15 February 2023


Collaborative Engineering

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RHEA’s experts have been using concurrent design for nearly two decades to accelerate the early phases of complex engineering projects such as space programmes, defence systems, factory design and luxury yachts.

In this blog series, they share their insights into how you can ensure concurrent design sessions are rigorous and the outcomes are high quality.

By Gwendolyn Kolfschoten, Concurrent Design Expert

Catch up with last month’s post: Part 4 – Quality in is quality out

5. Focus without losing a holistic view

Quality is created by focus; the more we zoom in, the more issues we find and can resolve. However, zooming in too quickly means losing sight of alternatives. It also limits the holistic perspective through which we find issues in interfaces and connections that are often very critical in complex systems.

It is like observing a house from a distance: if you zoom in to the dining room directly, it is hard to get an idea about its size and location. Instead, if you lead the virtual visitor though the door into the hallway and on into the dining room, and show this route on a floorplan, their view of the room will have far more perspective.

We need to do the same when introducing a new subsystem and zooming in on its challenges. First show the team where in the overall system it is located and how it is connected, and then explain the challenges and how they relate to other subsystems.

Zooming in and out

Zooming in and out is not something we need to do only in presentations – it is something that we need to embed in the whole approach to a concurrent design study.

Each session should start with a high-level overview, before zooming in on a specific aspect or domain. Such an overview can be simple: reviewing the key objectives and design drivers, and the progress towards them. It can also help to show an overview of the overall system performance in the current state.

When multiple topics are addressed in one session, it helps to zoom out again before zooming back in. When moving from one detail to another, we may lose people because they lack context. We can address this by zooming back out to look at the overall system before zooming in again.

Finally, at the end of the session, focus back on the overall system and the progress that has been made towards the goal. This gives the team a sense of progress, which helps to motivate them.

Here are some ways to embed this practice in a study.

RHEA Group finance icon

Through the budgets. When a model-based approach is used, overall system budgets, like mass or power budgets, can be used as the high-level overview. By reviewing the budget at the beginning and end of each session, the team can monitor progress and get an overview of the changes.

RHEA Group marketing campaign iconThrough the goal of the study. When the goal of the study and the design drivers are clearly defined, we can use these to create a high-level overview. When domain contributions are presented, we can link them to the goal and assess how it affects the design drivers. Besides the engineering goal, systems often have a clear mission that is also meaningful to people. Being able to contribute to something that will ultimately make the world a bit better gives people purpose, which is a key motivating factor. Emphasizing this will strengthen the focus of the team.

RHEA Group networking iconThough an overview framework. A product tree or full system overview is often too detailed to serve as frame of reference. However, it is also possible to create a system overview at a high level of abstraction, or to use a high-level functional decomposition of the system.

Find out more

In this series of blog posts on concurrent design, we present techniques to improve rigour and quality. These offer a toolbox for concurrent design team leads to support their teams effectively in improving and testing the design. We cover aspects such as how to handle validation when working with rough estimates, how to capture the wisdom of the whole team of experts, and how to keep the team on track and motivated.

Follow RHEA Group on LinkedIn to be alerted to new posts in this series.

Catch up with our previous blog series on 10 Success Factors for Collaborative Design.