THE DESIGN PROCESS
How I Work
Every design project has a unique set of challenges that can only be solved on a case by case basis. The nature of design is iterative and nonlinear, each aspect may be considered multiple times with a fresh perspective each time. A successful designer will regularly cycle between big picture concepts and detailed implementation. While this may be the case, it is also true that there is a general structure that should be followed for efficient and successful projects.
Below I describe the various stages of the design process I use when designing industrial machines.
Kick Off (Free Consultation)
I provide a free consultation to get things started. At this meeting we can determine if we are a good fit for each other. We will discuss:
- The reason for the project.
- The problem to be solved.
- The required functionality.
- Possible solutions or approaches to finding the right solution.
- Budget and time constraints.
During the proposal phase I work closely with the client to understand clearly what the objectives are. I ask the right questions to understand what success looks like to the client in terms of functionality, price and timing. I consider the various options to achieve success and put together a plan to bring the client's ideas into reality. The proposal should reflect a mutually agreed upon set of objectives and a clear plan on how this will be achieved.
The proposal will include:
- Background information The big picture. What is the reason for the project? What problem is it trying to solve?
- Objectives - What will be achieved?
- Proposed solution - Key elements of the proposed design. How I propose to solve the problem. If multiple solutions exist, what are the pros and cons of each.
- Preliminary design specifications - Measureable outcomes.
- Deliverables - What you get and when.
- Scope of work - My responsibilities and the client's responsibilities.
- Costs - My hourly rate and estimated budget for whole project.
- Milestones / Timelines - Realistic production schedule.
- Terms and conditions - What the client must agree to before I will take on the project.
For simple, well defined projects the proposal is provided free of charge. For proposals where the client receives value for the time invested (research outcomes, design concepts, reduced risk etc.) there will be a fee, negotiated with the client, on a case-by-case basis, prior to the commencement of work.
If the client wishes to proceed with the project they must confirm in writing that they have read the proposal and agree with its contents. Work will not commence until this is done. The proposal may need to be revised multiple times throughout the project. With any major direction change or change in scope the proposal will be reissued to reflect the current state of the project.
A clear understanding the problem to be solved is crucial to the success of every project. That’s why the first step is to clearly define the requirements in terms of functionality, attributes and specifications. This ensures that all involved are in agreement with what is to be achieved from the outset. This definition supports the decision making process throughout the entire project.
In some cases, a feasibility study is carried out. Its purpose is to determine if a project is achievable within time and budget constraints.
The concept stage is used to explore the many possible solutions with the aim of identifying the most appropriate ones, given all the relevant criteria. Ideas are explored through:
- Hand sketches
- CAD modelling
- Conversations with equipment suppliers, services providers and end users
Possible solutions are compared to assess their relevant strengths and weaknesses. Assessing all options in the planning phase reduces the risk of having to backtrack in the design phase.
At the conclusion of this process the customer should have a clear understanding of the key ideas that will drive the design.
The aim of the preliminary design phase is to define all of the major design elements, thus eliminating much of the uncertainty. How this is achieved can vary greatly from one project to the next. In general, I am always looking to keep cost low by utilising existing solutions. Where new elements are required their implementation is kept as simple, robust and practical as possible.
During this crucial stage of the design process I work closely with all stakeholders (the client, end users, suppliers and service providers) to ensure the client gets the outcome they are looking for. For this reason I strongly encourage regular and frequent progress updates.
At the conclusion of this process there should be a clear understanding of all of the key elements required in the design and how they relate to each other. The client and all stakeholders should be comfortable with the direction of the project.
Design detailing is the process of taking the “preliminary design” and filling in the gaps to produce a design suitable for manufacture. Again, there is an emphasis on reducing each element down to its simplest form.
- Material selection
- Component selection
- Interference detection
The following deliverables are created:
- Printable drawings for manufacture and assembly.
- Electronic drawings for profile cutting, CNC machining, 3D printing etc.
- Bill of materials for all components including manufactured and purchased parts.
I do not manufacture. I work with your preferred supplier or I can recommend those I work with on a regular basis.
Before your machine is shipped to your facilities I will work with the manufacturer to ensure it is performing as expected. You also have the option to inspect the machine prior to shipping.
Once the machine arrives at your facilities I can provide support for installation, integration, commissioning and training.
If required, the following items can be supplied:
- Operator’s manual
- Risk assessment
- Spare parts list
- Logic program
A budget will be provided with the initial proposal. It is an estimate of what it is reasonably likely to cost given the information available at the time.
The budget will be reassessed at milestones or when scope of work changes.
I work on a first come, first served basis. The sooner we talk the better chance I have of meeting your deadline.
Time tracking software is used to record and monitor time spent on each project. At the commencement of each project the client is provided with a URL to track the progress of their project online.
At each milestone there is the opportunity to reassess the state of the project. Progress updates as well as revised budget estimates and timelines can be provided.
I take all reasonable steps necessary to ensure your project remains confidential. I will not disclose any information to a third party. I will not use a client's project for marketing or promotional purposes unless written consent is provided.
I am generally happy to sign NDA agreements.
Ownership of Design
The client takes ownership of the design as it is paid for. All details of the design will be provided, this includes CAD files and control logic software.