If outsourcing of your electronic controls is not part of your strategic plan, It Should Be. All product manufacturers are under intense pressure to rapidly design, develop, test, certify and produce the next-generation product. Increasingly, the single point of leverage where additional capabilities, functionality, and higher-value is the electronic components and software. Product development teams must design and develop electronics which matches marketing requirements; perceived and real customer needs in an era of quickly evolving technology, all while meeting cost targets. Internal product development teams not only must be highly cognizant of customer needs but of all the various technologies which can be brought to bear against these problems.
Increasingly these challenges are filled by outside engineering teams. These teams exist to match customer requirements to technology and must maintain a reservoir of expertise and broad capabilities to achieve success for their customers’ projects. These teams who work with varied amounts of supervision bring project management skills, critical outside perspective and expertise in technologies that your team may only have limited expertise.
In our work over the years building electronic controls for small, 12-person companies to Fortune 10 companies we’ve never found Product Managers that didn’t see opportunities in the market and niches to fill with Engineering Organizations that had enough of the right resources to exploit those opportunities. The company size isn’t of particular importance. The industry doesn’t matter-we’ve found this to be true in industries like Automotive Component Suppliers, Food Processing, HVAC, Drive Systems and many, many others. We hear the following messages over and over:
|PRODUCT MANAGER||ENGINEERING MANAGER|
|“We Constantly miss opportunities around here – we just can’t respond fast enough.”||“We need to build the _______ from the ground up so we can control the revisions and quality!” (Interpretation: protecting my job is top priority).|
|“Our Engineering team is always behind. Off the record, I’m pretty frustrated.”||“We can’t let a 3rd party in here and learn about our product.”|
|“I’ve got my field salespeople screaming at me about different competitive threats, and I can’t make our people understand what we’re facing.”||“We’ve got a lot on our plate, but we can make the __________ happen, we just need a few more months.”|
Frankly, our customers are some of the most influential, savviest, largest development companies in the world and they outsource development projects to us. These are companies with scores of engineers in the US and around the globe. Companies with almost unlimited financial resources and buildings filled with engineers with masters degrees and PhDs. Here’s what these companies have learned:
None of the companies we work with blindly hand out engineering contracts to anyone with a compiler and an oscilloscope. Companies with a history of successful projects, a wealth of endorsements from other customers, the required resources, and the specific technology background required for the project get Contracts.
“Can you provide the names of three customers with similar projects who would use your services again?”
Don’t think seriously about the types of technology that can be an asset to achieving your goals. Revision control systems, teleconferencing, automated resource/problem tracking systems, and project management systems can be handled manually or not at all.
Keep track of defects (hardware or software), resources, enhancements for future versions, and many other types of issues manually. Post-it notes are an especially effective tool for missing your schedules and delivering a product with missing or incomplete functionality.
John S. Rinaldi is Chief Strategist and Director of WOW! for Real Time Automation (RTA) in Pewaukee, WI. With a focus on simplicity, support, expert consulting and tailoring for specific customer applications, RTA is meeting customer needs in applications worldwide. John is not only a recognized expert in industrial networks and an automation strategist but a speaker, blogger, the author of over 100 articles on industrial networking and the author of six books including: