Engineering Will Carry the Day

Engineering is more important than manufacturing – without engineering there is nothing to make, and engineering is more important than marketing – without it there is nothing to market.

If I could choose my competitive advantage, it would be an unreasonably strong engineering team.

Ideas have no value unless they’re morphed into winning products, and that’s what engineering does. Technology has no value unless it’s twisted into killer products. Guess who does that?

We have fully built out methodologies for marketing, finance, and general management, each with all the necessary logic and matching toolsets, and manufacturing has lean. But there is no such thing for engineering. Stress analysis or thermal modeling? Built a prototype or do more thinking? Plastic or aluminum? Use an existing technology or invent a new one? What new technology should be invented? Launch the new product as it stands or improve product robustness? How is product robustness improved? Will the new product meet the specification? How will you know? Will it hit the cost target? Will it be manufacturable? Good luck scripting all that.

A comprehensive, step-by-step program for engineering is not possible.

Lean says process drives process, but that’s not right. The product dictates to the factory, and engineers dictate the product. The factory looks as it does because the product demands it, and the product looks as it does because engineers said so.

I’d rather have a product that is difficult to make but works great rather than one that jumps together but works poorly.

And what of innovation? The rhetoric says everyone innovates, but that’s just a nice story that helps everyone feel good. Some innovations are more equal than others. The most important innovations create the killer products, and the most important innovators are the ones that create them – the engineers.

Engineering as a cost center is a race to the bottom; engineering as a market creator will set you free.

The only question: How are you going to create a magical engineering team that changes the game?

2 Responses to “Engineering Will Carry the Day”

  • Dave Enlow:

    Thanks a lot Mike! We finally are seeing some progress in getting the engineers off their pedestals and playing nice with marketing, quality and manufacturing, and now you go and make them feel “special” again! (Actually I agree with you, but you can’t let the engineers know that, they become intolerable)

    About 20 years ago I was in a new hire orientation, company overview course. Each of the different functions (engineering, manufacturing, marketing, finance, quality, etc) came in and gave a brief presentation on how their organization fit into the company. It was interesting, each of the organizations had their own version of a wagon wheel diagram with their organization as the “hub” at the center, and all the others supported them. Each function had the same vision that they were the most important. Of course you wouldn’t have that great engineering product if manufacturing, marketing, quality and supplier management wern’t right in there with them questioning every design decision! But in the end it’s the engineers decision and they own the product, we just keep them focused on considering alternatives.

  • Mike I Love your posts…..I usually agree with you, but this one is loaded with fighting words !

    First: Everyone knows New England got hammered with Snow So all I can say is you must have Cabin Fever Big time!

    Second: Engineering won’t have a clue what to build without great up front market research done by marketing/sales. I have seen enough Gold Plated Mouse Traps & Widgets! Engineers can and will often only build what they know or know works and are often stuck in the past. What you often get is more of the same…… just more of it and more expensive.

    Third: Customers don’t know what they need, because it hasn’t been discovered or defined by Marketing and Sales yet. No customer asked an Engineer to Build a computer mouse…..what probably happened was the customer asked a sales/marketing person if there was a better – faster way to move the cursor around the screen. An engineer would have made Turbo Charged cursor/arrows on the key board…….

    Fourth: It takes a collaboration of Sales/Marketing with great Engineers who are willing to take risks outside the box to create great products. Some of the best products I have done involved me the marketing guy sitting down with an engineer and have an discussion of what could be and what would work and most importantly what would sell profitably! It was often darwinistic the Eng. showed me tech, I said more of this less of that etc. What we got sold 40% over my forecast. Often Eng. looks down on us Sales/Marketing folks because we don’t have the Phd, or PE after our name. When there is Respect and Trust, the Magic happens….

    Mike I hope you get over the Cabin Fever and come spring, you will come to your senses, ha, ha, ha….

    Keep the posts coming!

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