Since I moved from New England I have worked with several of the largest NW companies. My job with these companies have mostly centered around the development and manufacture of their products. With all of these companies I have witnessed a general lack of engineering discipline being applied to their development efforts. Indeed, I would suggest that often the processes applied resemble the old adage of a thousand monkeys with typewriters. Engineers of these companies would cry out “we follow a PDP! I would contend that this is mostly lip service. Yes, most of these companies have a PDP but few follow it with proper rigor. (See my earlier post on this subject). The Management of these companies often do not understand hardware development. Most seem to come from software backgrounds often devoid of proper engineering learnings, sorry but bits don’t use physics. This leaves the companies without a deep understanding of how to truly develop high quality hardware products. One solution they substitute is the tossing of money at the wall with the hope something will stick, the monkeys at work. I wonder if the stock holders truly knew how much time and money waste there was if they would be very pleased.
While the above statement may appear harsh (as meant), it is my intent simply to be frank (the Yankee in me). I have voiced this before, the level of product development and engineering has not met a high bar. I have nearly four decades of experience delivering on demanding products such as weapons systems, medical devices and surgical instruments. Over this time, I have grown to understand what a quality product development program consists of. If there is a desire to raise the bar to meet such standards then changes in processes and methods, more, in fundamental expectations needs to be made. The creation of and adherence to a rigorous PDP with supporting structures, such as proper design reviews, is a primary requirement. I believe that much can be accomplished with the application of concept generation meetings, brain storming for those less schooled in the craft. I’ll write more about this in my next post.
The following sheet metal corrosion issue is recent example of a miss that occurred. In this example, the PPAP (Design Review) process if practiced would have challenged the completeness of the engineering by highlighting missing or incomplete analysis or the completeness of the manufacturing processes.
A Sheet metal corrosion; there was no understanding that the use of zinc would be problematic with salt spray, that the equipment used to fabricate the components, either laser cutting or the raised burr from punching and the lack of high-end deburr equipment owned by the vendors, would compromise the powder coat process. This demonstrated a lack of depth concerning that zinc would fail in such an environment and that barrier protection was the only method to save the zinc. However, this was further exacerbated by a lack of understanding that powder coats are not impervious to moisture and therefore zinc would fail within a salt spray environment. Yes, they were well schooled but simply, the engineering team was too inexperienced, i.e. young, to know this (See the LEGOS post)
With all of these companies and within their engineering teams there, more often than not, a lack of documentation, including tolerance studies, assembly drawings, analysis, manufacturing documentation, line layouts, detailed production process plans, etc., simply incomplete or just missing. This lack of discipline in the craft exemplifies how casual much of the development process is actually done. I challenge the reader to be truly honest concerning this. I may be provocative but I am also truthful. If the desire is to be world class, then more than a written process needs to be in place.