Engineering consulting services have seen a great increase in demand lately, due to more companies needing to supplement their in-house expertise with outside professionals. Most consulting engineering services are offered through consulting engineering companies, but are also offered by sole practitioners who have the expertise sought out by organizations. These consulting companies vary greatly in size and expertise; some offering a wide range of experienced design engineers, analysts, and manufacturing engineers, while others are limited to a specific area of expertise.

Why do companies use engineering consultants?  The reasons can vary quite significantly depending on the company. The management style emerging today features smaller, more closely knit permanent staffs, and greater reliance on teaming partners and consultants. Because of this, when organizations take on projects where engineering expertise is needed, they often have to go outside the company to get the expertise needed. Some companies choose to leverage an engineering consultant’s capabilities for very specific aspects of their product development projects, others lean on outside knowledge from start to finish.

One area where companies may need the outside assistance of an engineering consultant is during the design phase of product development. Many companies simply don’t employ the depth of personnel that can handle the requirements of technologies within mechanical, electrical, software, and industrial designs.  An engineering services company, on the other hand, would likely have access to this variety of expertise.

Another area where companies may need outside assistance is in the actual prototyping or production of a product. This phase of product development if often the most time-consuming and complex, requiring many man hours with diverse skill sets. While some companies may endeavor to do this in-house, other companies recognize that a company may suffer lost sales due to a delay in getting the product to market, and using an outside engineering consultant can expedite that process significantly.

Production of a product in particular poses a significant challenge to companies working on product development. While a larger organization may have the in-house expertise to handle design, documentation and perhaps even prototyping of a new product design, production offers a unique challenge to many companies.  An engineering services consultant can help establish all the necessary infrastructure and vendor channels. Some of these efforts include any or all of the below:

  • Identifying raw materials vendors
  • Identifying ideal vendors to manufacture product components
  • Identifying vendor for assembly and testing
  • Creating quality control specifications for the various components/assembly of the product
  • Identifying warehousing and distribution centers.

This is where manufacturing consulting can prove invaluable for a company during the final stages of product development.

If you’re a company considering undertaking the endeavor of product development, it may make sense to identify what resources you have in house before you begin, and identify what expertise you may have to seek in an engineering consultant.  If you’re unsure whether your organization needs outside engineering services expertise, ask your team the following:

  1. What kind of timeframe are you looking at for this project?

While you may actually have the in-house expertise to handle all aspects of product development, a tight deadline that requires too many resources may require you to go outside your organization to leverage resources to complete the project in a timely fashion.

  1. What kind of expertise will you need for this project?

As mentioned above, seeing a product development project from design to manufacturing takes a significant variety of expertise.  Do you have someone that can do product design?  What about design documentation? Do you have the capabilities to do in-house prototyping?  Understanding resources before starting a product development project is key.

  1. Do you have the capacity to hire in-house talent?

If product development is not a regular focus of your organization, does it make sense to hire an employee for this effort, or does it make more sense to allow for flexibility of resources by hiring an engineering services consultant?

More and more organizations are understanding the value of engineering services consultants, and as a result, are enjoying the benefits of participating an innovative product design without the constraints of limited resources.

Morten Jensen
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