Who doesn’t want to increase their revenue, expand the business, while also reducing operational costs, shorten production cycles and maintain a high customer satisfaction? It’s a challenge that keeps many CEO’s and founders awake at night. When it comes to saving time and money, one way is to start outsourcing engineering tasks.
While the decision to outsource requires some internal analysis of the benefits for your company, there are some engineering activities that can very easily be outsourced. We’ll discuss the tasks that many companies are successfully outsourcing these days.
The benefit of outsourcing engineering tasks
For mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or any other engineering discipline, doing everything in-house is not always feasible. Your employees might lack certain skills. Or because of fluctuating, seasonal demand, there’s not enough work to do to keep them on your payroll all year long.
Outsourcing engineering tasks will reduce your operational costs and it can free up time for your team to focus on growing the business. Plus you get to work with experts in their field, when you need them and for as long as you need them. Resulting in higher quality output which will lead to more satisfied customers.
What engineering tasks should you outsource?
You can start outsourcing engineering tasks at a pace that you feel comfortable with, and that suits your needs. But how do you decide which activities to begin with? It comes down to your strategy and vision for the company and your engineering team. What are responsibilities that they can take on, and what do you need help with? What is part of your core business and requires inside knowledge (which makes sense to keep in house) and what tasks only happen once in a while?
You might want to involve your engineering team as well. Don’t forget to explain that outsourcing will free up time for them to work on what they’re good at. What are some repetitive tasks that can easily be taken over by someone else? Is there anything that they don’t enjoy doing, but that takes up a lot of their time? As long as the task doesn’t involve taking strategic decisions about your business and has a clear scope and deliverable, you can outsource it.
Writing technical documentation
The first task that many companies decide to outsource is writing technical documentation. Documenting the functionality and use of a product is an important part of an engineering project, but doesn’t have to happen in house. While your team might know the product better than anyone, there’s actually a risk that they know it too well. They could unintentionally leave out important parts, because what’s obvious to them is not so obvious for someone using the product for the first time. Plus writing clear instructions is not a skill everybody has. An experienced technical writer who approaches it with a fresh look will do a better job.
Mechanical CAD drawings
How much time does your team spend on creating detailed drawings with software like SOLIDWORKS? CAD (Computer Aided Design) is indispensable, but can also be very time consuming. Especially if you’re not an experienced user of the software.
Digitizing your drawings or converting them to a different CAD software version is something that you can easily outsource.
CE / UL certification
Getting the necessary CE / UL certification can be a long and tedious process. Knowing how to obtain them requires specific expertise that your company (especially if you’re a small company) probably doesn’t have.
So why waste time, effort and money trying to find your way in this certification maze, if you can work with a freelancer who has already done it successfully many times.
Outsource PCB design
A PCB design can make or break your product performance. So if you don’t have the talent in house to design and create a manufacturable layout of the PCB, then it’s best to work with external experts. Electronics engineers with the right experience love to design your PCB and contribute to the success of your product.
Improve manufacturing productivity
To improve your manufacturing productivity and efficiency you’ll want to look at your processes, your team and your tools and technology. It makes sense to let your engineering team focus on development, NPI and ramp up. But what you can outsource are improvements of the manufacturability of your product through design improvements.
Process automation (robotics)
Want to improve your current processes? Maybe there are manual steps that could be automated. While automation can drastically increase your productivity capacity, it requires specific skills to do it right. In order to successfully automate your processes, it’s best to bring in someone who understands automation and robotics.
Outsourcing engineering project management
Outsourcing project management is something you may not expect to find in this list. Project management is a crucial role if you want to get things done on time, within budget and with the right quality. Ideally you would want to have someone who can do that on your team.
However, there are times when you’re dealing with such a complex project that your internal project managers are struggling. They have to manage external partners along internal resources, deal with escalation of issues, etc. In this case you’ll want to outsource the project management role to a very experienced project manager. Who’ll be better at distancing him or herself from the constraints of functional owners, and will get the job done.
Technical mentor or coach
Are you working on cutting edge technological innovations? When it comes to technology intensive functions such as Robot Operating Systems, Electro-Magnetic Interference etc. your engineering team might not yet have an adequate level of knowledge. They’ll get there eventually, but it could help to bring in a technical mentor or coach. Someone who is an expert and can support the team and bring them up to speed.
Outsourcing engineering feasibility study
Nobody likes to hear that what they have in mind cannot be done. But just because the people you work with don’t know how to do it, doesn’t mean you have to give up so easily. By asking external experts to perform a feasibility study you’ll bring in skills, knowledge and experience that your team doesn’t have. At Tasker we regularly help clients with an innovative solution as the result of a feasibility study.
Engineering simulation and analysis
No product development without analysis. And it’s a process where you can’t make any mistakes or you’ll pay for the consequences in a later stage.
There are people who specialize in tolerance analysis (GD&T) or finite element analysis (FEA) for example. They have a lot of experience using the right software and can prevent unnecessary product failures. But do you have those people in your team? If analysis and simulation is not a core skill of your team, then outsourcing is the best approach.
Ready to start outsourcing engineering tasks?
All the outsourcing examples that we’ve mentioned here are tasks and projects that we’re helping our clients with on a daily basis. If you’re interested in outsourcing some of your engineering activities, get in touch and we can help.