When to outsource engineering design

The advantages that can be achieved by being first-to-market and developing products in advance of competition means that there is now increased pressure on the development process to deliver results in a shorter time frame with better return on investment.

Whilst completing product design and engineering developments in-house has advantages, considering outsourcing part or all of your product design requirements can help keep your competitive edge.

Why would you outsource engineering design?

Outsourced engineering provides businesses with options, both for providing skills and for resource. Companies may need to consider tapping into a skill or an area of expertise that is not already held in-house or required for the company’s normal workflow. Recruiting for a position when it is not critical to the business to develop that competence internally is not generally cost effective nor an efficient use of labour long-term.

Even the most innovative companies turn to engineering design consultants to meet particular needs. Outsourcing specific skills can also have a positive impact on internal teams as it enables them to be free to work across multiple projects whilst accessing this expertise.  Whereas recruiting skills takes time to build an in-house team, outsourcing a design project will enable the company to start the process quickly and efficiently. This will lead to a company structure that is focused on the core innovation and the development of the business to serve the market.

Some companies may have the idea but not the internal capacity to turn it into a reality. An engineering design company can offer the capability to take this idea and turn it into a marketable product. This enables the company to outsource the design at an agreed cost and to focus internal efforts on the manufacturing, distribution and sale of the end product.

Using an external supplier who already has established product development processes should enable start-ups and smaller organisations to become competitive by getting their ideas to market quickly, efficiently and cost effectively.

Who would you outsource engineering design to?

The real benefits from outsourcing will be determined by the quality of the company you select to work with. Establishing a close working relationship will ultimately result in your chosen company becoming a trusted partner, one you can rely on to understand your needs, communicate with openly and efficiently and support you for all of your design requirements

Don’t let size be a limitation either way. Small firms are often extremely responsive whilst still offering a full design service with a personal touch; large firms can sometimes offer a larger range of expertise and experienced teams to support this. Experience and education, staff turnover, innovative design successes and track record are the important factors you should be considering when looking at potential engineering design companies. Consistent and trusted relationships develop and can stay with the customer for the longevity of the project (and future projects). Be mindful that the company should be large enough that you are not dependent on a single employee and any staffing changes in the organisation would therefore have minimal or no disruption to the project. An established engineering design consultancy with a good track record should be able to provide you with relevant references from people who have chosen to work with them.

How would you ensure outsourcing is successful?

Preparation is important when working with your chosen design engineering firm. Ensuring that clear targets and deliverables are established and agreed at the very beginning of the process will prevent misinterpretations resulting in design rework, which will have an impact on your budget.

Clear and formally agreed specifications and processes will enable projects to run smoothly and result in the desired outcome so it is important to choose a company with the correct quality standards for your development. Make sure that the IP status is very clear and only outsource engineering to a company that doesn’t claim IP (unless IP sharing and licensing is part of the overall business strategy).

When would you outsource engineering design?

The best time to outsource engineering design is when you will maximise your return on investment. If you have made a decision to use an external company, involving them in the early stages of the process will enable them to identify and advise on (or improve) product elements and associated manufacturing processes for cost reduction.

Understanding the need to outsource, choosing the optimum moment at which to bring in an external consultancy, and being prepared to work with them in a considered partnership will help you to have a successful experience with your engineering design consultancy.