Menu

Balancing Engineering Resource with Demand

Balancing Engineering Resource with Demand

The automation business is highly cyclical. It can take a year to land an order and then the delivery must be made in a few months. To deal with the cyclic nature of the business, a design staff must be highly flexible. Maintaining enough full time designers to meet delivery schedule requirements is difficult due to cost. As a result, part time designers are a desired. In the past, contract engineers have typically filled this need, however recently, the need is being filled by engineering services companies.

An engineering services company provides mechanical, electrical or other support on an as needed basis. The good engineering services company maintains a highly experienced full time staff in an office stocked with the latest CAD software and computers. Typically a single phone call can have one or more engineers redirected to your project within a week. The engineer will quickly become familiar with your project and become an extension of your existing design team. The engineer will typically utilize the service company's computer and software assets. You will not have to maintain these costly assets. The solid modeling and rendering capabilities of current CAD software allow whole assemblies to be easily reviewed for approval via CAD or Microsoft office files. Communication via e-mail, phone and fax eliminates the necessity of having someone work continuously at your site.

Billing for engineering services is typically performed in a manner similar to working with any supplier. A price proposal is requested for a specified project. Upon agreement, a P.O. is issued. When the project is complete the service company sends an invoice. There is a cash flow savings when working with a service company relative to a contract engineer who must be paid weekly.

There are many advantages that an engineering service company provides, but the biggest is a means to truly match your engineering resources with their demand. An engineering service company can be turned on and off as often as necessary. And when they are turned on you will get the engineer that is already familiar with your design team and past projects. Unknown contractors with long learning curves can become a thing of the past.



Michael K. Costen
Principal Engineer ASR Corporation
Back to Top ↑

Buying Engineering Services

Selecting suppliers for engineering services is significantly different than that for parts manufacture. As a buyer you select a parts manufacturer on the basis of price, quality and delivery. In contrast, the overriding basis for the selection of an engineering services provider is TRUST. Engineering outsourcing typically requires allowing an outside firm access to competition sensitive information. In addition, deliverables from an engineering project are typically drawings or a report. These deliverables are much more difficult to inspect for quality than a manufactured part. Often, the quality of the engineering service is not shown until components are built and tested. This can be months after receiving the deliverable.

Given that trust is so important when selecting an engineering services firm, you will typically need help from your in-house engineering staff in making a selection. Your engineers can size up the outsource firm to ensure expertise and demeanor is a good match. Unlike parts manufacturers, the outsource engineering firm will become essentially an extension of your in-house engineering department. Giving the engineers a say in the selection is critical. Ultimately, it is the in-house engineers who will judge the engineering services, so they should participate in the selection process.

Once a firm, has passed muster with your in-house engineers, you need to ask the following questions:

  • Who has intellectual property ownership of any innovations? The only acceptable answer is your firm.
  • Does the engineering outsource firm currently provide services to a competitor?
  • Will the firm sign a nondisclosure agreement? (2 page two way agreement is usually sufficient).
  • Is the firm insured? This is not usually necessary for mechanical engineering services, where the OEM generally carries the responsibility.
  • Is the same CAD and or analysis software used? (Converting drawings or analysis files between software is not desired)
  • If the answers to these questions are all acceptable, then requests for proposals should be issued. The received proposals must be evaluated in the basis of price, methodology, deliverable and terms. There are many ways to design components. A firm that offers to design a component using 1970's methods should not be considered no matter how low the price. Every OEM develops proven methods in the design of components. The in-house engineering staff should review the proposed methodology to ensure acceptability. Billing arrangements are typically net 30 days upon the reception of all or a portion of the deliverables. Up front payments are not typical.

    Buying engineering services takes a little more effort than purchasing parts. However, the benefits of having flexible engineering resources far outweigh the difficulty.



    Michael K. Costen Principal Engineer ASR Corporation Back to Top ?
    Back to Top ↑

    Where to Find Engineers

    Whether it was your customer or your head office, when a decision to automate a process has been made the onus is now on you. With the depleted ranks of your once mighty engineering staff busy with everyday issues should you hire full timers? Contractors? Bring back retirees? Hiring full timers for 6 months of work is not a nice thing to do. Contractors are expensive, and can be terribly slow to learn and quick to leave with no forwarding address. Retirees would be great, except that they like being retired and have no desire to work 60 hour weeks to meet the deadline.

    What to do? I suggest hiring an engineering services company.

    An engineering services company provides mechanical, electrical or other support on an as needed basis. The good engineering services company maintains a highly experienced full time staff in an office stocked with the latest CAD software and computers. Typically a single phone call can have one or more engineers redirected to your project within a week. The engineer will quickly become familiar with your project and become an extension of your existing design team. The engineer will typically utilize the service company's computer and software assets. You will not have to maintain these costly assets. The solid modeling and rendering capabilities of current CAD software allow whole assemblies to be easily reviewed for approval via CAD or Microsoft office files. Communication via e-mail, phone and fax eliminates the necessity of having someone work continuously at your site.

    Billing for engineering services is typically performed in a manner similar to working with any supplier. A price proposal is requested for a specified project. Upon agreement, a P.O. is issued. When the project is complete the service company sends an invoice. There is a cash flow savings when working with a service company relative to a contract engineer who must be paid weekly.

    There are many advantages that an engineering service company provides, but the biggest is a means to truly match your engineering resources with their demand. An engineering service company can be turned on and off as often as necessary. And when they are turned on you will get the engineer that is already familiar with your design team and past projects. Unknown contactors with long learning curves can become a thing of the past.

    Most importantly, your anxiety about finding engineers who will get the project completed can become a thing of the past.

    Michael K. Costen
    Principal Engineer ASR Corporation
    Back to Top ↑

    How To Meet Automotive, Military and Aerospace Specifications

    Your product is competitive in both cost and performance. It has potential in the huge automotive, military and aerospace markets, but you are hesitant. These markets require all products to meet an array of unfamiliar qualification specifications, which go far beyond form, fit and function. How can you show that your product meets?

  • 20g shock
  • Random Vibration
  • Thermal Shock
  • Crash Loads
  • Resonance Frequency Limits
  • Low Cycle Fatigue
    Etc…
  • One way is to spend a fortune and have your product tested. The other much less expensive option is to have a finite element analysis performed on your product. One of the benefits of today's computer power is the ability to simulate any product under all kinds of loadings. Ford, Lockheed and Boeing no longer test all of the parts of their products. They depend upon finite element analyses to show whether a part meets or fails a qualification specification. They use analysis because it is accurate and cheap. So should you.

    Contact an engineering services company that specializes in finite element analysis and take the steps required to get your product into the higher margin markets. The right engineering services company will have engineers that are expert at simulating products under qualification loads. They will know exactly what needs to be done for your product to meet the qualification specifications.

    Typically a single phone call can have one or more engineers redirected to your project within a week. The engineer will quickly become familiar with your project and become an extension of your existing design team. The engineer will use the service company's computer and software assets. You will not have to purchase these costly assets. Communication via e-mail, phone and fax eliminates the necessity of having someone work continuously at your site.

    Most importantly, your business will be set to expand with your product poised to enter new markets.

    Michael K. Costen
    Principal Engineer ASR Corporation
    Back to Top ↑

    ASR: Aerospace Structural Research Corp. CALL TODAY FOR A FREE QUOTE 203-876-8165 OR Email: sales@asrengineering.com

    Contact Us