The number of hardware companies is growing and products are getting more complex.The nature of every hardware project is very intense, which raises many issues related to management of engineering and manufacturing processes. Product are getting more complex, which involves hardware, electronic and software. According to the latest Manufacturing Insight letter, discrete manufacturers are quickly adopting connected technologies:
One of the most important drivers shaping the manufacturing industry during the next few years is the rapid adoption of smart, connected products and the product-as-a-service revenue model. Consider that by 2017, 70% of global discrete manufacturers will offer connected products, driving increased software content and the need for systems engineering and a product innovation platform.
The growing complexity of products put a lot of pressure on teams. From the early beginning, hardware team is rushing the schedules between working on the prototype, kickstarting a fundraise program and planning how to manufacture at scale. It is very hard to setup a fully fledged product lifecycle solution at this stage. This is why I thought, Kickstarter projects need PLM from the early beginning.
How to balance between the need to setup product data records, manage baselines of your design, bill of materials, make an assessment of product cost and the inability to create fully fledged product lifecycle management
The complexity of new product development makes it hard at the earlier stage, but it can get worst on later stages. There are many examples of hardware project failures. You probably remember gigantic missteps in an extremely complicated Airbus A380 project going back almost 10 years ago – Airbus 380 nightmare – born in storm.
Small manufacturing companies are also in danger. My attention was caught by the last update about problems with MakerBot 3D printer. . Engaged article – Lawsuit claims MakerBot knowingly sold glitchy 3D printers put an alert on potential issues with MakerBot manufacturing and QA processes.
It’s not certain how this lawsuit will shake out at this early stage. However, the evidence presented in the class action isn’t exactly flattering. It suggests that QA had a hard time even getting complete 3D printers to test, which helped get shoddy extruders into the production run.
It made me think, fast growing hardware companies and especially startups are not paying enough attention on importance of engineering and manufacturing process already at very early stage. The chances manufacturing company is already doing product lifecycle management. When you create a CAD design, save it in the computer or the Cloud, back it up, manage versions, produce a Bill of Materials, collaborate with contract manufacturers, plan Quality Assurance and setup testing and compliance processes: you’re doing PLM! But here is the thing. If you do things as they come and don’t plan ahead your PLM process. And the absence of basic processes will hit you at a moment you don’t expect.
What is my conclusion? Balance the need of growing fast with establishing fundamental engineering and manufacturing processes. This is a major challenge every hardware project has. How to balance between the need to setup product data records, manage baselines of your design, bill of materials, make an assessment of product cost and the inability to create fully fledged product lifecycle management solution? You should think about basics – document records, bill of materials, lifecycle stages and change tracking. Setting it right can give you a chance to avoid problems and to provide enough traceability information to management team in case of problems. Just my thoughts…
Image courtesy of 2nix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net