Could these issues have been prevented through a consolidated effort? Quite possibly if one company’s unfortunate experience is viewed as a learning example. The U.S. manufacturer of component parts for aircraft products determined that a ruggedized product for the military would be cost-prohibitive if designed and manufactured stateside. Instead it outsourced mechanical design and fabrication to companies in India, but contracted with an American firm for thermal management. That decision turned out to a costly oversight that would negatively impact the project throughout the process. The oversight: some key mechanical and thermal design requirements were "hidden" in governing specifications and procedures. The offshore companies failed to take those into account due to the lack of familiarity with some of the specialized requirements. The project sustained numerous delays as the Indian companies had to redesign and rework. The initial cost savings that the company anticipated through the decentralized approach were obliterated by constant delays and their predictable corollary—escalating expenditures that exceeded budgetary limitations. The company finally admitted defeat and cancelled the project.
This example should not be viewed as criticism of the capabilities of the outsourced firms. Instead, it graphically illustrates the need for constant communication between all involved with the logistics of thermal management design and manufacturing. Clearly, that was not the case with the company that separated thermal engineering from design and fabrication. The fact is that the quality and speed to solution will be impacted by this demonstrated lack of understanding.
Contrast that outcome with the success of a U.S. firm in the Southwest that expeditiously resolved thermal management issues thanks to centralization. As the development process continued, the customer demanded working prototypes in three weeks. Engineering moved first to define the thermal requirements with the customer. Now, it was time to discuss the project with all of the disciplines including production, testing, engineering, quality assurance and sales, all of whom were close enough to conduct their review in the same room. Working together without the specter of delays caused by distance, language and corporate culture, the group identified potential challenges, quickly resolved them and produced the successfully functioning parts to the customer within the obviously tight time frame. “I doubt we could have resolved things that quickly had we been scattered around the globe,” the owner said.
All companies recognize the imperative of scaling up manufacturing and reproducing parts without frequent delays. The process is rendered more efficient when all sides speak the same technical language—a preferred scenario and one of the fundamental reasons for unifying design and manufacturing. Expeditious communications and ultimately a solution are less likely to occur when design, fabrication and thermal management exist in separate and distant facilities.
I don't believe there is chronic a “disconnect” between thermal management specialists and real world manufacturing the author is pointing to. Most companies I know of (including several where I worked) took into considerations the variations in material properties, assembly process (reflow & on-board thermocouple locations), were considered and bracketed for upper and lower bounds.
There is some relevance to the language issue when communicating design and assembly specs to overseas vendors.
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