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Incorrect part selection, costly supply chain mistakes, disastrous product failures: How can engineering operations eliminate such problems?
One effective solution is to prohibit engineers from using Google as a tool for gathering information and selecting parts for mission-critical designs. Instead, engineering staffs need to employ more trusted sources—both internal and external—that avoid errors and unnecessary expenses.
For example, imagine an engineer is designing a piece of equipment that uses high-pressure piping. A Google search potentially could direct the engineer to a random website that shows the equations to calculate stress and strain, but includes a typo or excludes critical boundary condition information. If the engineer uses those equations, he or she could incorrectly determine the material requirements for the piping. The result: The end product explodes because the engineer selected a pipe grade that wasn’t rated for the actual pressure seen in production.
In another scenario, picture a company engineer Googling a part description and finding a random supplier with a component that fits the bill. The engineer then specifies that part for a design—although a compatible component is already available from one of the company’s qualified suppliers as part of a tested, proven internal reference design. With a new part costing from $15,000 to $50,000 to qualify and establish inventory, the cost to develop the design has instantly skyrocketed.
Plus, using a reusable component that has been tested in production delivers quality that could be lost when trying out a new component for the first time.
Instead of Google, engineers need to employ trusted, authoritative sources for critical technical knowledge, best practices and standards. These sources include internal company systems like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM), ERP or SharePoint sites, as well as trusted, authoritative sources like McGraw Hill or Wiley reference books, ASTM or ASME standards or OnePetro.
In pursuit of this goal, companies must cultivate a knowledge management framework that allows them to capture standards, best practices, trusted reference material and reusable parts information from both inside and outside the organization and put it to good use. Such a framework should be built on:

  • Content—curated from carefully selected and trusted sources inside and outside the organization.
  • Technology—a knowledge management platform designed to be a one stop shop for information.
  • Research tools—powerful search tools, often built in to the knowledge platform, designed to return relevant information.
  • Process—a framework to allow professionals to take advantage of the content, technology and search tools.
By banning Google and developing their own knowledge management framework, companies cut can down on design mistakes and reduce cost overruns.
Chad Hawkinson is vice president of product design at IHS
Posted December 5, 2014

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