In this series we’ll explore some of the methods, stories and culture we have at Inertia for getting products to market faster, some of which can be applied to any business out there.
All the world’s a stage…
It’s early morning on a chilly fall day, and the sun is just peeking over a seemingly endless line of cars creeping toward the US-Canada border crossing.
My colleague and I are on our way to complete testing of a prototype design that has been in the works for several months. We know that every day we spend testing costs us (and by extension, our client) nearly $7500, so pressure to prove a feasible design concept is high.
A few days before, we made the same trip, but things didn’t go as well as we had hoped. Both shifts of engineers at the Toronto office, as well as the Chinese office, have earned their paycheques since then.
And all the men and women merely players…
Immediately after reviewing the disappointing test results, I arranged a conference call to understand how we could redesign the product component that hadn’t performed as well as we wanted. Even before my colleague and I returned from our day of testing, the Toronto team generated several new options.
In a meeting the next morning, we reviewed the possible solutions and selected a design direction. Every employee was recruited to accelerate the design from a concept to the real world and onto the test bench in New York.
The business manager booked the test facility for the next available date. Allowing 2 days for shipping and 2 – 3 days for prototype manufacturing, not even 48 hours remained to complete our design. Any error would mean rescheduling our test day, which could set us back weeks. Much like a Formula 1 pit crew, our team had to know where to be, what to do, and when to do it. The daytime staff analysed the proposed solution using simulation tools, kicked off the prototype build, and called the client to relay the news. The night shift of engineers picked up where they left off, developing the design further and completing manufacturability studies. Halfway around the world, the Chinese office continued simulation and began updating drawings. We held a design review with the entire company, and everyone was given the opportunity to voice their concerns. Before the weekend arrived, we had picked up the prototype from the shop, packaged it, and sent it on its way to the testing facility. This wasn’t a product that only one or two people had designed: the whole company could claim ownership, and everyone was invested in the results.
Now, after an hour on the Go Train, two hours in a rental car, and half an hour sitting in line at the border wondering why so many people needed to get to New York before 8 am, I have the chance to reflect on the work of the last week. I can see how the events of those few days define, for me, what it means to work at Inertia Engineering + Design. In essence, it’s about choreography. A well designed plan connects individual actions, and the result is so much more than what each of us could accomplish alone. Every step in the product development process depends on the promptness and completeness of others, laying down a (hopefully) seamless path toward success. This integrated, fluid nature requires that we are honest in our communication and collaborative in our actions. It allows us to complete traditionally linear tasks in parallel, a process better known as concurrent engineering.
As a result of our well-practiced choreography, we are ready to evaluate the new idea just a few days after the disappointing test. The test results come back, and I place another call to my team, this time with a smile on my face.
Based on your experiences, what methods do you use to effectively and efficiently orchestrate your teams?
We`d certainly like to hear your comments and perspectives below.