Some Aspects of Product and Design Requirements that Should Never be Overlooked
Engineering Insights on the Topic of Requirements
Far too many times, engineering teams simply charge ahead with development efforts (once the requirements are provided), without fully understanding the intent or spirit of some of the requirements. As engineers, we are eager to create, innovate and find solutions to challenges that are presented to us. However, our responsibility goes far beyond finding and implementing technical solutions: we must also apply ourselves to understand the entire picture and overall non-technical objectives in order to make the best possible contribution (while at the same time, attaining a more complete and rewarding sense of achievement for ourselves).
Although marketing and upper management individuals may know what is needed in a product, they may miss out on the creativity and technical know-how of an engineering team (when defining the marketing and user requirements). When there is a disconnect among these teams during the requirements definition phase, there is a strong possibility that a high-quality product with the wrong or improperly implemented features will be designed. In that case, it is not surprising that a competitor with a more collaborative and cross-functional culture will sweep in with a better product.
In other cases, higher-level decision makers in technical teams, during the concept and feasibility phase, do not keep an open mind and decide that a company will have to live with a design that does not fully meet the design requirements. This happens more often than it should, and these individuals count on the company having been through similar situations in the past. As a result, the company accepts the situation, gives in and re-writes some of the requirements.
That is not to say that this approach is always a bad idea—there are times when this approach does make sense. Yet, this is a bad idea when higher-level decision makers do not think “outside the box” and fail to keep an open mind. Higher-level decision makers should trust, motivate and even pressure their teams to come up with solutions that satisfy all requirements (especially during the concept development and feasibility phases, when this is most important).
When faced with this dilemma, try to face the design challenge with the mindset that there are suitable solutions that meet all the requirements and that you are going to find them. This thinking unlocks your mental, creative abilities and sets you off on a path of likely success.
- Cross-functional reviews that include engineering need to become standard practice. (A cross-functional review is one that includes representatives from various functional groups, such as marketing, sales, regulatory conformance and mechanical, electrical and systems engineering, for example.)
- The engineering team needs to be proactive in fully understanding the intent behind the product requirements and needs to take the initiative of offering suggestions and alternatives that may have not been considered.
- For every design challenge, unleash your creativity, be optimistic and honestly aim to satisfy all the design requirements.
- Ensure that you and your team are most aggressively involved in this type of activity when it makes the most sense, given the timeline of the project. It is costly and difficult to change design direction once the concept and feasibility phases are complete.
- When you come up with feasible solutions, ensure that they are well understood by the relevant team players. Remember: although a feasible, good concept may make perfect sense to you, it may not be that clear to a non-technical decision-maker or a person from a different technical discipline.
**The article above is an excerpt of "Top 10 Mechanical Design Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)". If you enjoyed this article, sign up below to receive the full PDF!
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