In a conversation with our technical program manager over the last several weeks, I have come to the conclusion that the terms "engineering" and "fast" rarely belong in the same sentence — or my expectation of how product development engineers define “fast” simply needed a major reboot. When a customer expresses interest, my emotional, transactional side stands at attention and screams, “Deliver it now!"
After spending time with the engineering and technical teams, I have come to realize that four weeks for a sample is a rather quick turnaround for them. The team echoed, “There are more important parameters than speed.”
So, what are these parameters? Below are the three things I learned that trump "fast" to product development engineering teams every day:
Form, fit and function — that’s what our engineering team wants to know. Does the sample match the customer’s specification? Does the sample interface with any matching components or assemblies? Does the sample match the specification and the drawing but still not fit? While meeting deadlines is incredibly important, I learned that engineers would rather deliver two weeks late with a part that is accurate than deliver on time with a part that is not perfect. They want it on time, not fast.
Product development engineers boast a highly specialized skill set and often work alongside other engineers to add value to a project. They value partnership, feedback and technical assistance, and are open to considering alternative raw materials, a process that will increase part accuracy and potentially reduce cost. Additionally, they will trust suppliers who are looking to help, not simply make a buck. Every engineer has limited bandwidth. Teaming up with value-adding partners will always be a better solution than “fast."
When it comes to the sampling process, the first question to ask is: Will this be a production or non-production sample? Non-production will provide the form and fit, but perhaps not the function you need or expect from a production sample. Engineers are a prideful group, and when they deliver a part for sampling, they are delivering a piece of themselves. They want it to represent their best. Given the choice, every engineer would prefer accolades about the product over timeliness every time.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2015.
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