By Ralph Raiola, Editor
When it comes to mechatronics design, getting everyone on the same page is apparently more difficult than one might think. A recent Webcast sponsored by IBM titled “System Design: New Product Development for Mechatronics,” presented research about the challenges and pressures faced when designing in a mechatronics environment.
Specifically challenging, according to the research conducted by Aberdeen Group, appears to be the ability to overcome a lack of “cross-functional knowledge” between various design teams. What does that mean? Well, designers, or more specifically, design teams may not be well-versed enough in the various mechatronics disciplines—mechanical, electrical, and software disciplines—and this can be problematic when the time comes to merge.
In fact, 50% of the 160 companies that responded noted this as the number one challenge they face.
It was surprising to me, because mechatronics as a way of designing is not new, of course, and I wonder why such disparities tend to still exist between those engaged in the aforementioned disciplines.
There may be a couple of factors at work. On one hand, the proliferation of mechatronics concepts in schools—whether it be a couple of courses or a dedicated concentration or degree—is still in its infant stages. But students graduating with an engineering degree—mechanical or electrical—who do not have a grasp on the fundamentals of mechatronics design could find themselves left behind. Alternatively, engineers who have been working in their respective field of expertise for some time may not have had the necessary training, or lack experience in mechatronics projects.
Whatever the reasons, the research implicitly supports improving the connection between designers from all disciplines. Seventy-one per cent of the study’s top-performing companies—the upper 20% Aberdeen calls Best in Class—said they Improved “communication and collaboration across disciplines” as the top action they took to improve their mechatronics-based designs.
More tellingly, all of the “ Best-in-Class” companies in the study said they use workflow tools, 93% are likely to use project collaboration tools, and 33% are likely to use design collaboration tools. Following the top performers seems to be—in this case—a good idea. Make use of the collaborative tools that exist, foster communication between teams or departments, and review the work before it is too late.