October 5, 2023
A consultant gets used to receiving emergency calls. Typically they are requests for help in getting a wayward project back on track or to fill in a gap in the design team’s knowledge. Lately though, clients are dealing with requirements for very short lead times for new designs and the initial equipment deliveries. This should not be a big surprise as the average consumer expects anything they want to be delivered to them overnight –with free shipping and a discount code. Billions of people around the world want instant answers via the Internet and get frustrated with Wi-Fi that is slow. Unfortunately, there are somethings that cannot and should not be “instant.” That old saying “nine men, nine women, it still takes nine months to make a baby” naturally comes to mind when this topic is discussed. I would add finding the love of your life, cooking a great meal, writing a masterpiece, and mastering difficult subjects to the “not instant” list. With regard to custom equipment or production prototypes, haste frequently results in less than optimum performance or short service life. Back in the ISO-9000 days we actually had a procedure established with minimum “consideration” times between the approval steps to guard against a premature rush to production. It is quite common for team members to have second thoughts after collectively agreeing that the design is ready to go. It is much cheaper to “improve” equipment while it is still on paper [or in modern terms, virtual] than it is to track down all the components that need revision and reworking. Product “specs” have an annoying tendency to “mission creep” but freezing them too soon is much worse; a wonderfully executed product that does not attract customers should be every project engineer’s worst nightmare. Gear Technology’s online archives won’t contain many mentions of project planning techniques. Few technical papers get written about ways to reduce lead times or avoid mission creep. Should we expand our scope of coverage to include these topics?