Role of concurrent engineering

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Role of concurrent engineering.


The concurrent engineering method is still a relatively new design management system, but has had the opportunity to mature in recent years to become a well-defined systems approach towards optimizing engineering design cycles. Because of this, concurrent engineering has garnered much attention from industry and has been implemented in a multitude of companies, organizations and universities, most notably in the aerospace industry.The basic premise for concurrent engineering revolves around two concepts. The first is the idea that all elements of a product's life-cycle, from functionality, producibility, assembly, testability, maintenance issues, environmental impact and finally disposal and recycling, should be taken into careful consideration in the early design phases The second concept is that the preceding design activities should all be occurring at the same time, or concurrently. The overall goal being that the concurrent nature of these processes significantly increases productivity and product quality, aspects that are obviously important in today's fast-paced market [3]. This philosophy is key to the success of concurrent engineering because it allows for errors and redesigns to be discovered early in the design process when the project is still in a more abstract and possibly digital realm. By locating and fixing these issues early, the design team can avoid what often become costly errors as the project moves to more complicated computational models and eventually into the physical realm [4].


* Concurrent Engineering is a work methodology based on the parallelization of tasks (ie. performing tasks concurrently). It refers to an approach used in product development in which functions of design engineering, manufacturing engineering and other functions are integrated to reduce the elapsed time required to bring a new product to the market.

One of the most important reasons for the huge success of concurrent engineering is that by definition it redefines the basic design process structure that was common place for decades. This was a structure based on a sequential design flow, sometimes called the ‘Waterfall Model' [6][7]. Concurrent engineering significantly modifies this outdated method and instead opts to use what has been termed an iterative or integrated development method [8]. The difference between these two methods is that the ‘Waterfall' method moves in a completely linear fashion by starting with user requirements and sequentially moving forward to design, implementation and additional steps until you have a finished product. The problem here is that the design system does not look backwards or forwards from the step it is on to fix possible problems. In the case that something does go wrong, the design usually must be scrapped or heavily altered. On the other hand, the iterative design process is more cyclic in that, as mentioned before, all aspects of the life cycle of the product are taken into account, allowing for a more evolutionary approach to design [9].

“Waterfall” or Sequential Development Method vs. Iterative Development Method

A significant part of this new method is that the individual engineer is given much more say in the overall design process due to the collaborative nature of concurrent engineering. Giving the designer ownership plays a large role in the productivity of the employee and quality of the product that is being produced. This stems from the fact that people given a sense of gratification and ownership over their work tend to work harder and design a more robust product, as opposed to an employee that is assigned a task with little say in the general process By making this sweeping change, many organizational and managerial challenges arise that must be taken into special consideration when companies and organizations move towards such a system. From this standpoint, issues such as the implementation of early design reviews, enabling communication between engineers, software compatibility and opening the design process up to allow for concurrency creates problems of its own [11]. Similarly, there must be a strong basis for teamwork since the overall success of the method relies on the ability of engineers to effectively work together. Often this can be a difficult obstacle, but is something that must be tackled early to avoid later problems [12].

Similarly, now more than ever, software is playing a huge role in the engineering design process. Be it from CAD packages to finite element analysis tools, the ability to quickly and easily modify digital models to predict future design problems is hugely important no matter what design process you are using. However, in concurrent engineering software's role becomes much more significant as the collaborative nature must take into the account that each engineers design models must be able to ‘talk' to each other in order to successfully utilize the concepts of concurrent engineering.

The role Of Concurrent Engineering

Concurrent Engineering is a system of practices that companies can employ so that their ngineering and production departments work together in the most streamlined manner possible.

When the processes between the two groups are organized correctly through a systematic methodology, the work flow and exchange of information is extremely efficient and problems that would otherwise slow down the processes are avoided. Potential benefits of Concurrent Engineering include a shorter cycle to get new product to market, a quicker turnaround time for issues with product quality that require engineering time and a smaller number of changes made to a product or its process during its life cycle. Another benefit is that employees then require less time learning how to produce new or improved products, thereby enabling engineers to have higher visibility when it comes to knowing exactly what is going on in the shop floor operations.

Concurrent engineering also produces a continual streamlining of processes so they can continue to be consistently duplicated. Concurrent Engineering 2.0 focuses on the process by which a product is manufactured. The practices also prioritize the time spent putting together a manufacturing process which works to bring a quality product to market quickly and at a reasonable cost. The process is considered as important as the product design itself. For example, even if you have the blueprint for the next iPhone in your head, what value is it if you do not take the time to detail the process of bringing your idea to fruition?

So without a validated plan, essentially you plan to fail. The main ingredients of Concurrent Engineering are integrated tools and data. Though engineering and manufacturing are closely Related, each department's tools and data are often managed separately, which can lead to inefficiencies. With Concurrent Engineering 2.0, the manufacturing data models are created directly from their engineering predecessors with tightly integrated change management.

Integrated processes for managing changes and digital validation of the product and process streamline shop floor changes. Previously, the manufacturing shop floor would have to basically work around engineering. Often, changes would be tested on the shop floor, only to have to be redone and reworked on later. Integrating the processes eliminates this. Having a collaborative culture and environment also allows product engineers to spend a lot of time on the shop floor effectively evaluating the success of their designs.

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.

*A concurrent engineering system to integrate a production simulation and CAD system for FTL layout design.

In this paper, we propose a Concurrent Engineering System (CES) to find a Flexible Transfer Line (FTL) layout design. CES integrates a Production Simulation (PS) module and a Computer-Aided Design (CAD) module. CES uses a PS module to determine the buffer size in front of the bay of each machine in the FTL and initialises a CAD module to draw the FTL layout. A PS module consists of a Genetic Algorithm (GA) and a discrete simulator. A CAD module has two submodules: a calculation and optimisation submodule and a drawing submodule. CES modules have been integrated into a single framework, in accordance with the practice of Concurrent Engineering (CE), to find the FTL buffer size and efficient layout design for FTL simultaneously. CE involves the cooperation of these activities. It is expected that the developed CES can improve production engineers' decision on the buffer size and determine an efficient FTL layout design. We applied an original developed CES to design some examples of FTLs. After a number of operations based on CES, the FTL layout could be drawn. As a result, it could be ascertained that the proposed CES is useful.

The Relevance of Concurrent Engineering in Industrial technology programs.

Concurrent engineering has becomea common phrase heard on factory floors and mentioned in the literature during the decade of the 1990s. The process of concurrent engineering has also been identified by business organizations as simultaneous engineering,life-cycle engineering, parallel engineering,multi-disciplinary team approach,or integrated product and rocessdevelopment (Hall, 1991; Ziemke & Spann, 1991 and Prasad, 1996). Concurrent engineering has become a key concept that has already enabled companies to attain world-class stature (Shina, 1991). There is a strong consensus that modern computer technology has been a major driving force behind the increased practice of concurrent engineering (Kelley, 1998). However, there is much more to this philosophy of managing the modern production organization than just advanced technology. The purpose of this paper is to provide a perspective of concurrent engineering from an industry point-of view and translate these findings for

Industrial technology education.

Types of concurrent Engineering

1. Tools -

involves the material infrastructure.

2. Training -

relates to the human aspect and includes educating personnel on the use of appropriate tools.

3. Time -

considers realistic expectations in terms of setting targets.


The complexity and wide range of specialized disciplinary areas involved in modern manufacturing makes it an interdependent activity, often involving hundreds of personnel. In these circumstances, communication tools are of utmost importance (Kelley, 1998). The design function in manufacturing has universally embraced the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. This paradigm although undergoing a major shift as explained later in this section, is still very prevalent in much of the world's manufacturing today. For centuries, a blueprint from the design office has been the agent for production planning and subsequently, actual production. Today's concurrent engineering requires the paper blueprint of yesterday be replaced with an electronic three-dimensional solid model using any one of the computeraided design packages. State-of-the-art three-dimensional CAD systems typically employ feature-based and parametric modeling capabilities.

These facilities in themselves have made the primary task of defining geometry faster and more flexible. Of course, the designer can use solid models simply to obtain feedback for improvement or to obtain approval from customers. The ability to create or manipulate a solid model on the computer is fast becoming a minimum pre-requisite to function in a technical capacity in the settings of a concurrent engineering environment. This is because CAD models lend themselves to several downstream applications (LaCourse, 1995). A case in point is rapid prototyping (Jacobs, 1996). This technology has caused industries to rethink from “a picture is worth a thousand words” to “a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.” The networking technology that enables transmission of complex 3-D geometry to virtually any part of the globe is by itself a significant tool.Release 18 of the Pro/Engineer CAD/ CAM/CAE software (developed by Parametric Technologies Corporation, Waltham, Mass.) came with a Pro/ WEB publish module that allowed users to extract data from Pro/Engineer design models for distribution through a World Wide Web (WWW) browser.


One of the greatest challenges in managing the simultaneous operation of inter-related tasks is to figure out ways that get people to work together as a team (Prasad, 1997). Human beings, by and large, have a natural tendency to be territorial and are likely to attach top priority to personal interests (Prasad, 1997). Typically, the business failures of production-based enterprises have been attributed to controversies between people within and/or external to the firm (Giritli & Ertan, 1997 and Cooper & Taleb- Bendiab, 1997). Employee adaptability to environmental changes is well known as a strategic tool for manufacturing competitiveness. Concurrent teams must be well versed on dealing with change constructively, regardless of how, where and when it occurs during the life cycle of a product. At a minimum, the members of concurrent egineering teams need to recognize the following (Blankenburg & Wiik, 1997):

1. it is not possible to create an optimal design by accident- it nmust happen collaboratively among people making the best use of resources.

2. as team members, they should feel free to raise genuine questions and concerns.

3. the company's survival depends on customers willing to pay for the product rather than individual efficiencies or even overall productivity.


As companies find that it is imperative to reduce the cycle time for new product development, they begin to think in terms of parallel activities. Although concurrent engineering is a relatively easy concept to understand, it takes much more for practical implementation. Reduced cycle time is just one of the many factors that affect the profit equation. The quality of the product and its cost to the customer are major determinants of success in the market. If a company is simply focused on reducing cycle time, the end result could yield poor quality products produced at premium costs in a shorter time period. This can be disastrous and depending on the extent of losses, the company may have to close its doors sooner than ever. It is safe to assume that a hurried implementation of concurrent engineering without careful planning and investment of time has a high probability of backfiring. It takes most companies approximately eight months just to become comfortable with a new CAD/CAM system (Marks & Riley, 1995). The current trend in industry is to take the concept of concurrent engineering beyond the realms of the organization. This involves bringing the company's suppliers and customers within the boundaries of the organization. Sometimes, this innovative idea can create barriers in terms of time for implementation. Blankenburg & Wiik (1997) provided an interesting case study involving the Vingard Company, a world leader in producing electronic hotel door locks with magnetic card readers. In 1996, Vingard signed a contract with the hotel chain Motel 6 to deliver a specially designed lock for the 80,000 doors in the entire hotel chain.

How to apply concurrent engineering?

Commitment, Planning, and Leadership

Concurrent engineering is not a trivial process to apply. If firms are going to commit to co ncurrent 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 wbithout leadership will have no clear direction or goal. On the other hand, concurrent engineering wi th 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 corporatio n's development process. Concurrent engineering is only a set of process objectives and goals that h ave 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 o rganizations 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.

Basic principles of concurrent engineering.

1. Get a strong commitment to from senior management.

2. Establish unified project goals and a clear business mission.

3. Develop a detailed plan early in the process.

4. Continually review your progress and revise your plan.

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

6. Analyze your market and know your customers.

7. Suppress individualism and foster a team concept.

8. Establish and cultivate cross-functional integration and collaboration.

9. Transfer technology between individuals and departments.

10. Break project into its natural phases.

11. Develop metrics.

12. Set milestones throughout the development process.

13. Collectively work on all parts of project.

14. Reduce costs and time to market.

15. Complete tasks in parallel.

When is concurrent engineering used?

The majority of a product's costs are committed very early in the design and development proc ess. Therefore, companies must apply concurrent engineering at the onset of a project. This makes c oncurrent engineering a powerful development tool that can be implemented early in the conceptual des ign phase where the majority of the a products costs are committed. There are several application in which concurrent engineering may be used. Some primary appl ications include product research, design, development, re-engineering, manufacturing, and redesignin g 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.

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 ben efit companies of any size, large or small. While there are several obstacles to initially implement ing 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, dev elopment 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 developm ent process. Concurrent engineering can eliminate multiple design revisions, prototypes, and re-engi neering 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 an d customers more effectively, rapidly and predictably. They will be able to respond to customers nee ds and desires, to produce quality products that meet or exceeds the consumer's expectations. They w ill also be able to introduce more products and bring quicker upgrades to their existing products thr ough concurrent engineering practices. Therefore companies use concurrent engineering to produce bet ter quality products, developed in less time, at lower cost, that meets the customer's needs.


So,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 whic h 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 satis fied consumer.