Concurrent engineering or Simultaneous designing has some bearing on component approach for design. However, the implications here relate to entire project, and not just the product. A product or an aspect of a project is recognised as an entity and then designed, produced as operating in a larger context. Till recently, these were dealt as distinctive task modules, and handled in a sequential manner. However in this process whenever a major change was proposed, everything had to be reset, forcing rethink and rework. It increased the ‘development time’ of a project.
An Integrated Product Development IPD, as the Concurrent Engineering is sometimes referred to, allows several teams to work simultaneously. It brings together multi-disciplinary teams working in diverse locations, taking advantage of locale talent or resources, the daytime zones and climatic conditions. The teams could be departmental, outsourced facility or free lancing entities.
The simultaneous approach needs, live or virtual linkage channels for very fast communications. Concepts, ideas, designs, specifications and alternatives are exchanged instantly, and shared with the project leader, teams handling specific tasks, and often all stack holders. Sharing may also be through a public domain like internet world-wide-web allowing anyone to pass an opinion or make a business offer. Concurrent engineering offers gains, such as, reduced product development time and cost, reduced design rework, and improved communications.
For example, a significant design change in structural design of a bridge span will affect design of many other sub systems. It could mean change of loads on the columns, foundation structures, scaffolding requirements etc. Each of these would have new design parameters, but with electronic drafting tools and instant communication means, all design changes can be apparent to all the concerned agencies, immediately.
Concurrent Engineering or Simultaneous Designing works with following notions:
A system can be perceived as consisting of several independent, and inter-dependent subsystems. The nature of the dependency is defined so that the subsystems can be dealt by the same team (sequentially) or by different teams (simultaneously -in parallel mode).
Association of different teams allows superior technological input. Different teams working in parallel mode offer faster a throughput. Teams located in different time zones though do not fully operate in parallel mode, offer advantage of local technologies and 24x7 day-light working hours.
Virtual parallel processing of projects occur in many different ways. Database, spreadsheet, BIM, CAD drawings and other documents can be altered by many different users, with each version or layer identified separately and a possibility of assimilating (merging) it selectively.
Current days high speed virtual communication (broad band internet, video conferencing) allow changes to be proposed, confirmed and accommodated in real time mode.
The evolution of design becomes participatory. It does not remain restricted to hired or appointed experts, but becomes a public domain affair with inventors, innovators and other free lancers offering novel ideas. Such offers are usually on a try it - like it - buy it basis, i.e. without any consultancy charges or purchase-payment obligations.
Concurrent Engineering or Simultaneous Designing works best when resource constraints are very acute. It also works well where technologies that are uncertain or less defined now, can also be included later. It helps in completion of projects in the shortest possible time and maximises the profit or advantage. It matches tasks to available human resources, machine capacities. Organization dabbling in off the track jobs cannot suddenly recruit new employees, upgrade the competence of staff or resort to over-time payments for the extra work, efficiently use the concurrent engineering. Concurrent Engineering or Simultaneous designing is one of the best methods to infuse new technologies, adjust to erratic finance flows and cope up with external factors like climate, political conditions, etc. These methods allow use of human and other physical resources however, remote they may be.