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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage 5 Recommendations Poor engineering design capabilities are leading U.S. companies to design and produce products that are more expensive, of lower quality, and slower to reach the market than those of their top foreign competitors. This situation can be corrected, but the task will not be simple. Universities, with few exceptions, are no longer preparing graduates adequately in design. Too little engineering design research is being conducted, it is often dissociated from industrial needs, and its results are poorly disseminated. Few companies have coherent product realization processes, implement available advanced design techniques, or develop new ones. Greatly improved engineering design is so important to the nation 's industrial competitiveness and economic health that government must proactively emphasize it as part of a long-range emphasis on commercial excellence and national competitiveness. General advancement of engineering design practice does not favor one firm or one industry over another. It benefits the entire society, including individual consumers, even in areas where foreign competition is not yet a factor. Though there is no one logical funding source for engineering design, NSF, the Department of Commerce, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and industry all have roles to play within their missions. Until there is a broad realization in government that sectors of the nation's civilian technology base are in jeopardy, and that support of engineering design is a high-leverage area where government support will produce large benefits, these agencies will have to take the responsibility of coordinating one another's piecemeal efforts to improve engineering design. The following recommendations are intended to set in motion a number of separate remedial activities in industry, academe, and government that will improve industrial engineering design practices to increase competi
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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage tiveness and create new leaders in design. Some of these recommendations will have an immediate effect when implemented, but it will take some time to rebuild the design infrastructure. It is thus imperative that action be taken now. IMPROVING DESIGN PRACTICE Though all the recommendations presented in this report will eventually aid industry, companies can take a number of steps to improve their own engineering design capabilities, and thus their competitiveness. As discussed in Chapter 2 , manufacturing firms should: recognize the leverage afforded by engineering design and move to take advantage of it; implement a comprehensive, coherent product realization process; utilize a carefully chosen set of contemporary design practices; create a supportive environment for design; establish dedicated functional change agents to implement new practices and organizations; actively promote and support continuing education of their engineers; aggressively support research and development activities in engineering design; continually and formally seek and incorporate the best practices as they evolve; and adopt modern management accounting systems. IMPROVING ENGINEERING EDUCATION Chapter 3 emphasized that engineering design education in the United States is poor and that strengthening engineering design education is critical to the long-term development of engineers who are prepared to become good designers and leaders who will provide a lasting foundation for U.S. industry's international competitiveness. The recommendations that follow deal with improving both engineering curricula and the teaching of design. Curricula Engineering institutions in the United States must improve the design component of engineering curricula. The following reforms are targeted at undergraduate programs, but many also apply to graduate programs. Each institution should: ensure that its engineering curricula fully meet both the letter and the spirit of current ABET accreditation criteria related to design;
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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage establish evaluation metrics for the design component of engineering programs and mechanisms to monitor performance in terms of these metrics; ensure that design courses cover best international design methods; utilize carefully appointed external advisory boards of engineers and engineering managers from best-practice companies to monitor and improve the design component of curricula; ensure that students are prepared to continue learning throughout their careers; create collegewide change agents to spearhead the efforts to improve design education and assist in gathering and developing instructional materials, promoting interdepartmental and university-industry cooperation related to design, and establishing metrics for evaluating design in various curricula; and place in faculty positions senior engineers from industry who are knowledgeable about current and evolving design best practices. Industrial firms need to raise university awareness of industry needs in engineering design by: making clear to universities that they want graduates who are familiar with contemporary design concepts, principles, and methodologies; explaining to universities their best design practices, what they believe should be taught, and what they are currently teaching their own engineers; encouraging their designers to participate on university advisory boards and teach in the classrooms; and supporting design education by providing opportunities for faculty and students to observe and participate in design experiences, both in industry and academe. ABET and the engineering societies that are ABET participating bodies should: stimulate the further incorporation of design into engineering curricula by changing its criteria for accrediting programs in engineering in Section IV.C.2.d.(3), pertaining to the minimum one-half year of engineering design, as follows (recommended deletions are shown by strikeouts and additions are italicized): “The engineering design component of a curriculum must include at least some nearly all of the following features: development of student creativity, use of open-ended problems, development and use of design methodology, formulation of design problem requirements and specifications, in-depth consideration of alternative solutions, feasibility considerations, production processes, advanced design methodologies, concurrent engineering design, life cycle considerations, detailed system descriptions, and participation in an interdiscipli
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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage nary group on a design project. Further, it is essential to include a variety of realistic constraints, such as economic factors, safety, reliability, aesthetics, ethics, and social impact. Finally, design courses should be integrated into the curriculum so as to provide a continual increase in the design competence of a student progressing through an engineering program.” Professional engineering societies should: through their education arms and with participation of engineers practicing in industry, encourage the further education of design teachers and increase the awareness of all faculty members of the importance of engineering design. Support for Faculty Engineering institutions must adopt organizational changes that facilitate and reward design teaching and research. They must: modify reward systems so that they recognize the contributions of teachers and researchers in engineering design; remove impediments to interdisciplinary and interdepartmental collaboration in design education; and encourage faculty to participate in design education training and workshops in both industry and academe. The National Science Foundation should facilitate improved teaching of design by establishing a clearinghouse for design instructional materials and methods. The mission of the clearinghouse would be to: collect information on best design practices and research worldwide; facilitate the synthesis of this material into textbooks and problem sets, case studies, descriptions of modern design theory and practice, video tapes, computer software, course outlines, and candidate curricula; publish reviews of design research, teaching methods, and software tools; facilitate the introduction of standards and common representations (e.g., IGES, PDES); and actively disseminate the results of all the above activities through all appropriate means. Implementation of this clearinghouse should proceed quickly, possibly as an adjunct to some existing design program. If the consortium (NCED) discussed later in this chapter becomes operational, the clearinghouse might be incorporated into it. The information disseminated by this clearinghouse could be valuable for industrial practice and research, but it must be cast in a form appropriate for faculty teaching use.
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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN RESEARCH Research is a central ingredient in repairing the national infrastructure in engineering design. Because it has been largely neglected for decades, a strong, high-quality research initiative is especially critical at this time. Aggressively Pursuing the Research Agenda The National Science Foundation should propose, and Congress should fund, an Initiative for Engineering Design to support both a large increase in design research and increased university-industry interaction in engineering design. The major thrust of this initiative should be an expansion of university research in engineering design. One facet of the initiative should be support for a Design Scholar program that would enable university faculty and Ph.D. students to spend one to two years with a best-practice industrial firm, followed by three years of NSF research support with matching industry support. Design research clearly requires such an initiative; it will be difficult for the NSF, the logical funding agency for much of the proposed research, to allocate substantial funds to support design because various NSF constituencies cannot be expected willingly to accept funding cuts in their areas, and the “proposal pressure” that drives some reallocations is not likely to be strong in an area characterized by a short history and limited past funding. For applied research, particularly research dealing with data bases, standards, and the relation of design to the enterprise, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can provide much leadership and support. TheAdvanced Civilian Technology Agency that has been proposed in bills introduced into both the 100th and 101st Congresses92 should, if created, have design research and technology transfer as one of its major activities. The Department of Defense and, to a lesser extent, the Department of Energy are supporting significant design research which should be continued and expanded. The National Science Foundation should expand and emphasize its Design Theory and Methodology Program by providing a clear identity and strong leadership. Stable, continuous funding, beginning at approximately $6 to $8 million annually should be provided. The NSF program should primarily support “research on scientific foundations for design,” as presented in the research agenda in Chapter 4 of this report, but basic research efforts in the other areas would also be suitable for NSF support. Interdisciplinary design research as conducted by some Engineering Research Centers, featuring widescale industrial cooperation and partnership, as well as the initiation of additional design-related Engineering Research Centers should be strongly encouraged.
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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage Conducting Research Allengineering design researchers should be aware of the research agenda, how their research fits into it, and what the long-term goals of their research are with regard to engineering design practice; collaborate with industrial firm design engineers to define research topics and strategies; and do more to disseminate their research results, including publishing research results not only in the refereed literature but also in periodicals that are widely read in industry. Industrial firms must take an initiative in fostering research collaboration with universities by: participating in, and supporting, basic as well as applied engineering design research; developing strategies for assuring long-term stable interactions with and support of researchers; and supporting faculty internships in industry, accompanied, where appropriate, by assurance of design-oriented research support from industry or government for several years after the faculty members return to academe. National Consortium for Engineering Design In Chapter 4 , the creation of a National Consortium for Engineering Design is suggested for the purposes of: performing precompetitive research to improve design methods and tools; gathering and disseminating information about international best engineering design practices; transferring existing and new design knowledge, especially in the form of software, into industry and academe; developing and promoting industry-university-government collaboration in research and education; and providing brokerage services for personnel exchanges and arranging privately funded research between universities and industry. Industrial firms have already formed several organizations for exchanging and disseminating technical information, generating knowledge of a precompetitive nature, or for other purposes similar to those outlined above. Examples of such consortia and cooperatives of various kinds include: The National Center for Manufacturing Science (NCMS) The Design Institute (United Kingdom)
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IMPROVING ENGINEERING DESIGN: Designing for Competitive Advantage The Heat Exchange Institute Tubular Heat Exchanger Manufacturers Association National Federation for Computer-Aided Manufacturing (NFCAM) Integrated Program for Aerospace Vehicle Design (IPAD) Sematech Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) These cooperative groups represent a broad range of organizational forms and funding arrangements, but all were formed with the objective of helping a particular set of industrial firms to share in the generation and dissemination of technical knowledge.93 The NCED needs to possess an organization and operating style that allows it to be primarily industry-led and applications-driven. Among the structural possibilities are: an organization of industrial firms of all sizes, with funding from the firms on some proportionate basis; a similar organization, but with strong Department of Commerce involvement; an organization of industrial firms, but with government funding for start-up purposes; an extension of the NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) program. More detailed study is needed to shape the organization and operation of NCED to ensure early and continuing success. Such study should be undertaken promptly. The Department of Commerce and the National Science Foundation should, with the assistance of industrial and academic representatives, jointly study the possible structuring and operation of a National Consortium for Engineering Design for the purposes listed above.
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