Last week, in the post about the engineering minefield and unplanned work, I promised some principles to help with avoiding the 15 hour engineering emergency that blows up your week. The ghist coming out of that discussion was that product issues that proceed downstream eventually make their way back to engineering as unplanned work. That’s when the firedrill lands on your desk. So how do you minimize the firedrills, the unplanned work and the product issues that get downstream?

Get it right the first time.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the idea is to do things differently prior to design release so product issues never get downstream. As a result, those errors, change orders and issues never turn into firedrills in the first place. Furthermore, it saves other organizations in the company too. Those are errors and change orders that purchasing, quality, manufacturing and legal never spend time on.

Now I know you’ve probably heard about this concept many, many, many times before. It’s been cited so frequently by software providers in the context of their engineering software tools that it’s hard to associate it with anything else. But while technology can be part of the answer, it’s far more than that. What else does it involve?

  • Take More Time Up Front: I know schedules are ridiculously tight. I know you’ve probably got more work than you can handle. But the fundamental concept behind a get it right the first time principle is that you take more time up front to save even more time later. You can’t simply keep the same schedule up front and expect to reap the rewards downstream. That has to be a mantra time and again to management.
  • Procedural / Process Changes and Measurements: Also realize, however, that just doing the same thing slower will only incrementally improve things under a get it right the first time initiative. If you want to catch more product issues before they get downstream, you to change your activities so they can affect that goal in a measurable way.
  • Software is an Enabler, not THE Answer: Engineering software applications and system can go a long way towards enabling this principle. But plugging in a new tool into the same old problematic process won’t result in the changes you want. Don’t get me wrong. Software helps. But it’s an enabler with other changes. Not the endgame answer by itself.

A get it right the first time principle can help a lot. But there are other things you can also do to address problems associated with the engineering hero work issue. Next time, we’ll take a look at non-value-added tasks and how to deal with them.

Take care. Talk soon. And thanks for reading.