak, Susan Carlson. Implementing Concurrent Engineering in Small Companies. New York: Marcel Dekker, 2002.

The Issues

Concurrent engineering requires the redesign of the organization into cross-functional teams. Functional walls and colloquial thinking can prevent this from occurring realizing benefits if the company is not prepared for organizational change. Resistance to change may occur. Management will need to prepare the organization by building a case for organizational change and devising a program to address cultural issues.

Just like anything else, concurrent engineering is no panacea, nor should it be embraced as a religion. It is an operational tool that, if implemented properly, will provide a new dimension to competing: quickly introducing new customerized high quality products and delivering them with unprecedented lead times, swift decisions, and manufacturing products with high velocity.

Pragmatic Applications

Concurrent engineering is an excellent tool to use in improving productivity and inducing velocity within an operation. It can reduce the time-to-market, engineering times in general, overall throughput time, and costs. It can be applied to a variety of circumstances where operations are performed in sequence and contribute to excessive lead times.

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