I started reading through the State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2022-2023 report after it was published, but I stopped when I reached insight number three – a section all about how employees that have an influence on the design process are happier, more productive, and are generally more upwardly mobile than others.
(Courtesy: State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2022-2023)
It reminded me of my time working as a designer for a company that produced rapid prototyping machinery.
I was brought in initially as a temporary solution to a manpower shortage, but I quickly proved myself a hard worker with a needed skill and was offered a permanent position shortly after.
Most of the time I followed directives and delivered to different departments the information needed to manufacture and sell our products. But as I became more familiar with the company’s processes, I started to see some areas that would benefit from changes.
Influencing the Design Process
As the “new guy” in the engineering department I was nervous about making suggestions, but one of the first things I noticed affected my productivity directly. So, I decided to say something (as diplomatically as possible) about the brutal file management system employed for CAD files and related documents. Some items were stored on a server, some on individual engineer’s desktop computers, and, yes, some were even on floppy disks.
Long story short, I helped get a central server set up with properly documented processes for saving, changing, sharing, and obsoleting items.
The reception I received for this idea was understandably passive at first, but as engineering, assembly, and purchasing eventually learned that they now had easy, centralized access to necessary documentation, the kudos finally came.
A small change to be sure, but one that gave me the confidence to look for and suggest other areas of improvement.
As the company grew, document control became more and more important, and the system we had was barely hanging on.
We all agreed that the system needed to change, but how? I read a book – Engineering Document Control by Frank B. Watts – then developed a plan that was eventually put in place.
The resulting decrease in errors and the time saved when generating ECNs/ECOs, developing bid packages, and faster procurement of long-lead items got me my first promotion and a raise. It also helped to cement my place as someone with good ideas and the capacity to implement them.
Things really got crazy when we decided to switch from 2D CAD to 3D CAD. I was reluctant at first, but after a couple of training sessions, I started to realize the benefit. I decided that this would be the next place I leaned in.
I looked for additional training opportunities, started reading “newsgroups” (that was a thing back then), and went to yearly conferences to learn as much as possible.
I became the “go-to guy” when it came to CAD and engineering documentation, and I relished the role. There’s a lot of satisfaction in helping team members that may be struggling, and it’s a great feeling when you are recognized for that effort.
Job Satisfaction & Other Perks
To sum things up, I would have been in the camp that absolutely believes employees' ability to influence changes to the design process does make a huge difference in job satisfaction.
I am also living proof that generating and implementing ideas that save time or money will result in pay raises and promotions.
So, dive in and don’t be shy about making suggestions, especially when it comes to processes that affect productivity. Your company will be happier, your colleagues will be happier, and you will be happier.
I only keyed on one section of the report, but you read the full eBook and see how others feel about business growth, employee training and retention, and overall productivity. The State of Product Development and Hardware Design 2022-2023 report is available now.