How to do efficient engineering development?

If you want to develop efficiently, nurture a local ecosystem!

Our main objective is to deliver solutions with the best fitting architecture to the problem they are solving, fast and with high quality of build. This is ultimately the standard we are committed to maintain, be good at, and known for. To really be devoted to this objective, takes more IRNAS alone as a company can support, let alone master. In this blog, we will explain how important it is to be a part of an ecosystem and how being part of that benefits everyone involved.

Rutronik-FTA-IRNAS

Our work has long ago shifted from sole engineering work (although we are still pursuing some of our projects strictly on that path) to a much more holistic product development-like space. Typically, our customers pay equal attention to the end goal (being a product/solution on the market) as they do to the way how they arrive there. Engineering the solution is indeed a very important piece of the puzzle, however it certainly doesn’t cover everything that is needed for a product/solution to launch.

The two very close cousins of engineering development are named production and component supply. Those are the two steps in product launch where profit margins are created, as this is where the scalability lies. Of course, many of you already know that. What we would like to talk about in this post is how important it is to make these two cousins join the journey already early on. The most successful of our projects are the ones where supply of components, engineering development and production setup are perfectly synchronised throughout the whole process.

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Managing the component supply and production is something that takes a lot of first stage communication and negotiation when setting up a product for launch. Hence, doing it from scratch for every project we begin would be extremely inefficient. We have found a way to complement our development services with a very stable supply chain of components and most advanced production services we could find in the region.

Meet Rutronik and FTA

Rutronik is the most reliable component supplier in the region and one of the world’s leading broadline distributors. We talk weekly about our needs, predictions, component stock, and they make sure the components are there waiting for us in the quantities we need them in, so we can iterate hardware designs quickly. They have a large portfolio of customers and a great network of suppliers, meaning they are capable of providing even quantities in the millions.

FTA is a small, yet elite PCB assembly company located very near our headquarters. Alongside PCB assembly, they are starting to pursue full-product assembly, too. They hold all respected QA certificates, as well as have their own development department with whom we discuss solutions and ideas. With their developers we evaluate the feasibility of design and test it out at a pre-production level. Once all is ticked off, they move the product into mass production seamlessly.

How this setup makes our lives easier

With Rutronik being familiar with our needs and taking the worries about component stock off our backs, and FTA knowing our workflow and product design in great detail, we can focus only on the part we do best – development. What is more, with such setup we are taking some very important steps towards minimizing the risk of failure. Here, we are particularly talking about design validation, production testing, and supply chain assurance.

This does not mean we are immune to the current Chippageddon (don’t even get me started!). But it does give us certainty that we work with the best companies out there, with great geographical placement and network fitted to our needs. This way navigating through these times is a lot less painful.

We are finding the benefits every step of the way

A typical diagram that generalizes how product development phases look like on a micro-level is well-known.

IRNAS-development-process-linear

Copying it over onto a time axis, component suppliers and production companies typically get involved during the rightmost third of the way. Initial discussions would start happening during field testing and all deals would be closed after pre-production has ended. We extrapolate the involvement backward, meaning we get in touch already after we’ve got the product requirements settled. For us this is very easy because we have those partnerships in place.

In reality, no product/solution we have ever developed has quite followed this chain. Instead of linear, it rather looks circular.

IRNAS-development-process-circular

In this setup, we get Rutronik and FTA involved at the first iteration and have them stay with us throughout all future iterations and versions, which has extended over several years with some of our customers. Secondly, a large portion of our portfolio is filled by continuation products and projects; meaning people we work with like to develop another product after they have launched the first one, and then another, and another … This way, the value we’ve created by partnering with FTA and Rutronik can pay dividends multiple times, making everyone happy.

Mark the words - "... in the region."!

Of course, there is always a degree of back-and-forth communication needed before we can put the “in-progress” tag to the production. The pre-requisites for that are a secured component supply and production line all set-up (we are mainly talking in PCB assembly terms here although enclosures and packaging follow the same storyline in our case). At risk of sounding like a broken record, our main competitive advantage that we are working hard to build upon is speed of iteration and delivery. We have subordinated everything we do to it, from how we build our team, to the type of people we hire, to infrastructure we put in place.

Fitting to the same logic of fast delivery, geolocation of the partners who take care of those parts has proven to be absolutely key. In terms of speed of progress, there is nothing that can beat sitting in a car and driving for half an hour to a live meeting that will move you 2, 3 or more steps ahead. We don’t see many such assemblies around, where development companies typically work with partners overseas or a different part of continent at least.

In summary, we are constantly keeping our mission in mind being as quick and efficient in innovation as we can be. The innovation as this is what we believe drives the wellbeing on Earth. All decisions we take go through a sieve, having to pass the test of how well it is aligned with our mission. This comes down to every person we employ, every machine we buy and install, every partnership we form and every investment we make. Having an ecosystem of supply chain and production partners is for us an invaluable asset that has helped us be better at what we do. We are very grateful to be in such position and will make sure to nourish it.

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