Peace and goodwill between manufacturing professionals

Gus Desbarats, the Chairman of the British Design Initiative (BDI), recently called for greater understanding and respect between designers and engineers.

His point is that the traditional mistrust that often exists between the professions is misplaced and that close working cooperation and mutual respect often create fantastic results.

Absolutely right!

However, the issue goes deeper and affects every aspect of manufacturing, not just engineering and design. The 'silo culture' that affects so much of industry is one of the most deep-rooted and pernicious problems that we face if we are to improve manufacturing output and growth in the UK.

The problem is as old as the hills – professions in the same area of work usually compete for attention/resources/kudos. The solution is far more difficult, which is why we've had this problem for so long. Exhortations to 'greater respect' or 'teamwork' don't tend to work as they depend too much on personal relationships and chance. In my view, the best way to get professionals to work together more effectively is to create systems that require close cooperation, rather than simply encouraging it.

This is one of the reasons why Crucible has developed a product development audit document. Based on work by Cambridge University and Imperial College, the audit is a simple process that allows teams to check their performance against a range of parameters, from how projects are generated in the first place to technology diversification.

Crucially, the process involves all the major stakeholders in product development, including marketing and maintenance, as well as design and engineering. The aim of the audit is to create effective team structures which are 'hard wired' into the company, not just dependent on people talking to each other in the lunch queue.

Author
Mike Ayre, Crucible Industrial Design

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