How to Approach an Engineer with Your Design Problem

It’s always tempting when we go to a doctor, at least I find, to tell this expert the pain we are feeling and what we think it is or might be.

Now, think about this interaction. You have an expert that has seen thousands of cases. He diagnoses based on your symptoms and descriptions of the problem. He needs to know the problem clearly.

Then, his job is to use his insights to come up with a solution that fits. It’s awkward if you, the patient, brings the solution. But it’s often tempting. You are hiring the doctor for the answer.

Likewise, working with subject matter experts in mechanical engineering designers and engineers has an efficient interchange that helps you get your problems solved in a professional way without unmet expectations.

Here’s what a good mechanical engineering client tends to do:

  1. Articulate your specifications: This is written and describes the problem thoroughly. You don’t want to be prescribing what the solution. Often holding off on suggestions requires restraint. But the goal of specifications is to share what the problem is clearly.
  2. State your desired result: What will make you happy? There’s a gap between your current engineering setup and what will make the functionality, performance or design exactly what you want.
  3. Communicate your sacred cows: What are things that are off limits? What are the constraints to the engineering problems? You know your environment better than anyone. Are there parts you don’t like using? Vendors you won’t associate with? Shapes that are not built in your mill? This helps our engineering team to stay inbounds on the engineering design solutions.
  4. Collaborate with the engineer. Much of problem solving is collaborative. You have part of the information needed to get to the result. Staying involved, responsive and clear about the gaps that engineers have as they are trying to solve your problem is critical for getting to the desired result.
  5. Sign off. The goal is that the engineer is proud of their design and you are happy with the result in the context of your requirements. Having peer reviews and stating whether you are happy or not is healthy to get everyone on the same page and the design process moves forward. It’s ok to circle back if it is important. But forward progress with communications is critical to making this happen.

The world is filled with problems. And there’s an efficient way to changing where you are at with an engineering problem and arriving at a solution that everyone is happy with and that increases performance.

It’s an iterative loop which is full of partnering and communications. It’s also helpful to round back to old designs to improve your design as well as your thought processes for better designs.

What engineering problems are you working with?

 

 

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