What information does an engineering office need to be able to design a product?

Our job as an engineering office is to develop ideas into products. Every time we start a new design project, there are certain things we need to resolve before getting into work, e.g., what is the purpose of the product, how is it used, what will it cost, and how will it be manufactured. Whenever you are planning something, whether it be a vacation or a mechanical design project, getting the desired result always requires some background research and information. Designing a product requires a lot of input data, and there is often a need to update the data along with the project because seeing the 3D model for the first time may spark new ideas or improvements for the previous plans.

But what kind of information is needed in design projects, then? When designing an entirely new product, we need plenty of information, such as the budget and the schedule for the project, the desired materials, the manufacturing method, the purpose of the product, and the features of the product. One might even say, the more information there is available, the better. However, if there is a massive list of features to be included in the product, the product may become too expensive and overly complicated. For this reason, it is a good idea to divide the product requirements into different categories based on their priority. One way of doing this is to divide the requirements into mandatory, minimum, and nice-to-have requirements.

Mandatory requirements

Mandatory requirements are factors that have been considered the most critical. They are usually related to costs, schedule, functions and use environment. For example, if a product is going to be used outside, it has to be waterproof. Formed as a design requirement, this could read: “The product has to meet the criteria for IPX7 classification.” Mandatory, well-defined requirements are ideal for defining the most critical features, but they may limit other aspects of design. A mandatory requirement regarding the choice of materials, for example, may rule out some manufacturing techniques and also affect the manufacturing costs.

Minimum requirements

Minimum requirements are also critical, but they do not limit the design as much as the mandatory requirements. A minimum requirement for a steel table, for instance, could be that it has to hold a weight of 100 kilograms. In this case, the actual weight-holding capacity of the table might be even more than 100 kilograms, but not less than that. In other cases, it might be necessary to set maximum limits to some quantities, such as the total weight or manufacturing costs. Setting minimum and maximum limits is a convenient way of creating requirements for a product because it gives more flexibility in other areas of the design.

Nice-to-have requirements

Nice-to-have requirements are features that one might appreciate in a product but are not absolutely necessary. Giving an example of a nice-to-have requirement is quite challenging because they depend entirely on the product and the client. For certain kinds of products, good looks or compatibility with some other product is a must, whereas, for some other products, such features are only a plus, i.e., nice-to-have requirements. Nice-to-have requirements are the type of requirements which are fulfilled if possible or reasonable in scope of the other, more critical requirements. 

In conclusion, carrying out a design project requires a wide range of information. But don’t worry: you don’t need to have all the answers right away. We have the expertise to ask the right questions and set the wheels in motion.

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