New Product Development: The Problem with Digital Design

Yes, digital design is a wonderful tool. But unless it is supported with strong management processes, there can be unintended and potentially negative consequences.

The widespread adoption of digital design shows that it makes a powerful contribution to R&D effectiveness and efficiency. Design tools can be invaluable in visualizing ideas, developing a detailed design and conducting fast iterations. These are all good things. Yet our research suggests that digital design is not a panacea. Unless it is complemented with sound management practices, unforeseen problems will be introduced into the product development process.

Some background will help explain why. It is well known that since the 1980s, the new product development process has evolved from traditional engineering teams working together in one place to an approach that is more global and virtual. One major factor that has enabled this transition has been the proliferation of digital design tools such as highly capable computer aided design packages (such as Parametric Technology Corp.’s PTC Creo Elements/Pro (formerly Pro/ENGINEER), Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA and SolidWorks), rapid prototyping technologies (such as 3D printers), and collaboration tools (such as Microsoft SharePoint, Google Docs and project wikis).

A second factor leading to increased use? Lower prices. Today, capable CAD packages can cost as little as a few hundred dollars and can run on desktop or laptop computers costing a fraction of those required just five years ago.

One of the most widely studied payoffs of digital design was the Boeing 777, which was designed, modeled and tested virtually by an extended development team. The benefits of this approach included identifying part interference and fit issues before expensive physical prototyping and having different members of the organization (customers, manufacturing representatives, vendors, service and maintenance individuals, etc.) view and participate simultaneously in the design process.

Since the time of the 777, the use of information technologies and services has accelerated thanks to the proliferation of tools and IT solutions to support digital design through the entire new product development spectrum.

Systems for 3D printing (from companies such as Z Corp.) allow designers to quickly produce prototype parts directly from CAD files, permitting the physical validation of engineered designs in a matter of hours.

Power analysis tools, often integrated into CAD systems, allow virtual testing before any physical prototypes and preliminary manufactured parts are produced. From airflow within a jet engine (fluid dynamics simulation) to strength and fatigue testing on a vehicle chassis (finite element analysis), these tools offer the potential to reduce cost and improve design iteration efficiency.

And process management tools, such as product life cycle management and requirements management, have proliferated to dimensionalize costs, part reuse and customer needs. Moreover, engineers can vet concepts with colleagues around the globe through virtual collaboration technologies that are now commonplace and, increasingly, free.

In sum, today’s product development is nearly all digital — allowing teams to go from idea to precise parts quickly and permitting them to revise and validate throughout the development process.

Two potential problem areas

So, what’s the problem? There are potentially two. First, because the technology makes the work look complete at every step in the process, it can create a false sense of security. There can be a tendency to move on to the next stage in the process before teams have taken the time to learn user needs, construct alternative solutions and vet both of these. In other words, the “fuzzy front end” of the design process may be cut short — to the company’s long-term disadvantage. This is, we believe, one of the major reasons product failure and success rates have changed little over the past several decades.

Second, the very ease with which designs can be digitally drafted and prototyped might afford engineers the opportunity to “try it again and then, again and again.” In other words, the final design process can remain fluid longer than is useful. The ability to quickly iterate designs can lead to a spiraling effect, chewing up time and labor expense and mitigating the benefits of digital design itself. Research has shown that these “virtual design rounds” can account for 75% of total project development costs, and they can delay project completion. For example, Airbus suffered severe delays in the development of its new A380 due to issues with CAD revisions.

The net takeaway from this: While we are favorably inclined to the positive impact of digital design — who today would argue against the use of computers for any aspect of commerce? — we wanted to understand these two unwanted effects and how to best mitigate them. To accomplish this, we embarked on a longitudinal study of the product development activities of 145 firms that are heavy users of digital design technology. Given that a majority of engineering time is spent in front of a computer revising CAD models, we focused our lens on the engineering bullpen. We surveyed and interviewed engineers and managers to understand how digital design work is performed. Here’s what we learned.

A rush to “final” design

Modern digital tools allow fast iterations of design features and dimensions, once the engineer constructs a virtual model. This ability creates a strong pull for product development teams to jump to building digital design models right at the start of the project. Because digital design applications are inherently precise, the “fuzziness” of wide-open concept exploration can be avoided for what seems to be a highly evolved design that is then prematurely moved downstream. That, we found, can lead the R&D team to shortchange valuable activities such as extensive user research, intensive parallel concept development, and deeper systems and architecture design as part of the front end of development.

Thomas Allen found decades ago that teams pursuing a number of parallel concept developments at the front end of design most often proved to be the winners over similar projects where teams finalized a design early in the process. This supports the common sense understanding that rushed decisions are often not the best. In the case of engineering design, a rushed decision can ultimately lead to more work downstream in the process as other engineers are forced to improve things.

This article is adapted from The Problem With Digital Design by Tucker Marion, Sebastian Fixson and Marc H. Meyer, which appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review.

  • novelinflow

    Technology Submission – State of the Art – Novel InFlow Tech – Featured Project Development; 1-Gearturbine, 2-Imploturbocompressor


    Atypical InFlow Thermodynamic

    Technology Proposal Submission

    Novel Fueled Motor Engine Type

    *State of the art Innovative concept Top system Higher efficient percent. Power by bar, for Air-Planes, Sea-Boats, Land-Transport & Dynamic Power-Plant Generation.

    -Have similar system of the Aeolipile Heron Steam device from Alexandria 10-70 AD. -New Form-Function Motor-Engine Device. Next Step, Epic Design Change, Broken-Seal Revelation. -Desirable Power-Plant Innovation.

    YouTube; * Atypical New • GEARTURBINE / Retrodynamic = DextroRPM VS LevoInFlow + Ying Yang Thrust Way Type – Non Waste Looses

    -This innovative concept consists of hull and core where are held all 8 Steps of the work-flow which make the concept functional. The core has several gears and turbines which are responsible for these 8 steps (5 of them are dedicated to the turbo stages). The first step is fuel compression, followed by 2 cold turbo levels. The fourth step is where the fuel starts burning – combustion stage, which creates thrust for the next, 5th step – thrust step, which provides power to the planetary gears and turbines and moves the system. This step is followed by two hot turbo steps and the circle is enclosed by the final 8th step – bigger turbine. All this motion in a retrodynamic circumstance effect, wich is plus higher RPM speed by self motion. The Reaction at front of the action.

    *8-X/Y Thermodynamic CYCLE – Way Steps:

    1)1-Compression / bigger

    2)2-Turbo 1 cold

    3)2-Turbo 2 cold

    4)2-Combustion – circular motion flames / opposites

    5)2-Thrust – single turbo & planetary gears / ying yang

    6)2-Turbo 2 hot

    7)2-Turbo 1 hot

    8)1-Turbine / bigger

    -With Retrodynamic Dextrogiro vs Levogiro Phenomenon Effect. / Rotor-RPM VS InFlow / front to front; “Collision-Interaction Type” – inflow vs blades-gear-move. Technical unique dynamic innovative motion mode. [Retrodynamic Reaction = When the inflow have more velocity the rotor have more RPM Acceleration, with high (XY Position) Momentum] Which the internal flow (and rotor) duplicate its speed, when

    activated being in a rotor (and inflow) with [inverse] opposite Turns. The Reaction at front of the action. A very strong Novel torque power concept.

    -Non waste parasitic looses for; friction, cooling, lubrication & combustion.

    -Shape-Mass + Rotary-Motion = Inertia-Dynamic / Form-Function Wide (Flat) Cylindrical shape + positive dynamic rotary mass = continue Inertia positive tendency motion. Kinetic Rotating Mass.

    -Combustion 2Two continue circular (Rockets) flames. (ying yang) opposite one to the other. – With 2TWO very long distance INFLOW (inside propulsion) CONDUITS. -4 TURBOS Rotary Total Thrust-Power Regeneration Power System. -Mechanical direct 2two (Small) Planetary Gears at polar position. -Like the Ying Yang Symbol/Concept.

    -The Mechanical Gear Power Thrust Point Wide out the Rotor circumference were have much more lever (HIGH Torque) POWER THRUST. -No blade erosion by sand & very low heat target signature profile. -3 points of power thrust; 1-flow way, 2-gear, 3-turbine. *Patent; Dic. 1991 IMPI Mexico #197187 All Rights Reserved. Carlos Barrera.


    ·2-Imploturbocompressor; One Moving Part System Excellence Design – The InFlow Interaction comes from Macro-Flow and goes to Micro-Flow by Implossion – Only One Compression Step; Inflow, Compression and outflow at one simple circular dynamic motion Concept.

    *·“Excellence in Design” because is only one moving part. Only one unique compression step. Inflow and out flow at the same one system, This invention by its nature a logic and simple conception in the dynamics flow mechanics area. The invention is a wing made of one piece in a rotating motion, contained in a pair cavity system connected by implocavity, and interacting dynamically with a flow, that passes internally “Imploded” through its simple mechanism. This flow can be gas (air) or liquid (water). And have two diferents aplications, in two diferents form-function; this one can be received (using the dynamic flow passage, as a receiver). Or it can be generated (with a power plant, generating a propulsion).

    An example cut be, as a Bike needs a chain to work from motor to wheel. And for the Imploturbocompressor application, cut be as; in a circumstance at the engine, as an A-activate flow, and with a a tube flow conduit going to the wheel as a B-receiving-flow the work use.

    To see a Imploturbocompressor animation, is posible on a simple way, just to check the Hurricane Satellite view, and is the same implo inflow way nature.

    Presenting one of the many diferents examples, could specifically be this same invention applied in pair in every bar end, similar to what would be a turbine reaction or turbocompressor, and making the best profit of a exhaust gas dynamic flow, compressing a new air entrance and therefore falling into the technical field of the reaction turbines. This of course, considerating materials that are resistant to the high temperatures such as the ceramics ones. And furthermore this invention approaches more the combustion point and therefore also more to the gases expansion point, in order to search a higher expanding dynamic strength. It could, for example, be presented into an inter dynamic rotor system (aplication), supported internally and in a rotating system. And likewise being able to activate a new concept of dynamic turbine by pushing gearing, Gearturbine, and likewise, creating a new technical field. Or can be in a more simple way by means of the system of this same invention applied to the bar end, but without a movement of interaction with the rotor, only the rotary dynamics in a static point for any type of mechanical work such as a dynamo in order to generate electricity through the dynamic strength of a flow when it is rotating at the moment it receives it, just like a pelton well do.

    And when the flow that is received and that is intended to be used at best, must no necessarily by a exhausting or rejection gas, but must be a dynamic passing gas or liquid flow with the only intention to count it or to measure it. This could be possible at the passing and interacting period when it passes inside its simple mechanism. This can be in any point of the work flow trajectory.

    In case the flow that is received is a water falling by gravity, and a dynamo is placed on the rotary bar, the Imploturbocompressor can profit an be obtained by generating? electricity such as obtained by the pelton well, like I say before. The “Imploturbocompressor”, is a good option to pump water, or a gas flow, and all kinds of pipes lines dynamic moves.

    Or only receive the air-liquid flow, in order to measure its passage with a counter placed on the bar, because when this flow passes through the simple mechanism of a rotating wing made of only one piece it interacts within the implocavities system. And this flow can be air wind, with the diference of can have an horizontal work position, and that particle technical circumstances make an easy way for urban building work new use application, and have wind flow from all the sides 180 grades view. The aforementioned information about this invention refers to technical applications, such as a dynamic flow receiver. (whether being gas or liquid).

    Connecting the free end of the bar of this invention to a power plant (manual, electrical, mechanical, or combusting, etc…), there will be available a capacity and a position in order to generate the flow dynamics (or even better, a propulsion). This applied? to gas flows (air) or to liquid flow (water). This of course, considering the due rotating directions as well as the inclination, wings, curvature and the due dimensioning for every application of every technical field.

    With the appropriate power plant and the appropriate dimensioning and number of RPM this invention is also feasible to generate an atmospheric air propulsion and the autoprolpusion of an aircraft. Being an effective and very simple system that implodes and compresses the atmospheric air permits the creation of a new concept of propulsion for aircrafts, due to its simple mechanism and innovative nature. At the place of the aircraft were the system appears and the manner how the propulsion direction can be oriented with a vectorial flow (no lobster tail) with I call “yo-yo system” (middle cut (at the shell) to move, one side loose), guided and balanced is feasible to create a new concept of TOVL-vertical take-off landing, I wish good for a wild conditions. Because the exhaust propulsion can going out radial in all the 360 vectorial positions, going out direct all the time in all the vectors direction. With his rotor cover for an better furtive fly, like going down of a bridge for example.

    Likewise, with the due form and dimensioning, and considering the liquid density and the due revolutions for this element there could be generated a propulsion (water) in order to move an aquatic ship, whether on surface or under water. Also can be a good option to pump liquid combustion for a rocket propulsion.

    Making a metaphoric comparison with the intention to expose it more clearly for a better comprehension of this innovative technical detail, it would be similar to the trajectory and motion of a dynamic flow compared with a rope (extended) that passes through the system would have now a knot (without obstructing the flow), so the complete way of the flow at the imploturbocompresor system have three direct ways and bettween make two diferents turns; direct way (entrance) – turn – direct way (implocavity) – turn – direct way (exit), all this in a 1 simple circular move system concept.

    Its prudent to mention that the curves and the inclinations of the blades of a rotating wing made of this invention, is conferred by its shape and function a structural rigidity allowing it to conduct and alter appropriately the dynamic flow passing through its system.

    This invention are very versatile, can be applied and used for any kind of flow, whether as gas or as a liquid, received or be generating it.? And it has different technical fields, being applied in any circumstance where the intention is to obtain an profitable work, to modify on his imploflow system. 10531.