Tips & Tricks

5 Tips to Streamline Your Engineering Department

Your engineering department plays a vital role in ensuring your production runs smoothly. These five tips will help you improve the efficiencies of your design engineers and drafters.

Tip 1

Take the Time to Make It Right

Let’s face it, most if not all CAD engineering teams are ALWAYS under a deadline. As an engineer, you are constantly watching the clock and responding to change requests. This pressure can lead many people to rush through projects, often missing the finer details or making mistakes along the way. If you slow down and allow take time to make it right from the start, you will realize that you work actually gets completed faster.

“I was once tasked with building some fairly complicated medical cabinets, a project that took many hours to engineer. My average for one cabinet was 16-hours.” Says Adam Dirig, Owner of Dirig Design.

“I started off with bad drawings from the architect, which meant that my cabinet programming was sloppy and rushed. I didn’t take the time to add the machining for the hardware during my engineering process. This usually resulted in manual machining in the shop. This was very inefficient and the chance for error was high.”

“I was determined to resolve the problem and improve our process. So, I took the time needed to engineer entire medical cabinet product line properly. This meant I needed to include all the machining for hardware and create a detailed step-by-step manufacturing process, complete with assembly drawings. This saved significant time in production and cut my engineering time in half.”

“This initial investment of time ended up saving approximately 75 hours per project, 4,050 for the year, and $200K in labor.” concluded Adam.

Tip 2

Communication Is Key

It’s important for your CAD engineering team to create a positive relationship with the builders in the shop, rather than having an “office vs shop” mentality.  Consider bringing your shop team’s opinion into your engineering process.  Your builders can help your engineers design products that are easy to build.

An engineer should always establish the initial idea of how products are to be designed, but should seek the shops approval to ensure that what they’ve design will flow smoothly through machining and assembly process. This helps build a strong relationship between the two departments and allows a teamwork mentality to grow within the business.  Communication reduces rework struggles and stress.  When engineers and builders work as a team, the mistakes tend to get fixed quicker because they are looking for a solution rather than spending time on determining who made the mistake or placing blame.

Tip 3

Examine Your Workflows

An engineers job goes beyond the initial work related to developing a product or maintaining catalogs or libraries of products. Your job as an engineer is also to help save time when it comes to the production and manufacturing of the products that you engineer.

One way to determine or measure an efficiency improvement may be to calculate the specific units or individual tasks related to accomplishing a task and try to minimize the overall total. So, think about it – is your CNC operator spending time writing manual programs at your CNC machine?

If so, they could be wasting valuable time that could be spent in other areas of production. Have you thought about the total number of applications you have in place to accomplish your overall goal of getting a project out for delivery?

Far too often, companies we talk to are bogged down by their process and have accumulated multiple channels to drive their production. Minimizing your overall touch points will drastically improve your production and allow for more throughput in your operation and engineering.

Tip 4

Invest In Your Team

Henry Ford once said, “The only thing that is worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay”. Your engineering team plays a vital role in your overall production. Allowing your team to get out-of-touch or stagnate can cause serious problems. Successful business owners recognize this and invest in their team, seeking out training opportunities wherever they may exist. Take part in webinars, user group experiences, factory tours, and education to ensure your team has the knowledge they need to be successful.

When you invest in your team, it not only helps them grow their knowledge, it gives them the confidence they need to stay engaged at work.  The more engaged, the more likely they are to grow into more productive and efficient members of your team.

Tip 5

Maintain a Standard Operating Procedure

Once you have your engineering and production process in place, share it with all departments and personnel. Maintaining an active Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will allow you to systematically evaluate performance goals and identify areas for improvement much quicker. When on boarding new employees, you will find that their on-the-job satisfaction is much higher when they have a documented procedure for success.

A clear and organized engineering process will not only make it easier to spot mistakes and fix them but it will trickle down the chain and provide clarity to the builders which will greatly improve efficiency.

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