|Topic 2 New Product Development Project
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Goal: Introduce the design method adopted by the class and enlighten students concerning engineers' responsibilities beyond simply designing a solution.
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Engineers do more than design solutions. Their responsibilities in new product development begin before the design challenge is defined and continue after the product has entered into the market. It is useful to adopt official project terminology because most of industry operates using a project model. Practically, investing time up front to clearly define the class project (schedule and deliverables of each phase) is likely to make the team more effective in the long run. In this topic students will exercise a mini-project including project planning, practice a formal design method, and formally presenting all their work to the class.
Much of industry has moved to the project model of business operations. A project is a temporary endeavor with a definite beginning and an end. Appropriately, project teams are assembled for the unique challenge and then disbanded when the project is completed. In recent years project management has become a lucrative career choice. A project need not develop a new product, but simply addresses a discrete need. This class will engage two projects, a new product development project and a marketing project. As in industry these two projects are NOT independent from one another. Marketers help direct which products are developed and engineers remain involved with the product well after the marketing campaign is underway.
There have been many formal design methods published in the last few decades. In fact, just about every expert engineer has their own unique way of approaching challenges. Some have defined only a few abstract "steps" in the process while others break the process down into more steps. Truth is that design is more philosophical than it is analytical. This fact will be a complete surprise to those that think of engineering as mind numbing number crunching. Design can never be reduced to a formula. It is a divergent then convergent dance that relies on the creativity, knowledge, and motivation of the designers to overcome a challenge. The design method selected for this class was defined by Mark T. Holtzapple (Foundations of Engineering, Mcgraw-Hill, 2000). It is taught to many novice engineers because of the simple, easy to understand terminology that defines each step. Though it neglects the nuances that distinguish expert designers (things like conceptual-embodiment cycling and iterating with increasingly detailed information), it certainly works to help the novice cover the entire basis. A formal design method will NOT ensure that the optimum solution is reached. However, it will drastically increase the chances of finding a good solution to the challenge. It is difficult to overstate the importance of learning how to design well. Every person's daily life is full of problem solving activity...it is full of design challenges. Arming students with a good problem solving process to fall back on will serve them for many years to come.
This topic ends with students presenting their project plan and results of their design process for a mini-project. Engineers in industry are responsible for making presentations in a variety of situations. Mastering public speaking will make almost any engineer more valuable in the marketplace. The basics of written and oral engineering communication are not covered in this curriculum. It is presumed those topic have or will be covered in the students' liberal arts classes. However, it might be helpful to review the basics. Fundamentally, communicating any idea requires that the presenter clearly identifies the relevant topic, research and gather information, then organize and reduce the information to best communicate the topic to the known audience. Good presentations will always have an introduction portion, main content, and summary or conclusions. Students may benefit from discussing examples of effective visual aids including:
Give the students an overview of the new product development process an then lead them in a detailed discussion of the inputs and outputs of each phase of a typical project. Give the students an overview of various formal design methods and then lead them in a detailed discussion of the steps in the design method that will be adopted by the class. Have the students work in small groups to address a simple design challenge. Students will create and document a new product development project plan and then exercise each of the steps in the adopted design process. After documenting their progress at each step, they will present their overall plan and design to the class.
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