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May 25, 2022

Survey Says Design Cycles Are Easing, But Supply-Chain Issues Remain - Design News

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| Apr 27, 2022
As product design gets more complicated, design engineering has become a more complicated, multi-faceted task. But there’s also good news for engineers, as design tools are improving and engineers have been able to keep pace with faster time-to-market cycles.
Those are the main takeaways in a global online survey of 582 design engineers and design engineering managers conducted in March and early April, co-sponsored by electronics component supplier Molex and distributor Digi-Key, and conducted by Dimensional Research.
Related: Parts Shortages Continue Wreaking Havoc With Product Design
Improved Design Tools
Perhaps the key takeaway from the survey was that 93% reported that design efforts have simplified in the last 3 to 5 years, with half of the respondents citing improved design tools and technology innovations as the key factors. This finding is not surprising, given the improvements in layout tools as well as simulation tools for circuit and thermal design. Also, test and measurement tools have continued to add new and improved capabilities.
Related: Let’s Reconsider How We Run Supply Chains
While design tools have improved, design engineering remains complex. Over half (56%) of respondents increased design complexity (41%). The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have also been a factor, with 37% stating that remote working has diminished effective collaboration ꟷ not surprising given the team-oriented, collaborative nature of engineering projects.
Another common refrain in engineering cycles has been faster time-to-market, and 58% of respondents confirmed that was the case, mostly at companies with over 100 employees. But fortunately, the engineers surveyed said they have been able to keep up with those demands, with 43% stating they were able to deliver ahead of schedule. The survey found that smaller companies had more difficulties bringing products to market on schedule.
Supply-Chain Issues
The elephant in the room has been continuing supply-chain issues. Ongoing component shortages have resulted in an overwhelming number of engineers switching parts suppliers. Another 93% have changed designs due to shortages, and over half (59%) have chosen alternative materials.
Supply-chain issues have led to more engineers desiring control over selecting vendors. While 93% of the surveyees were allowed input to their suppliers, only 27% had full control. Consumer electronics companies were most likely to enable engineers to select their vendors, while industrial companies were most likely to give engineers flexibility in choosing their vendors.
Multi-faceted Design Teams
According to the survey, the nature and scope of design teams have changed in recent years. More than half of respondents said their design teams have grown, with many adding specialists for specific design roles.  More than of the respondents stated their companies have adopted design and development approaches such as Agile or CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery).
About the Respondents
Almost a quarter (23%) of the engineers surveyed worked for companies with more than 20,000 employees, with the industrial (37%), automotive and transportation (17%), and consumer electronics (17%) sectors representing the bulk of respondents.
The engineers surveyed represented a range of experience levels, with 36% having 5 to 10 years of experience and 24% with over 20 years. Almost half (48%) of the respondents were in the 27 to 41 age bracket, and, indicative of the continuing dearth of females in STEM fields, 77% of respondents were male.
Perhaps indicative of their love for engineering, 81% of respondents expressed a desire to stay in the same industry.
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