Concurrent engineering is a method used in product development. It is different than the traditional product development approach in that it employs simultaneous, rather than sequential, processes. By completing tasks in parallel, product development can be accomplished more efficiently and at a substantial cost savings.
Rather than completing all physical manufacturing of a prototype prior to performing any testing, concurrent engineering allows for design and analysis to occur at the same time, and multiple times, prior to actual deployment. This multidisciplinary approach emphasizes teamwork through the use of cross-functional teams, and it allows for employees to work collaboratively on all aspects of a project from start to finish.
Also known as the iterative development method, concurrent engineering requires continual review of a team’s progress and frequent revision of project plans. The rationale behind this creative, forward-looking approach is that the earlier that errors can be discovered, the easier and less costly they are to correct. People who use thi smethod claim that it offers several benefits, including increased product quality for the end user, faster product development times, and lower costs for both the manufacturer and the consumer.
There are some drawbacks associated with the initial implementation of concurrent engineering, including the need for considerable organizational restructuring and extensive retraining of workers. Such potentially disruptive changes and added work requirements may be met with resistance from managers and other employees. Also, there are usually considerable difficulties in transferring data among employees in different departments, which may require the additional tracking software applications. In addition to these significant up-front investments, organizations pursuing a concurrent engineering work model must typically wait several years before seeing the benefits of this transition.
Concurrent engineering can be applied to any industry, and by organizations of various sizes. Polaroid, Boeing, NASA, and the European Space Agency are among the most well-known entities that have successfully implemented such programs. In one notable example, General Electric employees were able to reduce the design time associated with several aircraft engine components by approximately 19 weeks through the use of concurrent engineering.