Leveraging Information Technology for Organizational Resilience in Design of Complex Products: A Case Study
Infotech Enterprises Ltd. provides IT and engineering design services, and is certified for CMMI level 5, ISO 9000–2000, BS 7799, and AS9100. One of our major customers is a leading aero engines design and manufacturing company in the United States. The customer designs and manufactures jet engines, the most sophisticated breakthrough of the 20th century. Around 2001, this customer initiated work on development of an engineering design framework for constant innovation, greater productivity, and better success and profitability. It also aimed at resilience against serious loss of knowledge and experience as employees retire or leave suddenly. It is important for organizations to have the resilience to muster up the required size and skill mix of teams based on need, sometimes at a very short notice. An important component for this resilience is a framework that enables new entrants in the projects, whether employees or companies to which work is assigned, to quickly come up to speed as well as be able to do their work correctly. The framework consists of knowledge repository, design process, visual representation, quick navigation, standardization, and easy workflow.
One of our large customers, a leading aero engine design and manufacturing company, under relentless pressure from customers and competitors, had been trying a radical change in the engineering design process. We started working on a solution jointly in 2002. The challenge was to develop a framework that is easy to learn and use, and has the capability for global deployment. We set up a team of IT specialists who were adept at grasping new technologies quickly. The first decision taken was to use a web browser interface that is commonly used. A standard document storage mechanism based on XML was decided upon. A unique and very convenient method of quickly navigating to the desired point from within a large diagram was developed on the browser. The first version was ready for deployment in 18 months.
A 30 percent improvement in engineering design productivity had taken place once the implementation stabilized. By that time, all 4,000 design engineers in the organization were using the framework. Extracts relating to work outsourced to external companies were passed on to the suppliers, resulting in improvements. This increased organizational resilience in effectively managing varying levels of manpower resource requirement. Other companies of the group are now initiating similar frameworks. IT tools, especially web technologies and connectivity, now make it possible for an organization to implement such a framework within and across engineering design teams, both internal and external. IT should be leveraged by large companies to attain and maintain competitive leadership through resilience.