The Design Review meetings have a completely different style with attendees from across Fulwood Packo, not just engineering, and there is a big emphasis on distributing material beforehand.
Verified by an engineer
Charlie has acquired 9 years of engineering experience after leaving University with a BSc in Automotive Product Design and then an MSc in Mechanical Engineering. He has been recently promoted to Senior Engineer at Fulwood Packo, a manufacturer of robotic cow milking machines with a presence in the UK and the Netherlands.
As Senior Engineer, Charlie supports his Engineering Manager by line managing a part of the Fulwood Packo team. Personal development is important at Fulwood Packo, and the decision to attend Design Reviews came out of that process.
Why Design Reviews?
It was one of the things that came up in my Professional Development Review when discussing the step up to Senior Engineer. We had a design review process already but, truthfully, we didn’t know whether we were doing it well or not. However, as engineers we know there is always scope for improvement, so it was a challenge I took on as part of my promotion.
Design review meetings in Fulwood Packo previously involved around 6-8 people, usually all engineers, and we often ended up with long action lists for those that didn’t attend. Also, pre-material wasn’t being reviewed and the meetings weren’t as fluid as I’d have liked them to be. The design reviews would often run alongside the main project but outside the project scope. Sometimes we saw challenges in interactions across teams which led to mistakes, delays, and handover issues. That was why we felt a training programme and more understanding of best practice would help us improve.
What was your experience of the course?
Charlie attended the two-day Design Review course in London alongside representatives from a variety of industries including Rail, Ministry of Defence, and design consultancies. The attendees had diverse backgrounds too – everything from procurement and design to principal engineers. “I think the fact the participants were so diverse added to the programme, even more so than if it had been specifically delivered at my company. I got the sense that we had shared problems, even though some of them manifested in very different ways.
IMechE’s trainer Harvey Leach was excellent – each individual had the chance to discuss their personal objectives of the course and the material was tailored as we went through, and Harvey could back up the technical content with great real-world examples from his experience and research. I preferred the face-to-face nature of the course as it’s so much easier to engage.
Your three key takeaways
- Push for front loading of resource to avoid firefighting later.
- Design review is not a gate review and shouldn’t be treated as such. There is no binary go/no-go decision point at a design review. This was a revelation to some of the other attendees too.
- Freeze the design from the time the review material is sent out, this means better engagement and no surprises at review meetings.
What has been the impact?
We’ve made some tangible changes since attending. The Design Review meetings have a completely different style with attendees from across Fulwood Packo, not just engineering, and there is a big emphasis on distributing material beforehand. We’ve also agreed that no actions should be given to those who don’t attend – this means the actions are well understood and agreed to and we don’t surprise our colleagues. This has improved buy-in and supports cross-team collaboration.
In an ideal world we’ll introduce more measurement techniques. Time to implementation and number of change requests are all some tangible metrics we can use to benchmark our processes.
Three pieces of advice you’d give to a future attendee
- The more you contribute the more you will get out of the course, so speak up and trust that it is a safe space.
- Define your goals before you arrive and review if they have been met at the end (the trainers have recorded this from attendees and tailored the material to meet these aims in both my experiences).
- Take advantage of the opportunity to discuss with peers from other industries wherever possible and give your own input to them as it will be valued.
Gaining promotion into the Senior Engineer role is a big milestone in Charlie’s career and he’s now planning to capitalise on that by learning more skills and progressing with his application to Chartership.
Charlie would like to develop an entirely new machine for Fulwood Packo, as opposed to the design improvements and customer-led adaptations he’s worked on currently. He’s also considering the potential for a Product Manager role in the future – looking to translate the technical requirements if a customer into the engineering context that will support the design and build of new technology. We suggested that our Preparing Engineering Specifications programme might help him on the way.