Why is detailed design & engineering important?

What is Detailed Design and Engineering?

Detailed design and engineering follows a process which entails conceptual design, embodiment design and detail design and, when performed professionally, eventually results in a well designed solution.

Conceptual design is Phase One of detailed design and engineering in which drawings are the main output. The drawings produced are often quite simple ideas with little detail, but the aim of the conceptual phase is to commit ideas to paper.

The Embodiment phase of the detailed design and engineering process starts with the concept and develops it into a workable system that can be further developed. During this phase, engineers will typically follow a framework of clarity, simplicity and safety in achieving the design goal.

Detailed design is the phase where the design is refined and plans, specifications and estimates are created. Detailed design will include outputs such as 2D and 3D models, P & ID’s, cost build up estimates, procurement plans etc. This phase is where the full cost of the project is identified.

Why is Detailed Design and Engineering so important?

Over the years Academia and practical application have proven that detailed design and engineering is the key phase in which a project’s costs are defined and set.

The fact that detailed design and engineering process has a strong impact on the overall project cost it is also the stage in which the most cost saving can be made. Equally if the phased process described above is done poorly it can have a major negative impact on the overall project success.

This quote from Munroe A. S 1995(1) found in an article of Machine Design highlights this point very well making it clear that the detailed design and engineering process must be given time and expertise… “after all, 70% of a product’s total cost is determined by its design, and that cost includes material, facilities, tooling, labour, and other support costs.”

How do you ensure that Detailed Design and Engineering is successful?

Detailed design ensures that the overall design solution satisfies the projects objective. Often the breadth of scope is so vast that no single manager, engineer, operator or scientist has the knowledge to provide the overall detailed design and engineering solution.

If the goal of a project included the need to generate energy, a mechanical design engineers input may be to recommend a piston or turbine. An electrical design engineers input maybe to recommend a generator or solar power and a chemical design engineer’s recommendation maybe to include a reaction which would provide exothermic or endothermic energy dependent on the need. Obviously not all types of energy creation would be suitable for every project. In this example, as in many other instances, it is therefore necessary for all elements of the problem to be considered and the most suitable decided upon during the build up of the detailed design and engineering solution.

For successful detailed design and engineering, there is often the need for someone to take control of the various stakeholders and manage them. Often a project manager will be appointed to bring all the interested parties together and work towards a common goal which will result in a full detailed design and engineering solution.

There are many frameworks that engineers will adopt in reaching the detailed design and engineering phase of a project. In essence each of them takes the idea or concept that solves a problem from a coarse and rough plan/ design to one that is fine and detailed and solves the problem.

The skill of detailed design is to estimate what it is you think is reasonably required and refine and refine to ensure that the plan you settle with fits the bill.

(1) Munroe, A. S., “Is Your Design a Life Sentence?” Machine Design, 26 January 1995, pp. 156