Hardware engineering: can we do things differently?

Hardware engineering: can we do things differently?

08 May 2020

A Flip-Thinking calendar hangs in a prominent place next to the coffee machine in the office at Yellax. A calendar with 365 pages full of thought-provoking statements, stories, questions and illustrations that stimulate your imagination and help you look at things differently. The statement above immediately calls the world of hardware engineering to mind. A world that employs many specialists who are undisputed experts in their field and who do their utmost to achieve the best possible result. On time, within budget and to the customer’s entire satisfaction. Even so, we still have to ask ‘Can we do things differently?’

Note that asking ourselves whether we can do things differently is not the same as saying that we mustdo things differently! So what is the difference? The difference is: “We have always done it this way”. If force of habit is the greatest barrier standing in the way of objective perception, maybe it is time for your organisation to look at the tasks involved in hardware engineering through the eyes of an outsider. To decide whether we are still focused on working as a team to produce an optimal result. We hope that this blog will encourage you to look at your organisation from a different perspective and offer tools to help you do so.  
.

Innovation in small doses

Suppose that a technical innovation saves time, gives you greater flexibility during the design process and is affordable. Would you consider using it? The rate of technological advancement in the industrial automation sector far outstrips acceptance. The reluctance to adopt bus technologies for signal transfer that we see in some sectors is a striking example. Are these and other technologies not tried and tested enough, or has additional training for technical staff been neglected? Many customers are afraid to pioneer the use of new technologies. They prefer to avoid an experimental living lab situation in systems that have a service life of 20 years. However, innovation can often save money. It is important to monitor technical advancement rationally and apply it when it offers benefits for the customer. Completing an initial pilot project familiarises the team with the technology and generates feedback on the innovation. At this point, you can decide whether or not to include the innovation in your standard. Because innovation is not the same as zigzagging; i.e. reinventing the wheel in each project. To sum up, we think that some companies should experiment with different technologies more often. Customers will appreciate the new ideas!
.

Total cost of ownership, thinking in terms of value for the customer

Price is generally the most important factor for customers in the electrical engineering sector. Engineers and buyers also look closely at pricing. However, the fact that the purchase price is still the centre of attention in most cases is shocking in 2019. The total cost of ownership is far more important from a customer value perspective. This shift in thinking cannot solely be driven by system integrators or machine producers. Customers also need to change their thinking. Although it is an assumption, we believe that hard facts and figures are the best way of convincing customers. One way of achieving this is to consider management and maintenance early on in the design phase. We also see initiatives where electrical systems are supplied under a long-term equipment-as-a-service arrangement. One of the first of these initiatives was offered by Philips, which decided to sell light rather than lamps. This resulted in major energy and maintenance savings for the customer. Furthermore, price often diverts attention away from sustainability, an uncomfortable truth that we will not examine further in this blog.
.

Standardisation as the only way of achieving uniform quality

Fortunately, in most companies that we visit, the team of hardware engineers generally works in the same way. The major advantage here is that the panel building workshop and field sales staff do not have to deal with significant differences in the technical designs and specification descriptions in documents. Standardisation is the only way of achieving uniform quality. It is important to recognise which factors are important for ‘standardisation’ and ‘optimisation’ as umbrella terms.
.

Agreements about information provision

First of all, it is important to make agreements about the work flow and the flow of information between the parties that are involved, such as the customer, mechanical engineering colleagues and software colleagues. Consideration must be given to the procedures for handling changes as projects progress. Make sure that information becomes available on time, in the right format, in the right place and, last but not least, without omissions. We see that email is used as a platform for information exchange far too often. Setting up a single central location for controlling documents via version management is much more effective. A good information flow is a prerequisite for any electrical engineering design. Questions that should be asked in this respect include: Who delivers data? Which data will be taken as a basis for our engineering activities? Who determines I/O allocation? Who orders field/cabinet materials? Everybody understands the need for good information provision, however in practice it is one of the greatest bottlenecks faced by an engineer. The right format reduces the number of times that information has to be retyped (to 0 ideally!). The information source must be aware that good information provision is essential to completing a project on time. The graph below shows this relationship. The importance of good information provision in respect of employee satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Does your organisation consider these issues?
.

Component standardisation

Selecting materials and components is one of the most important activities of a hardware engineer. Standardising on a fixed set of products has many benefits:

  • Fewer arguments about the technical design
  • A reduced risk of errors in relation to the engineer, panel construction and on site
  • Fewer “new entries” in systems (item management in different systems)
  • Less communication between parties (supplier, engineer, purchase, installers/users)
  • Less complexity in the management and maintenance phase thanks to a reduction in the number of spare parts
  • Easier management of test documents and specification sheets
  • Purchase benefits

The impact of this form of standardisation is much greater than people generally think. This applies to system integrators, machine producers, HVAC installers and end customers. Important note: if the sales department does not usually sell standardised products, standardisation is a complete waste of time.
.

Standardise on a drawing method and coding type

The drawing method and coding type are often the subject of much debate. These debates generally take place between the real specialists. One characteristic of these debates is that there are in fact multiple solutions that lead to a good final result. So everybody is right and endless debate can (and does) take place. Yellax intends to publish a blog about a possible approach for steering this process of standardisation in the right direction later on. Taster: have the courage of your convictions and make choices.

Good coding that benefits different disciplines is important. This applies to mechanical engineering, PLC software and electrical engineering. The ISA-88 standard and NEN-EN-IEC 81346 are examples of coding systems.

We could devote a complete blog to the choice between functional and traditional (product-oriented) drawing methods. We will mention a few points here, in the knowledge that this may lead to heated discussion. Even so, we want to touch on this subject briefly and objectively.

The traditional drawing method can be a good choice:

  1. If your business model focuses on panel construction;
  2. If the panel construction process has not yet been automated to any significant extent;
  3. If the customer is not prepared to pay for the long-term benefits.

The functional drawing method can be useful:

  1. During engineering and when automating the engineering process;
  2. During the life-cycle of the system due to the flexibility it offers for changes and troubleshooting.

The transition from the traditional drawing method to the functional drawing method can have a considerable impact. One thing is certain; many people will have to get used to it. There may also be a legacy with certain customers, which makes it impossible to (easily) use the new approach. We hardly ever see a transition in the other direction, i.e. from functional to traditional. Except in cases where the change process has failed.
.

Choice of systems

Standardisation also means that choices must be made in terms of the systems used. This extends beyond the hardware department. Particularly as automation becomes more widespread within projects/companies. Systems are there to satisfy needs. Needs that can be responded to (possibly in combination) from a hardware perspective.

  1. Electrical engineering CAD system
  2. Panel design (2D/3D)
  3. Engineering calculations
  4. Item management (what is the master, what information is stored where)
  5. ERP system
  6. Automation of the above
    .

Roles

The roles involved in producing a hardware design differ greatly between companies. We believe that different needs also come into play in different situations. So it is surprising to learn that the structure of the department has generally grown organically. In contrast to other sectors, this structure is hardly ever subjected to a review. Here again, it is important to be able to explain why the structure is as it is. The lack of a clear answer is reason enough for further evaluation. Questions that you can ask about the structure include:

  1. Is there a difference between a hardware engineer and a draughtsman?
  2. Is there a separate R&D department (or R&D work group)?
  3. Is anybody responsible for item management?
  4. Is there a lead engineer (also operationally active) or a project leader (managerial role)?
  5. Is the structure fixed or (deliberately) different for each project?
  6. Is anybody responsible for compliance with standards and regulations?
    .

Summary

The way of working has an impact on the final result and customer satisfaction. Standardisation is important, but also a sensitive issue in some organisations. Standardising is not easy. This is not only true in a technical sense, but also organisationally. In spite of the challenges presented by change, we hope that you will continue to question your approach: “We do things in a certain way (and have done so for years). Is that still the right choice today?”

A Flip-Thinking calendar hangs in a prominent place next to the coffee machine in the office at Yellax. A calendar with 365 pages full of thought-provoking statements, stories, questions and illustrations that stimulate your imagination and help you look at things differently. The statement above immediately calls the world of hardware engineering to mind. A world that employs many specialists who are undisputed experts in their field and who do their utmost to achieve the best possible result. On time, within budget and to the customer’s entire satisfaction. Even so, we still have to ask ‘Can we do things differently?’

Note that asking ourselves whether we can do things differently is not the same as saying that we mustdo things differently! So what is the difference? The difference is: “We have always done it this way”. If force of habit is the greatest barrier standing in the way of objective perception, maybe it is time for your organisation to look at the tasks involved in hardware engineering through the eyes of an outsider. To decide whether we are still focused on working as a team to produce an optimal result. We hope that this blog will encourage you to look at your organisation from a different perspective and offer tools to help you do so.  
.

Innovation in small doses

Suppose that a technical innovation saves time, gives you greater flexibility during the design process and is affordable. Would you consider using it? The rate of technological advancement in the industrial automation sector far outstrips acceptance. The reluctance to adopt bus technologies for signal transfer that we see in some sectors is a striking example. Are these and other technologies not tried and tested enough, or has additional training for technical staff been neglected? Many customers are afraid to pioneer the use of new technologies. They prefer to avoid an experimental living lab situation in systems that have a service life of 20 years. However, innovation can often save money. It is important to monitor technical advancement rationally and apply it when it offers benefits for the customer. Completing an initial pilot project familiarises the team with the technology and generates feedback on the innovation. At this point, you can decide whether or not to include the innovation in your standard. Because innovation is not the same as zigzagging; i.e. reinventing the wheel in each project. To sum up, we think that some companies should experiment with different technologies more often. Customers will appreciate the new ideas!
.

Total cost of ownership, thinking in terms of value for the customer

Price is generally the most important factor for customers in the electrical engineering sector. Engineers and buyers also look closely at pricing. However, the fact that the purchase price is still the centre of attention in most cases is shocking in 2019. The total cost of ownership is far more important from a customer value perspective. This shift in thinking cannot solely be driven by system integrators or machine producers. Customers also need to change their thinking. Although it is an assumption, we believe that hard facts and figures are the best way of convincing customers. One way of achieving this is to consider management and maintenance early on in the design phase. We also see initiatives where electrical systems are supplied under a long-term equipment-as-a-service arrangement. One of the first of these initiatives was offered by Philips, which decided to sell light rather than lamps. This resulted in major energy and maintenance savings for the customer. Furthermore, price often diverts attention away from sustainability, an uncomfortable truth that we will not examine further in this blog.
.

Standardisation as the only way of achieving uniform quality

Fortunately, in most companies that we visit, the team of hardware engineers generally works in the same way. The major advantage here is that the panel building workshop and field sales staff do not have to deal with significant differences in the technical designs and specification descriptions in documents. Standardisation is the only way of achieving uniform quality. It is important to recognise which factors are important for ‘standardisation’ and ‘optimisation’ as umbrella terms.
.

Agreements about information provision

First of all, it is important to make agreements about the work flow and the flow of information between the parties that are involved, such as the customer, mechanical engineering colleagues and software colleagues. Consideration must be given to the procedures for handling changes as projects progress. Make sure that information becomes available on time, in the right format, in the right place and, last but not least, without omissions. We see that email is used as a platform for information exchange far too often. Setting up a single central location for controlling documents via version management is much more effective. A good information flow is a prerequisite for any electrical engineering design. Questions that should be asked in this respect include: Who delivers data? Which data will be taken as a basis for our engineering activities? Who determines I/O allocation? Who orders field/cabinet materials? Everybody understands the need for good information provision, however in practice it is one of the greatest bottlenecks faced by an engineer. The right format reduces the number of times that information has to be retyped (to 0 ideally!). The information source must be aware that good information provision is essential to completing a project on time. The graph below shows this relationship. The importance of good information provision in respect of employee satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Does your organisation consider these issues?
.

Component standardisation

Selecting materials and components is one of the most important activities of a hardware engineer. Standardising on a fixed set of products has many benefits:

  • Fewer arguments about the technical design
  • A reduced risk of errors in relation to the engineer, panel construction and on site
  • Fewer “new entries” in systems (item management in different systems)
  • Less communication between parties (supplier, engineer, purchase, installers/users)
  • Less complexity in the management and maintenance phase thanks to a reduction in the number of spare parts
  • Easier management of test documents and specification sheets
  • Purchase benefits

The impact of this form of standardisation is much greater than people generally think. This applies to system integrators, machine producers, HVAC installers and end customers. Important note: if the sales department does not usually sell standardised products, standardisation is a complete waste of time.
.

Standardise on a drawing method and coding type

The drawing method and coding type are often the subject of much debate. These debates generally take place between the real specialists. One characteristic of these debates is that there are in fact multiple solutions that lead to a good final result. So everybody is right and endless debate can (and does) take place. Yellax intends to publish a blog about a possible approach for steering this process of standardisation in the right direction later on. Taster: have the courage of your convictions and make choices.

Good coding that benefits different disciplines is important. This applies to mechanical engineering, PLC software and electrical engineering. The ISA-88 standard and NEN-EN-IEC 81346 are examples of coding systems.

We could devote a complete blog to the choice between functional and traditional (product-oriented) drawing methods. We will mention a few points here, in the knowledge that this may lead to heated discussion. Even so, we want to touch on this subject briefly and objectively.

The traditional drawing method can be a good choice:

  1. If your business model focuses on panel construction;
  2. If the panel construction process has not yet been automated to any significant extent;
  3. If the customer is not prepared to pay for the long-term benefits.

The functional drawing method can be useful:

  1. During engineering and when automating the engineering process;
  2. During the life-cycle of the system due to the flexibility it offers for changes and troubleshooting.

The transition from the traditional drawing method to the functional drawing method can have a considerable impact. One thing is certain; many people will have to get used to it. There may also be a legacy with certain customers, which makes it impossible to (easily) use the new approach. We hardly ever see a transition in the other direction, i.e. from functional to traditional. Except in cases where the change process has failed.
.

Choice of systems

Standardisation also means that choices must be made in terms of the systems used. This extends beyond the hardware department. Particularly as automation becomes more widespread within projects/companies. Systems are there to satisfy needs. Needs that can be responded to (possibly in combination) from a hardware perspective.

  1. Electrical engineering CAD system
  2. Panel design (2D/3D)
  3. Engineering calculations
  4. Item management (what is the master, what information is stored where)
  5. ERP system
  6. Automation of the above
    .

Roles

The roles involved in producing a hardware design differ greatly between companies. We believe that different needs also come into play in different situations. So it is surprising to learn that the structure of the department has generally grown organically. In contrast to other sectors, this structure is hardly ever subjected to a review. Here again, it is important to be able to explain why the structure is as it is. The lack of a clear answer is reason enough for further evaluation. Questions that you can ask about the structure include:

  1. Is there a difference between a hardware engineer and a draughtsman?
  2. Is there a separate R&D department (or R&D work group)?
  3. Is anybody responsible for item management?
  4. Is there a lead engineer (also operationally active) or a project leader (managerial role)?
  5. Is the structure fixed or (deliberately) different for each project?
  6. Is anybody responsible for compliance with standards and regulations?
    .

Summary

The way of working has an impact on the final result and customer satisfaction. Standardisation is important, but also a sensitive issue in some organisations. Standardising is not easy. This is not only true in a technical sense, but also organisationally. In spite of the challenges presented by change, we hope that you will continue to question your approach: “We do things in a certain way (and have done so for years). Is that still the right choice today?”

A Flip-Thinking calendar hangs in a prominent place next to the coffee machine in the office at Yellax. A calendar with 365 pages full of thought-provoking statements, stories, questions and illustrations that stimulate your imagination and help you look at things differently. The statement above immediately calls the world of hardware engineering to mind. A world that employs many specialists who are undisputed experts in their field and who do their utmost to achieve the best possible result. On time, within budget and to the customer’s entire satisfaction. Even so, we still have to ask ‘Can we do things differently?’

Note that asking ourselves whether we can do things differently is not the same as saying that we mustdo things differently! So what is the difference? The difference is: “We have always done it this way”. If force of habit is the greatest barrier standing in the way of objective perception, maybe it is time for your organisation to look at the tasks involved in hardware engineering through the eyes of an outsider. To decide whether we are still focused on working as a team to produce an optimal result. We hope that this blog will encourage you to look at your organisation from a different perspective and offer tools to help you do so.  
.

Innovation in small doses

Suppose that a technical innovation saves time, gives you greater flexibility during the design process and is affordable. Would you consider using it? The rate of technological advancement in the industrial automation sector far outstrips acceptance. The reluctance to adopt bus technologies for signal transfer that we see in some sectors is a striking example. Are these and other technologies not tried and tested enough, or has additional training for technical staff been neglected? Many customers are afraid to pioneer the use of new technologies. They prefer to avoid an experimental living lab situation in systems that have a service life of 20 years. However, innovation can often save money. It is important to monitor technical advancement rationally and apply it when it offers benefits for the customer. Completing an initial pilot project familiarises the team with the technology and generates feedback on the innovation. At this point, you can decide whether or not to include the innovation in your standard. Because innovation is not the same as zigzagging; i.e. reinventing the wheel in each project. To sum up, we think that some companies should experiment with different technologies more often. Customers will appreciate the new ideas!
.

Total cost of ownership, thinking in terms of value for the customer

Price is generally the most important factor for customers in the electrical engineering sector. Engineers and buyers also look closely at pricing. However, the fact that the purchase price is still the centre of attention in most cases is shocking in 2019. The total cost of ownership is far more important from a customer value perspective. This shift in thinking cannot solely be driven by system integrators or machine producers. Customers also need to change their thinking. Although it is an assumption, we believe that hard facts and figures are the best way of convincing customers. One way of achieving this is to consider management and maintenance early on in the design phase. We also see initiatives where electrical systems are supplied under a long-term equipment-as-a-service arrangement. One of the first of these initiatives was offered by Philips, which decided to sell light rather than lamps. This resulted in major energy and maintenance savings for the customer. Furthermore, price often diverts attention away from sustainability, an uncomfortable truth that we will not examine further in this blog.
.

Standardisation as the only way of achieving uniform quality

Fortunately, in most companies that we visit, the team of hardware engineers generally works in the same way. The major advantage here is that the panel building workshop and field sales staff do not have to deal with significant differences in the technical designs and specification descriptions in documents. Standardisation is the only way of achieving uniform quality. It is important to recognise which factors are important for ‘standardisation’ and ‘optimisation’ as umbrella terms.
.

Agreements about information provision

First of all, it is important to make agreements about the work flow and the flow of information between the parties that are involved, such as the customer, mechanical engineering colleagues and software colleagues. Consideration must be given to the procedures for handling changes as projects progress. Make sure that information becomes available on time, in the right format, in the right place and, last but not least, without omissions. We see that email is used as a platform for information exchange far too often. Setting up a single central location for controlling documents via version management is much more effective. A good information flow is a prerequisite for any electrical engineering design. Questions that should be asked in this respect include: Who delivers data? Which data will be taken as a basis for our engineering activities? Who determines I/O allocation? Who orders field/cabinet materials? Everybody understands the need for good information provision, however in practice it is one of the greatest bottlenecks faced by an engineer. The right format reduces the number of times that information has to be retyped (to 0 ideally!). The information source must be aware that good information provision is essential to completing a project on time. The graph below shows this relationship. The importance of good information provision in respect of employee satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Does your organisation consider these issues?
.

Component standardisation

Selecting materials and components is one of the most important activities of a hardware engineer. Standardising on a fixed set of products has many benefits:

  • Fewer arguments about the technical design
  • A reduced risk of errors in relation to the engineer, panel construction and on site
  • Fewer “new entries” in systems (item management in different systems)
  • Less communication between parties (supplier, engineer, purchase, installers/users)
  • Less complexity in the management and maintenance phase thanks to a reduction in the number of spare parts
  • Easier management of test documents and specification sheets
  • Purchase benefits

The impact of this form of standardisation is much greater than people generally think. This applies to system integrators, machine producers, HVAC installers and end customers. Important note: if the sales department does not usually sell standardised products, standardisation is a complete waste of time.
.

Standardise on a drawing method and coding type

The drawing method and coding type are often the subject of much debate. These debates generally take place between the real specialists. One characteristic of these debates is that there are in fact multiple solutions that lead to a good final result. So everybody is right and endless debate can (and does) take place. Yellax intends to publish a blog about a possible approach for steering this process of standardisation in the right direction later on. Taster: have the courage of your convictions and make choices.

Good coding that benefits different disciplines is important. This applies to mechanical engineering, PLC software and electrical engineering. The ISA-88 standard and NEN-EN-IEC 81346 are examples of coding systems.

We could devote a complete blog to the choice between functional and traditional (product-oriented) drawing methods. We will mention a few points here, in the knowledge that this may lead to heated discussion. Even so, we want to touch on this subject briefly and objectively.

The traditional drawing method can be a good choice:

  1. If your business model focuses on panel construction;
  2. If the panel construction process has not yet been automated to any significant extent;
  3. If the customer is not prepared to pay for the long-term benefits.

The functional drawing method can be useful:

  1. During engineering and when automating the engineering process;
  2. During the life-cycle of the system due to the flexibility it offers for changes and troubleshooting.

The transition from the traditional drawing method to the functional drawing method can have a considerable impact. One thing is certain; many people will have to get used to it. There may also be a legacy with certain customers, which makes it impossible to (easily) use the new approach. We hardly ever see a transition in the other direction, i.e. from functional to traditional. Except in cases where the change process has failed.
.

Choice of systems

Standardisation also means that choices must be made in terms of the systems used. This extends beyond the hardware department. Particularly as automation becomes more widespread within projects/companies. Systems are there to satisfy needs. Needs that can be responded to (possibly in combination) from a hardware perspective.

  1. Electrical engineering CAD system
  2. Panel design (2D/3D)
  3. Engineering calculations
  4. Item management (what is the master, what information is stored where)
  5. ERP system
  6. Automation of the above
    .

Roles

The roles involved in producing a hardware design differ greatly between companies. We believe that different needs also come into play in different situations. So it is surprising to learn that the structure of the department has generally grown organically. In contrast to other sectors, this structure is hardly ever subjected to a review. Here again, it is important to be able to explain why the structure is as it is. The lack of a clear answer is reason enough for further evaluation. Questions that you can ask about the structure include:

  1. Is there a difference between a hardware engineer and a draughtsman?
  2. Is there a separate R&D department (or R&D work group)?
  3. Is anybody responsible for item management?
  4. Is there a lead engineer (also operationally active) or a project leader (managerial role)?
  5. Is the structure fixed or (deliberately) different for each project?
  6. Is anybody responsible for compliance with standards and regulations?
    .

Summary

The way of working has an impact on the final result and customer satisfaction. Standardisation is important, but also a sensitive issue in some organisations. Standardising is not easy. This is not only true in a technical sense, but also organisationally. In spite of the challenges presented by change, we hope that you will continue to question your approach: “We do things in a certain way (and have done so for years). Is that still the right choice today?”

A Flip-Thinking calendar hangs in a prominent place next to the coffee machine in the office at Yellax. A calendar with 365 pages full of thought-provoking statements, stories, questions and illustrations that stimulate your imagination and help you look at things differently. The statement above immediately calls the world of hardware engineering to mind. A world that employs many specialists who are undisputed experts in their field and who do their utmost to achieve the best possible result. On time, within budget and to the customer’s entire satisfaction. Even so, we still have to ask ‘Can we do things differently?’

Note that asking ourselves whether we can do things differently is not the same as saying that we mustdo things differently! So what is the difference? The difference is: “We have always done it this way”. If force of habit is the greatest barrier standing in the way of objective perception, maybe it is time for your organisation to look at the tasks involved in hardware engineering through the eyes of an outsider. To decide whether we are still focused on working as a team to produce an optimal result. We hope that this blog will encourage you to look at your organisation from a different perspective and offer tools to help you do so.  
.

Innovation in small doses

Suppose that a technical innovation saves time, gives you greater flexibility during the design process and is affordable. Would you consider using it? The rate of technological advancement in the industrial automation sector far outstrips acceptance. The reluctance to adopt bus technologies for signal transfer that we see in some sectors is a striking example. Are these and other technologies not tried and tested enough, or has additional training for technical staff been neglected? Many customers are afraid to pioneer the use of new technologies. They prefer to avoid an experimental living lab situation in systems that have a service life of 20 years. However, innovation can often save money. It is important to monitor technical advancement rationally and apply it when it offers benefits for the customer. Completing an initial pilot project familiarises the team with the technology and generates feedback on the innovation. At this point, you can decide whether or not to include the innovation in your standard. Because innovation is not the same as zigzagging; i.e. reinventing the wheel in each project. To sum up, we think that some companies should experiment with different technologies more often. Customers will appreciate the new ideas!
.

Total cost of ownership, thinking in terms of value for the customer

Price is generally the most important factor for customers in the electrical engineering sector. Engineers and buyers also look closely at pricing. However, the fact that the purchase price is still the centre of attention in most cases is shocking in 2019. The total cost of ownership is far more important from a customer value perspective. This shift in thinking cannot solely be driven by system integrators or machine producers. Customers also need to change their thinking. Although it is an assumption, we believe that hard facts and figures are the best way of convincing customers. One way of achieving this is to consider management and maintenance early on in the design phase. We also see initiatives where electrical systems are supplied under a long-term equipment-as-a-service arrangement. One of the first of these initiatives was offered by Philips, which decided to sell light rather than lamps. This resulted in major energy and maintenance savings for the customer. Furthermore, price often diverts attention away from sustainability, an uncomfortable truth that we will not examine further in this blog.
.

Standardisation as the only way of achieving uniform quality

Fortunately, in most companies that we visit, the team of hardware engineers generally works in the same way. The major advantage here is that the panel building workshop and field sales staff do not have to deal with significant differences in the technical designs and specification descriptions in documents. Standardisation is the only way of achieving uniform quality. It is important to recognise which factors are important for ‘standardisation’ and ‘optimisation’ as umbrella terms.
.

Agreements about information provision

First of all, it is important to make agreements about the work flow and the flow of information between the parties that are involved, such as the customer, mechanical engineering colleagues and software colleagues. Consideration must be given to the procedures for handling changes as projects progress. Make sure that information becomes available on time, in the right format, in the right place and, last but not least, without omissions. We see that email is used as a platform for information exchange far too often. Setting up a single central location for controlling documents via version management is much more effective. A good information flow is a prerequisite for any electrical engineering design. Questions that should be asked in this respect include: Who delivers data? Which data will be taken as a basis for our engineering activities? Who determines I/O allocation? Who orders field/cabinet materials? Everybody understands the need for good information provision, however in practice it is one of the greatest bottlenecks faced by an engineer. The right format reduces the number of times that information has to be retyped (to 0 ideally!). The information source must be aware that good information provision is essential to completing a project on time. The graph below shows this relationship. The importance of good information provision in respect of employee satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Does your organisation consider these issues?
.

Component standardisation

Selecting materials and components is one of the most important activities of a hardware engineer. Standardising on a fixed set of products has many benefits:

  • Fewer arguments about the technical design
  • A reduced risk of errors in relation to the engineer, panel construction and on site
  • Fewer “new entries” in systems (item management in different systems)
  • Less communication between parties (supplier, engineer, purchase, installers/users)
  • Less complexity in the management and maintenance phase thanks to a reduction in the number of spare parts
  • Easier management of test documents and specification sheets
  • Purchase benefits

The impact of this form of standardisation is much greater than people generally think. This applies to system integrators, machine producers, HVAC installers and end customers. Important note: if the sales department does not usually sell standardised products, standardisation is a complete waste of time.
.

Standardise on a drawing method and coding type

The drawing method and coding type are often the subject of much debate. These debates generally take place between the real specialists. One characteristic of these debates is that there are in fact multiple solutions that lead to a good final result. So everybody is right and endless debate can (and does) take place. Yellax intends to publish a blog about a possible approach for steering this process of standardisation in the right direction later on. Taster: have the courage of your convictions and make choices.

Good coding that benefits different disciplines is important. This applies to mechanical engineering, PLC software and electrical engineering. The ISA-88 standard and NEN-EN-IEC 81346 are examples of coding systems.

We could devote a complete blog to the choice between functional and traditional (product-oriented) drawing methods. We will mention a few points here, in the knowledge that this may lead to heated discussion. Even so, we want to touch on this subject briefly and objectively.

The traditional drawing method can be a good choice:

  1. If your business model focuses on panel construction;
  2. If the panel construction process has not yet been automated to any significant extent;
  3. If the customer is not prepared to pay for the long-term benefits.

The functional drawing method can be useful:

  1. During engineering and when automating the engineering process;
  2. During the life-cycle of the system due to the flexibility it offers for changes and troubleshooting.

The transition from the traditional drawing method to the functional drawing method can have a considerable impact. One thing is certain; many people will have to get used to it. There may also be a legacy with certain customers, which makes it impossible to (easily) use the new approach. We hardly ever see a transition in the other direction, i.e. from functional to traditional. Except in cases where the change process has failed.
.

Choice of systems

Standardisation also means that choices must be made in terms of the systems used. This extends beyond the hardware department. Particularly as automation becomes more widespread within projects/companies. Systems are there to satisfy needs. Needs that can be responded to (possibly in combination) from a hardware perspective.

  1. Electrical engineering CAD system
  2. Panel design (2D/3D)
  3. Engineering calculations
  4. Item management (what is the master, what information is stored where)
  5. ERP system
  6. Automation of the above
    .

Roles

The roles involved in producing a hardware design differ greatly between companies. We believe that different needs also come into play in different situations. So it is surprising to learn that the structure of the department has generally grown organically. In contrast to other sectors, this structure is hardly ever subjected to a review. Here again, it is important to be able to explain why the structure is as it is. The lack of a clear answer is reason enough for further evaluation. Questions that you can ask about the structure include:

  1. Is there a difference between a hardware engineer and a draughtsman?
  2. Is there a separate R&D department (or R&D work group)?
  3. Is anybody responsible for item management?
  4. Is there a lead engineer (also operationally active) or a project leader (managerial role)?
  5. Is the structure fixed or (deliberately) different for each project?
  6. Is anybody responsible for compliance with standards and regulations?
    .

Summary

The way of working has an impact on the final result and customer satisfaction. Standardisation is important, but also a sensitive issue in some organisations. Standardising is not easy. This is not only true in a technical sense, but also organisationally. In spite of the challenges presented by change, we hope that you will continue to question your approach: “We do things in a certain way (and have done so for years). Is that still the right choice today?”

A Flip-Thinking calendar hangs in a prominent place next to the coffee machine in the office at Yellax. A calendar with 365 pages full of thought-provoking statements, stories, questions and illustrations that stimulate your imagination and help you look at things differently. The statement above immediately calls the world of hardware engineering to mind. A world that employs many specialists who are undisputed experts in their field and who do their utmost to achieve the best possible result. On time, within budget and to the customer’s entire satisfaction. Even so, we still have to ask ‘Can we do things differently?’

Note that asking ourselves whether we can do things differently is not the same as saying that we mustdo things differently! So what is the difference? The difference is: “We have always done it this way”. If force of habit is the greatest barrier standing in the way of objective perception, maybe it is time for your organisation to look at the tasks involved in hardware engineering through the eyes of an outsider. To decide whether we are still focused on working as a team to produce an optimal result. We hope that this blog will encourage you to look at your organisation from a different perspective and offer tools to help you do so.  
.

Innovation in small doses

Suppose that a technical innovation saves time, gives you greater flexibility during the design process and is affordable. Would you consider using it? The rate of technological advancement in the industrial automation sector far outstrips acceptance. The reluctance to adopt bus technologies for signal transfer that we see in some sectors is a striking example. Are these and other technologies not tried and tested enough, or has additional training for technical staff been neglected? Many customers are afraid to pioneer the use of new technologies. They prefer to avoid an experimental living lab situation in systems that have a service life of 20 years. However, innovation can often save money. It is important to monitor technical advancement rationally and apply it when it offers benefits for the customer. Completing an initial pilot project familiarises the team with the technology and generates feedback on the innovation. At this point, you can decide whether or not to include the innovation in your standard. Because innovation is not the same as zigzagging; i.e. reinventing the wheel in each project. To sum up, we think that some companies should experiment with different technologies more often. Customers will appreciate the new ideas!
.

Total cost of ownership, thinking in terms of value for the customer

Price is generally the most important factor for customers in the electrical engineering sector. Engineers and buyers also look closely at pricing. However, the fact that the purchase price is still the centre of attention in most cases is shocking in 2019. The total cost of ownership is far more important from a customer value perspective. This shift in thinking cannot solely be driven by system integrators or machine producers. Customers also need to change their thinking. Although it is an assumption, we believe that hard facts and figures are the best way of convincing customers. One way of achieving this is to consider management and maintenance early on in the design phase. We also see initiatives where electrical systems are supplied under a long-term equipment-as-a-service arrangement. One of the first of these initiatives was offered by Philips, which decided to sell light rather than lamps. This resulted in major energy and maintenance savings for the customer. Furthermore, price often diverts attention away from sustainability, an uncomfortable truth that we will not examine further in this blog.
.

Standardisation as the only way of achieving uniform quality

Fortunately, in most companies that we visit, the team of hardware engineers generally works in the same way. The major advantage here is that the panel building workshop and field sales staff do not have to deal with significant differences in the technical designs and specification descriptions in documents. Standardisation is the only way of achieving uniform quality. It is important to recognise which factors are important for ‘standardisation’ and ‘optimisation’ as umbrella terms.
.

Agreements about information provision

First of all, it is important to make agreements about the work flow and the flow of information between the parties that are involved, such as the customer, mechanical engineering colleagues and software colleagues. Consideration must be given to the procedures for handling changes as projects progress. Make sure that information becomes available on time, in the right format, in the right place and, last but not least, without omissions. We see that email is used as a platform for information exchange far too often. Setting up a single central location for controlling documents via version management is much more effective. A good information flow is a prerequisite for any electrical engineering design. Questions that should be asked in this respect include: Who delivers data? Which data will be taken as a basis for our engineering activities? Who determines I/O allocation? Who orders field/cabinet materials? Everybody understands the need for good information provision, however in practice it is one of the greatest bottlenecks faced by an engineer. The right format reduces the number of times that information has to be retyped (to 0 ideally!). The information source must be aware that good information provision is essential to completing a project on time. The graph below shows this relationship. The importance of good information provision in respect of employee satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Does your organisation consider these issues?
.

Component standardisation

Selecting materials and components is one of the most important activities of a hardware engineer. Standardising on a fixed set of products has many benefits:

  • Fewer arguments about the technical design
  • A reduced risk of errors in relation to the engineer, panel construction and on site
  • Fewer “new entries” in systems (item management in different systems)
  • Less communication between parties (supplier, engineer, purchase, installers/users)
  • Less complexity in the management and maintenance phase thanks to a reduction in the number of spare parts
  • Easier management of test documents and specification sheets
  • Purchase benefits

The impact of this form of standardisation is much greater than people generally think. This applies to system integrators, machine producers, HVAC installers and end customers. Important note: if the sales department does not usually sell standardised products, standardisation is a complete waste of time.
.

Standardise on a drawing method and coding type

The drawing method and coding type are often the subject of much debate. These debates generally take place between the real specialists. One characteristic of these debates is that there are in fact multiple solutions that lead to a good final result. So everybody is right and endless debate can (and does) take place. Yellax intends to publish a blog about a possible approach for steering this process of standardisation in the right direction later on. Taster: have the courage of your convictions and make choices.

Good coding that benefits different disciplines is important. This applies to mechanical engineering, PLC software and electrical engineering. The ISA-88 standard and NEN-EN-IEC 81346 are examples of coding systems.

We could devote a complete blog to the choice between functional and traditional (product-oriented) drawing methods. We will mention a few points here, in the knowledge that this may lead to heated discussion. Even so, we want to touch on this subject briefly and objectively.

The traditional drawing method can be a good choice:

  1. If your business model focuses on panel construction;
  2. If the panel construction process has not yet been automated to any significant extent;
  3. If the customer is not prepared to pay for the long-term benefits.

The functional drawing method can be useful:

  1. During engineering and when automating the engineering process;
  2. During the life-cycle of the system due to the flexibility it offers for changes and troubleshooting.

The transition from the traditional drawing method to the functional drawing method can have a considerable impact. One thing is certain; many people will have to get used to it. There may also be a legacy with certain customers, which makes it impossible to (easily) use the new approach. We hardly ever see a transition in the other direction, i.e. from functional to traditional. Except in cases where the change process has failed.
.

Choice of systems

Standardisation also means that choices must be made in terms of the systems used. This extends beyond the hardware department. Particularly as automation becomes more widespread within projects/companies. Systems are there to satisfy needs. Needs that can be responded to (possibly in combination) from a hardware perspective.

  1. Electrical engineering CAD system
  2. Panel design (2D/3D)
  3. Engineering calculations
  4. Item management (what is the master, what information is stored where)
  5. ERP system
  6. Automation of the above
    .

Roles

The roles involved in producing a hardware design differ greatly between companies. We believe that different needs also come into play in different situations. So it is surprising to learn that the structure of the department has generally grown organically. In contrast to other sectors, this structure is hardly ever subjected to a review. Here again, it is important to be able to explain why the structure is as it is. The lack of a clear answer is reason enough for further evaluation. Questions that you can ask about the structure include:

  1. Is there a difference between a hardware engineer and a draughtsman?
  2. Is there a separate R&D department (or R&D work group)?
  3. Is anybody responsible for item management?
  4. Is there a lead engineer (also operationally active) or a project leader (managerial role)?
  5. Is the structure fixed or (deliberately) different for each project?
  6. Is anybody responsible for compliance with standards and regulations?
    .

Summary

The way of working has an impact on the final result and customer satisfaction. Standardisation is important, but also a sensitive issue in some organisations. Standardising is not easy. This is not only true in a technical sense, but also organisationally. In spite of the challenges presented by change, we hope that you will continue to question your approach: “We do things in a certain way (and have done so for years). Is that still the right choice today?”

A Flip-Thinking calendar hangs in a prominent place next to the coffee machine in the office at Yellax. A calendar with 365 pages full of thought-provoking statements, stories, questions and illustrations that stimulate your imagination and help you look at things differently. The statement above immediately calls the world of hardware engineering to mind. A world that employs many specialists who are undisputed experts in their field and who do their utmost to achieve the best possible result. On time, within budget and to the customer’s entire satisfaction. Even so, we still have to ask ‘Can we do things differently?’

Note that asking ourselves whether we can do things differently is not the same as saying that we mustdo things differently! So what is the difference? The difference is: “We have always done it this way”. If force of habit is the greatest barrier standing in the way of objective perception, maybe it is time for your organisation to look at the tasks involved in hardware engineering through the eyes of an outsider. To decide whether we are still focused on working as a team to produce an optimal result. We hope that this blog will encourage you to look at your organisation from a different perspective and offer tools to help you do so.  
.

Innovation in small doses

Suppose that a technical innovation saves time, gives you greater flexibility during the design process and is affordable. Would you consider using it? The rate of technological advancement in the industrial automation sector far outstrips acceptance. The reluctance to adopt bus technologies for signal transfer that we see in some sectors is a striking example. Are these and other technologies not tried and tested enough, or has additional training for technical staff been neglected? Many customers are afraid to pioneer the use of new technologies. They prefer to avoid an experimental living lab situation in systems that have a service life of 20 years. However, innovation can often save money. It is important to monitor technical advancement rationally and apply it when it offers benefits for the customer. Completing an initial pilot project familiarises the team with the technology and generates feedback on the innovation. At this point, you can decide whether or not to include the innovation in your standard. Because innovation is not the same as zigzagging; i.e. reinventing the wheel in each project. To sum up, we think that some companies should experiment with different technologies more often. Customers will appreciate the new ideas!
.

Total cost of ownership, thinking in terms of value for the customer

Price is generally the most important factor for customers in the electrical engineering sector. Engineers and buyers also look closely at pricing. However, the fact that the purchase price is still the centre of attention in most cases is shocking in 2019. The total cost of ownership is far more important from a customer value perspective. This shift in thinking cannot solely be driven by system integrators or machine producers. Customers also need to change their thinking. Although it is an assumption, we believe that hard facts and figures are the best way of convincing customers. One way of achieving this is to consider management and maintenance early on in the design phase. We also see initiatives where electrical systems are supplied under a long-term equipment-as-a-service arrangement. One of the first of these initiatives was offered by Philips, which decided to sell light rather than lamps. This resulted in major energy and maintenance savings for the customer. Furthermore, price often diverts attention away from sustainability, an uncomfortable truth that we will not examine further in this blog.
.

Standardisation as the only way of achieving uniform quality

Fortunately, in most companies that we visit, the team of hardware engineers generally works in the same way. The major advantage here is that the panel building workshop and field sales staff do not have to deal with significant differences in the technical designs and specification descriptions in documents. Standardisation is the only way of achieving uniform quality. It is important to recognise which factors are important for ‘standardisation’ and ‘optimisation’ as umbrella terms.
.

Agreements about information provision

First of all, it is important to make agreements about the work flow and the flow of information between the parties that are involved, such as the customer, mechanical engineering colleagues and software colleagues. Consideration must be given to the procedures for handling changes as projects progress. Make sure that information becomes available on time, in the right format, in the right place and, last but not least, without omissions. We see that email is used as a platform for information exchange far too often. Setting up a single central location for controlling documents via version management is much more effective. A good information flow is a prerequisite for any electrical engineering design. Questions that should be asked in this respect include: Who delivers data? Which data will be taken as a basis for our engineering activities? Who determines I/O allocation? Who orders field/cabinet materials? Everybody understands the need for good information provision, however in practice it is one of the greatest bottlenecks faced by an engineer. The right format reduces the number of times that information has to be retyped (to 0 ideally!). The information source must be aware that good information provision is essential to completing a project on time. The graph below shows this relationship. The importance of good information provision in respect of employee satisfaction should also not be underestimated. Does your organisation consider these issues?
.

Component standardisation

Selecting materials and components is one of the most important activities of a hardware engineer. Standardising on a fixed set of products has many benefits:

  • Fewer arguments about the technical design
  • A reduced risk of errors in relation to the engineer, panel construction and on site
  • Fewer “new entries” in systems (item management in different systems)
  • Less communication between parties (supplier, engineer, purchase, installers/users)
  • Less complexity in the management and maintenance phase thanks to a reduction in the number of spare parts
  • Easier management of test documents and specification sheets
  • Purchase benefits

The impact of this form of standardisation is much greater than people generally think. This applies to system integrators, machine producers, HVAC installers and end customers. Important note: if the sales department does not usually sell standardised products, standardisation is a complete waste of time.
.

Standardise on a drawing method and coding type

The drawing method and coding type are often the subject of much debate. These debates generally take place between the real specialists. One characteristic of these debates is that there are in fact multiple solutions that lead to a good final result. So everybody is right and endless debate can (and does) take place. Yellax intends to publish a blog about a possible approach for steering this process of standardisation in the right direction later on. Taster: have the courage of your convictions and make choices.

Good coding that benefits different disciplines is important. This applies to mechanical engineering, PLC software and electrical engineering. The ISA-88 standard and NEN-EN-IEC 81346 are examples of coding systems.

We could devote a complete blog to the choice between functional and traditional (product-oriented) drawing methods. We will mention a few points here, in the knowledge that this may lead to heated discussion. Even so, we want to touch on this subject briefly and objectively.

The traditional drawing method can be a good choice:

  1. If your business model focuses on panel construction;
  2. If the panel construction process has not yet been automated to any significant extent;
  3. If the customer is not prepared to pay for the long-term benefits.

The functional drawing method can be useful:

  1. During engineering and when automating the engineering process;
  2. During the life-cycle of the system due to the flexibility it offers for changes and troubleshooting.

The transition from the traditional drawing method to the functional drawing method can have a considerable impact. One thing is certain; many people will have to get used to it. There may also be a legacy with certain customers, which makes it impossible to (easily) use the new approach. We hardly ever see a transition in the other direction, i.e. from functional to traditional. Except in cases where the change process has failed.
.

Choice of systems

Standardisation also means that choices must be made in terms of the systems used. This extends beyond the hardware department. Particularly as automation becomes more widespread within projects/companies. Systems are there to satisfy needs. Needs that can be responded to (possibly in combination) from a hardware perspective.

  1. Electrical engineering CAD system
  2. Panel design (2D/3D)
  3. Engineering calculations
  4. Item management (what is the master, what information is stored where)
  5. ERP system
  6. Automation of the above
    .

Roles

The roles involved in producing a hardware design differ greatly between companies. We believe that different needs also come into play in different situations. So it is surprising to learn that the structure of the department has generally grown organically. In contrast to other sectors, this structure is hardly ever subjected to a review. Here again, it is important to be able to explain why the structure is as it is. The lack of a clear answer is reason enough for further evaluation. Questions that you can ask about the structure include:

  1. Is there a difference between a hardware engineer and a draughtsman?
  2. Is there a separate R&D department (or R&D work group)?
  3. Is anybody responsible for item management?
  4. Is there a lead engineer (also operationally active) or a project leader (managerial role)?
  5. Is the structure fixed or (deliberately) different for each project?
  6. Is anybody responsible for compliance with standards and regulations?
    .

Summary

The way of working has an impact on the final result and customer satisfaction. Standardisation is important, but also a sensitive issue in some organisations. Standardising is not easy. This is not only true in a technical sense, but also organisationally. In spite of the challenges presented by change, we hope that you will continue to question your approach: “We do things in a certain way (and have done so for years). Is that still the right choice today?”

Other posts

08 May 2020

The 5 main benefits of classification for electrical product management

Excellent product data management provides great benefits. Especially in electrical engineering, where...

Read more

08 May 2020

Let engineers rediscover their strengths!

As a project engineer you repeatedly face the same challenge: a new project, a new start. But in practice...

Read more

08 May 2020

An intelligent P&ID

Sound familiar? The P&ID (Piping & Instrumentation Diagram) is not always prepared in the most...

Read more