As someone who has helped companies engineer cost-effective leak detection solutions for decades, it’s pretty easy for me to spot design teams that have worked in an isolated silo.
The evidence appears on my desk in the form of leak-testing challenges that require cumbersome workarounds because designers kept their nose to the drawing board without involving anyone outside of their department.
Usually, these product design teams did not confer much, if at all, with the manufacturing engineers in their own company. They also never took advantage of the no-cost leak testing applications that engineering services offer as a reality check at the earliest stages of product design. USON, for example, can usually provide a detailed leak testing applications analysis with a 24-hour turnaround. This ability to confer with experts is now easier than ever with the use of videoconferencing capabilities for consultations that can eliminate guesswork in leak-testing applications engineering and comparable specialty engineering disciplines.
What are the telltale signs of product design teams crippled by their self-imposed isolation? More than a dozen times each year, USON is called in to unravel unacceptable Gage R&R for full-scale production lines—that’s one sign. It’s similarly common for a production layout to not account for heat during a weld assembly. For example, it might lead one to a modified station design or an alteration in build process.
Going back to the drawing board is more common than one might think; because of the need to leak test a subassembly for internal leakage, as well as the overall external leak rate of a completed assembly. The design team doesn’t test the subassemblies, and specifies a process that only leak tests the final assembly. For example, in engine testing, leak tests are performed after casting, after the machining processes, during subassembly, and upon completion of assembly.
Sadly, the design team in a silo is usually in a company filled with silos—some seemingly hermetically sealed, but in most cases (thankfully) not leak tight. The solution could be as simple as copying everyone on emails regarding a product design, including the process and manufacturing engineers who will later need to downsize production costs. A company that knows how to build a common Rolodex of outside expert consultants usually speeds time-to-market and builds better products.
From a leak testing perspective, the design teams working in the context of a company with functioning inter-department communications are able to shave seconds off of each leak testing cycle. The lowered production costs that correspond to shorter test cycle times is not trivial.
Better products, shorter time-to-market, and lower production costs, each ensure that product development gets granular on production processes early on. I can’t think of a downside, can you?
Gene Grilli is Global Sales Director for USON (www.uson.com), which first developed high accuracy leak-testing methods for NASA. Since 1963, it has been at the forefront of leak detection, leak testing, and non-destructive testing, even pioneering the development of automated leak detection equipment for the automotive, industrial, medical device, and packaging industries. Headquartered in Houston, TX, the company has additional offices in Detroit, MI, the United Kingdom and China. Grilli can be reached at Gene.Grilli@uson.com.