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( HTTP://WWW.AUTOMOTIVEENGINEERINGHQ.C OM /BLOG/ ) THE 6 ESSENTIAL QUALITIES OF AN AUTOMOTIVE
DESIGN ENGINEER (PART 2)

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The 6 Essential Qualities of an


Automotive Design Engineer
(Part 2)
AEHQ / OCTOBER 28, 2014 /
ESSENTIAL NON-TECHNICAL ADVICE FOR ENGINEERS (HTTP://WWW.AUTOMOTIVEENGINEERINGHQ.C
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While Part 1 (http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/automotive-design-
engineer-qualities-pt1/) of this list focused on the technical and skill related
aspects of design engineering, Part 2 focuses on the productivity and political
skills you should acquire to become a good designer.Following are three of the
most important skills to develop in this area:

4. How to Be Organized

(http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/wp-
content/uploads/2014/10/Organized.jpg)Automotive design engineering is
incredibly complicated. Tell someone you are an automotive design engineer and
they expect you to be a methodical Poindexter that has all his calculations
memorized and can draw up a part in a day. While we wish this was the case,
design engineers are not superheroes. When it comes to designing a part, 10% of
the information will come from your own brain and your knowledge of
engineering. The other 90% will come from calculation programs, historical test
logs, and design rules that have been in place for years. You have an immense
amount information available to you when you are a design engineer. And
keeping it all together is sometimes of a feat in itself.

If you are trying to determine the risk of your decisions or trying to support a
design decision you must keep your information organized and readily
accessible.Here are a few great ways to stay organized as a design engineer:

Make a list of all the resources


(http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/resources/) that you use on a
regular basis. Think of the calculation programs you use, the design rules you
need to access and the test or historical data you use to make decisions. If
the resources are on your network or in les, create an excel sheet that
provides links that are easy to access.
Print and post your most frequently used references in your of ce. I always
make sure that I keep a list of up-to-date part numbers, a hole/journal
tolerance chart and a full assembly view of the project that I work on the
most. What information do you access 10 times a day? Be sure to post that
on your wall.
Make sure that you or your team has an easy to navigate folder structure.
Since automotive engineering takes place in a team environment
(http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/4-friends-of-engineer/) 95% of
the time, you need to always know where their supporting data is for your
work. Keeping folders dated and labeled in a consistent way ensures that
you can all nd what you need quickly.
Keep project meetings on an agenda. When you are designing a part you will
most likely have multiple meetings about every little detail. These meetings
need to be well organized around a speci c focus. Always make sure you
send an agenda about the topics that you want to discuss to keep everyone
focused. Send out meeting minutes with agreed upon due dates for items so
that you and others can keep on track and monitor progress.

5. How to Determine Risk


As a design engineer your main goal for a part is proper function. Proper
function could meanthat a part needs to achieve a speci c goal, or that it needs
to last for a certain amount of time. Whatever the case may be, safety and
proper function (http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/what-is-a-recall-
on-a-car/) are always your focus. Like Dr. Frankenstein, you assume the risk of
whatever monster you create, good or bad.

Many times in prototype or serial production stages, there are factors to


consider beyond just the safety or the strength of the part. Sometimes the
design you create will work perfectly, but cannot be produced without
signi cant costs, making it cost-prohibitive. Here is where a good designer needs
to go back and determine what features are the most critical for the design and
how to meet the cost constraints of the project. Balancing risk with cost,
knowing where to cut, and guring out unique solutions are important skills for
any design engineer to acquire.

(http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/wp-
content/uploads/2014/10/Risk-and-reward-highway-sign-concept-with-stitch-
style-on-fabric-background.jpg)Cost factors come up near the beginning of the
project, but the largest risk factor facing design engineers is when a production
issue arises. As I stated before, an automotive design engineer is usually
expected to support a project well though the production phase. Multiple times
during production, things will go wrong (big understatement). In an automotive
environment, these problems rear their ugly head far too often and will be sure
to get everyones attention. A supplied part may come in just outside of
tolerance and will require the design engineer to sign off saying that it will not
affect function. If it does affect function, then the line will have to go down and
the plant will miss its quota, or worse miss a shipment to a customer. Believe me,
you will have the production managers and manufacturing engineers pushing
you to approve every deviation that is put in so that they can build. With
deviations to parts and process
(http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/engineering-change-management/),
the design engineer needs to be able to weigh the pros and cons and accurately
judge the effect of rejecting or approving defects.
So if you approve the deviation there could be a risk to function but if you reject
it you may be shutting the line down (and the plants income stream) until they x
the issue. So how do you determine what is the right call? The three best ways of
doing this are:

Know which dimensions are critical and which are nice to haves yes all
features are important but knowing which dimensions are absolutely not
changeable will help make your future decisions much easier.
Determine from history what has worked and what has not If you have
history on your deviation or history from a previous product line, this can
greatly help you make a clear decision on whether something can be
deviated from or not. Historical data can help in a pinch, but is not always
available or relevant to the problem you face.
Go from worst case to actual case When two parts are designed together,
they have a certain worst case tolerance i.e. if you have a 25mm rotating
shaft at max tolerance, the minimum of the housing should be greater than
25mm. If a deviation comes in for the shaft being 26mm, the housing may not
t if it is at its minimum. If there is a mating part that could interfere at a
max/min tolerance, it may be wise to have a statistical sample of the mating
part measured (http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/cpk-statistics/),
to determine how close you are to the worst case. This way you can see
how the parts will actually t together, when they are matched in assembly.

6. How to Supportan Argument


Since you will essentially be the part expert when you create it, many people
will need your knowledge on different decisions made about the part (like
deviations). This means that you will need to present a case or show the facts
about a part. In the example above about deviations, you may determine the risk
is too high and have to support why you decided that the line had to shut down.
Other times there may be a critical feature on a part that you know is critical to
function, but is very expensive. Whatever it is, you will have some directive that
your manager or department will lay out for you to achieve.

(http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/wp-
content/uploads/2014/10/Support-an-argument.jpg)When presenting on a
topic,do not present design information without a factual basis for everything
you say. You should provide proven data or at least historical or statistical
studies that support why
you want to go in a certain
direction. Screen shots
and CAD models are a
must for a design engineer
to visually present why
they should go with your
ideas. If you are looking for
the best way to get your
data into a presentation,
look no further than Snag-it
(<a%20href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KDYKRSI/ref=as_li_tl?
ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00KDYKRSI&linkCode=as2&tag=cin
20&linkId=X56TE3JMPM6ZI4SB">TechSmith Snagit 12</a><img src="http://ir-
na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=cinnwhisdrin-
20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00KDYKRSI" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt=""
style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />). This screenshot
software is incredibly versatile. It enables you to quickly get any bit of
information off your computer, highlight and mock up the important bits, and
drop it right into your presentation or email. I used this at work for years and
liked it so much I purchased my own copy at home. It can be purchased on
amazon
(<a%20href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KDYKRSI/ref=as_li_tl?
ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00KDYKRSI&linkCode=as2&tag=cin
20&linkId=X56TE3JMPM6ZI4SB">TechSmith Snagit 12</a><img src="http://ir-
na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=cinnwhisdrin-
20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00KDYKRSI" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt=""
style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />) usually for a
discount. I would highly recommend getting this program to any design
engineer.

One of the most important skills for any engineer is the ability to break down
complex information into the most important details. At every automotive
engineering job I have had this was done using one of the most annoying but
important tools available the One-Pager. A One Pager is just what it sounds
like, a one page document (usually a power point and sometimes two or more
pages) that lists all the critical information about a particular project. Why did I
say it was annoying? Because sometimes you are presenting incredibly complex
information to management individuals who may not be technically savvy. In this
case you have to consolidate the information down to the bare basics. Here is
where the 80/20 rule (http://www.automotiveengineeringhq.com/8020-rule-
for-automotive-engineers) comes in to play with your projects. You need to
gure out what information is absolutely critical for someone to make a decision
on your topic. Yes, making a 20 page presentation on your actuating clutch is
good to share information amongst the design and production engineers. But
when presenting to management on a topic, their time and need for detail is
limited. Be sure to keep your presentation to a handful of slides at the most and
cover only the most important topics. Being concise, effective, and persuasive
will make you look like an all-star to management.

So what other knowledge do YOU think is important to a design engineer in the


automotive industry? I would love to hear about any stories (good or bad) that you
design guys and gals have from your experiences!

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