The value of cross-pollination
Companies are understandably proud to trumpet the “added value” of their products, but that value tends to be eliminated when disciplines from design through production are isolated—a situation that tends to increase costs of development for the company and the purchase price for the client. The necessity here is for bridge building, in this case interaction that can be facilitated through a centralized process. This type of interaction is similar to cross-pollination in which pollen is taken from one type of flower or plant and delivered to a different one. In our example of centralized design and manufacturing, various disciplines transfer their seemingly unrelated expertise (pollen) in real-time to help facilitate thermal management solutions. Globalization is a permanent fact of business life, but thermal management generally will not benefit from it because of the need for system interaction and communication at every step of the process.
“If you’re embarking on something that will give you a competitive edge, you won’t get there without a centralized design team and a relationship,” said A1A’s David Thompson. “Cost margins and profitability come from working with the right relationships.”
Cost benefits from a centralized approach can exceed those projected from either overseas or domestic contractor outsourcing especially if the rationale for outsourcing has been predicated on reducing component costs. On the surface, this view may seem to be a paradox since component costs are often the source of overruns that project managers desperately want to avoid and believe outsourcing to be the solution. Yet the intense focus on those costs rather than on process is an enormous pitfall containing potential cost-prohibitive consequences. Anticipated savings based solely on outsourced product have been lost because of delays and revisions necessitated by resolution of serious thermal management issues. To focus on individual component costs (parts, human resources, etc.) is to lose the added value that centralized interaction can provide.
In fact, interaction is the greatest benefit of the centralized process. Problems that erupt from initial design through manufacturing should be expected, but delays due to different technical, manufacturing and even cultural frameworks should not. The whole point of centralization is to keep all of these disciplines under one roof if possible or at least in close proximity where problems can be responded to promptly. Thermal management is the classic example—one of the most critical elements for optimum performance and that means constant and close coordination among thermal and testing engineers, designers and manufacturers.
Cost control will always be crucial, which is the usual rationale for outsourcing. The approach, however, greatly escalates the potential for costly delays that will increase time and costs of preparing the product for the marketplace. That’s especially true with heat management issues, functions that cannot be resolved by thermal engineers working separately component-by-component in an isolated bubble. Focusing on cost savings based on component prices misses the point. Centralization is likely to pay for itself when the product is successfully completed.
About the author:
Dennis Scott is thermal solutions manager for Noren Products, Menlo Park, Calif., an industry leader in providing thermal solutions through heat pipe technology for a variety of industries and market sectors for more than 40 years. For additional information please call 650.322.9500, or visit the company website at www.norenproducts.com.
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