Crossfunctional Teams

Concurrent Engineering



Strategies At
Clorox Corp.
DuPont Corp.
Invar Corp.
Nortel Corp.

Table of Contents

Concurrent engineering is a business strategy which replaces the traditional product development process with one in which tasks are done in parallel and there is an early consideration for every aspect of a pr oduct's development process. This strategy focuses on the optimization and distribution of a firm's resources in t he design and development process to ensure effective and efficient product development process.
Need for Concurrent Engineering
In today's business world, corporations must be able to react to the changing market needs ra pidly, effectively, and responsively. They must be able to reduce their time to market and adapt to the changing environments. Decisions must be made quickly and they must be done right the first time out. Corporations can no longer waits time repeating tasks, thereby prolonging the time it takes to bring new products to market. Therefore, concurrent engineering has emerged as way of bringing rapi d solutions to product design and development process.

Concurrent engineering is indisputably the wave of the future for new product development for all companies regardless of their size, sophistication, or product portfolio. In order to be compet itive, corporations must alter their product and process development cycle to be able to complete div erse tasks concurrently. This new process will benefit the company, although it will require a large amount of refinement in its implementation. This is because, concurrent engineering is a process th at must be reviewed and adjusted for continuous improvements of engineering and business operations.

The Concurrent Engineering Approach
Concurrent engineering is a business strategy which replaces the traditional product developm ent process with one in which tasks are done in parallel and there is an early consideration for ever y aspect of a product's development process. This strategy focuses on the optimization and distribut ion of a firm's resources in the design and development process to ensure an effective and efficient product development process. It mandates major changes within the organizations and firms that use i t, due to the people and process integration requirements. Collaboration is a must for individuals, groups, departments, and separate organizations within the firm. Therefore, it cannot be applied at leisure. A firm must be dedicated to the long term implementation, appraisal, and continuous revisi on of a concurrent engineering process.
Strategic Plan of Concurrent Engineering
Concurrent engineering is recognized as a strategic weapon that businesses must use for effec tive and efficient product development. It is not a trivial task, but a complex strategic plan that demands full corporate commitment, therefore strong leadership and teamwork go hand and hand with suc cessful concurrent engineering programs.

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 w ithout 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
oncurrent 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 p lanning, 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.

  • Get a strong commitment to from senior management.
  • Establish unified project goals and a clear business mission.
  • Develop a detailed plan early in the process.
  • Continually review your progress and revise your plan.
  • Develop project leaders that have an overall vision of the project and goals.
  • Analyze your market and know your customers.
  • Suppress individualism and foster a team concept.
  • Establish and cultivate cross-functional integration and collaboration.
  • Transfer technology between individuals and departments.
  • Break project into its natural phases.
  • Develop metrics.
  • Set milestones throughout the development process.
  • Collectively work on all parts of project.
  • Reduce costs and time to market.
  • Complete tasks in parallel.

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.

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.

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.

Regardless of the type of application, there are significant benefits to the firms or organiz ations that use crossfunctional teams.

List all the benifits...

left Last Updated: March 16, 1998
Copyright 1998 Synthesis Coalition
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