Tackling a large mechanical project like a drone, or a large medical device can seem overwhelming at first. The complexity and the number of moving parts can be downright scary. There is a saying that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, but I don’t quite buy it. Eating the same thing for a long period of time gets boring not to mention that it’s probably going to go bad before you finish. A large project is going to have a similar result unless you break it down properly. Why not break the project down into a series of smaller projects and consider distributing the smaller projects amongst your team?
Start by making a list of all the problems you see. Many of the projects we do here at Creative Mechanisms are to solve a mechanical problem that is just one part of a very large project. We attack that problem just as we would a small product. We brainstorm all the possible solutions and present each solution as a concept sketched out in Solidworks. We then evaluate the concepts with the client and select one or several to explore further. The selected solutions are engineered in Solidworks but not engineered fully for production. There is no point in adding draft, ribs and other manufacturing details when you are only proving out a concept. The parts would of course be separated into the separate parts necessary for manufacturing, so the Bill of Materials would be accurate. Its just that all the fine details would not be included in this stage.
Once that “Looks Like, Works Like” level of engineering is done the parts would be prototyped by 3D printing or CNC machining, whichever is appropriate for the given part. The pieces would be assembled and evaluated. If multiple concepts were done they would be compared for function, parts count and cost of assembly. Final engineering could be started, or it might be put off for later. It might be more efficient regarding schedule to move on to the next problem and execute the solution for that with the same process. Once all the problems are solved you can then move on to the engineering for manufacturing stage.
The advantages of breaking out a large job into small problem-solving solutions are many but most of all it can shorten the time it takes to complete the overall project. Dividing the large job into small problem-solving projects allows you to utilize other teams. The teams can be internal or outsourced. As I mentioned many of our jobs are the small problem-solving efforts that are part of a much larger project being managed internally by the client. It also helps prevent that feeling of being overwhelmed or getting lost in the priorities at hand because there is just so much to be done.
Smaller project “blasts” as we like to call them, can have quick schedules. Concepts can usually be generated in a week or less and the prototyping can be done in a few weeks depending on the complexity. Having short deadlines is so much more efficient than looking at a project end date that is months away. The energy and momentum is much easier to maintain when you are accomplishing goals on a regular basis and focusing on small manageable tasks as opposed to one overwhelming project.
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