Communication. Without good communication, having all the best ideas in the world doesn't do anyone any good. That is why I take pride in providing my clients with clear updates, presentations, emails, and phone calls. I am not the typical engineer who might have a good idea but cannot explain it.
Product development. My specialty is product development, it is what really gets my juices going! This basically means working with you at whatever stage your project is at to make it the best it can be. My many years of development experience have given me the tools needed to evaluate ergonomics, cost effectiveness, ease of assembly, ease of maintenance, and many other aspects that may not be as obvious. There are usually many design iterations early on, which then get evaluated or tested to narrow the field. Stress analysis, prototyping, cycle testing, load testing, or field testing are all tools we can use to validate a design. Detailed drawings, prototypes, more testing, and finally you have a product that you will be proud to put out into the world.
Brainstorming / Concepting. When I left my first involved brainstorming session I was on a high for the rest of the day and knew I had chosen the right career. You hear a lot of buzzwords and catchphrases about this early stage of a project and I think that has put somewhat of a negative spin on it. From the outside some people think it just looks like people having fun and the real work will start when that meeting is over. NOT TRUE. In my experience the most important moments of even a multi-year project happen at the very beginning. When you are coming up with the initial concepts for a product, you are making decisions that will affect the rest of the life of the product. Decisions made then will cost or save you more that ones made later. Having a time where any idea is honestly evaluated and more weight is not given to anyone’s idea just because of their position or how loud they yell is key to the process. I can help keep you on track and watch out for the common pitfalls I have seen, or just be there throwing my ideas in the ring.
Product improvement. Already have a product that sells well that you want to improve? Are sales starting to slide because the competition has a new shiny model? That happens to everyone, but it is important to be thoughtful in how you upgrade a product. You don’t want to alienate your current customer base by removing the features they like, but you also don’t want to be too cautious and just be a follower either. I have gone through this many times and can help you make those tough decisions and move forward.
Troubleshooting. If your business makes things, things break, and nobody likes that. I have often been asked to solve a performance or reliability issue, and to be honest, it is one of my favorite parts of what I do. Often times, just having fresh eyes and asking all of the questions that others might not feel comfortable asking is all it takes. I have made it a habit to talk to everyone involved in a product I am investigating. Engineering, purchasing, receiving, assembly, repair, returns,..... You never know where the key nugget of information will come from. Other tactics are to really dig into the tolerance stack-up of assemblies and see if it is a tolerancing issue, testing and measuring to look for trends, or just some calculations. Whatever the issue, I will attack it from every angle until it is solved.
Testing. Throughout my career I have had the opportunity to build many endurance and load test stands. I have designed and built equipment to test circuit boards, elastic tubing, fuel pumps, foam, a chair, a drop tester for consumer electronics, and more. The goal is always to design it quickly and simply using as many off the shelf components to keep costs down. Once I have a clear idea of what is being tested I am sure to eliminate as many other factors as possible so when the testing is done you have clear data without a ton of caveats.
Cost cutting. It is unavoidable that it costs money to manufacture a product. But you do not need to be paying more than is necessary to get the job done. Unfortunately not everyone has the experience or background to keep costs as low as they can be. My favorite way to bring costs down is to simplify and consolidate parts. There are often ways of combining functions to eliminate parts or completely re-think how something is done. Finding alternative manufacturing methods or new vendors can make a huge difference. Keeping away from custom parts and using as many off the shelf components as you can usually helps. Sometimes it is as simple as just knowing where to look. Other times, the savings are in the labor side of the equation. Looking at how something is assembled and then either making a jig for them or even changing the design to make it easier to assemble can save significant time and money.
Assembly fixtures. I have had the pleasure to design quite a few machining fixtures and assembly fixtures. Everything ranging from quick and dirty wood jigs up to custom machined jigs that will last a lifetime. If you can turn a workbench into a tool that orients parts correctly, houses the tools near where they get used, and makes tasks less strenuous and laborious, you have improved your efficiency and saved money without changing your product at all.
Solidworks modelling assistance. Everyone runs into challenges they need some help with and there is nothing wrong with asking for it. Sometimes Solidworks doesn’t act the way you think it should. Sometimes you just cannot find that button! And sometimes you just know that the crazy lofted surface you have in your head is going to take a loooong time to get right. I know the feeling. In the last 15 years I have worked on aerodynamic parts, large assemblies with multiple configurations, and robotic manipulators. I won’t say I have seen it all but I have seen a lot. I also won the Solidworks World Model Mania 3d modelling challenge in 2009 and am a Certified Solidworks Professional (CSP). I enjoy finding new ways to get Solidworks to do what I want and will spend the time afterwards to explain to you what I did so you can handle any changes in the future.