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The concept of concurrent engineering (also called design for manufacturing or design for manufacturability) dates back a couple decades. To reduce the risk of a new product design being difficult or impractical to manufacture, engineers from production are invited to participate in the design process where they can assess the manufacturability of the new design earlier in the process than is typical. Without concurrent engineering, new product designs will often move back and forth between engineering and manufacturing until a manufacturable product is defined. This "design it once" approach can greatly shorten time to market, reduce the cost of design and engineering, and produce better products that cost less to produce.
Concurrent engineering advantages can be realized by physical contact -- moving manufacturing engineers into the design engineering workspace or by having regular meetings between the two groups -- or it can be enabled through technology. Since, today, nearly all design and engineering is digital, electronic routing of documents and designs and workflow-based coordination of the concurrent engineering is easily implemented using an engineering control or engineering release system (also called engineering change control system).
These systems use workflow, such as scripting, to route the design to and around all of the participants in the design process and manage the approval and revision process. As each sequential step is completed or participant completes his or her work, the package is forwarded to the next name on the list. If there is a change, the package may be routed back to previous participants for their coordination and approval of the modified design. Workflow scripting can recognize and handle parallel activities and is commonly integrated with document management and document revision control to ensure that everyone is working with the latest version of the design.
Concurrent engineering advantages are not in any way limited to design engineering and manufacturing. The pressure on flexibility and fast time-to-market demands that design and engineering proceed as quickly as possible while producing the best design the first time. So, companies are extending the concurrent engineering idea to include a breadth of departments -- for example, materials, finance and logistics -- essentially, all stakeholders that may have something to contribute to a product's success. Marketing needs to be in the loop, as well, to ensure that customer requirements are not lost or compromised in the process.
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