EMC Compliance Engineering Services
Contract hardware engineering and design services with a specialty focus on EMC compliance
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Design Reviews -- staying on track, keeping everyone informed, and addressing everyone's interests.

I will gladly participate in design reviews even if I have not previously been involved in the project. This occasionally comes up in cases where there is difficulty attaining EMC compliance or required performance in the face of interference.

Design reviews are an important activity during any product development. The form they take is as varied as the organizations themselves. Even within one organization the form generally varies from project to project or from team to team. The form is not as much the issue as the fact that a periodic review is conducted in a manner that satisfies the requirements of all concerned.

Here is my take on reviews, but with flexibility being the key point in consulting I am keenly aware that "The Customer is Always Right"

I have seen reviews conducted with incredible structure and procedure; almost ceremoniously. I have also seen reviews conducted in a more ad hock fashion; sometimes between two or three people over lunch. I have seen both succeed and I have seen both fail.

Having been involved in many reviews of many types over the years one thing has become very clear. You don't work right up to the time for the review and then walk into the conference room to conduct a review. To be an effective and respectful use of everyone's time a review deserves some preparation; some time to put information into a format that is useful for all involved. That doesn't mean you spend 40 hours producing a professional slide show (unless the project is of that magnitude and most aren't), but schematic fragments and partial bills-of-materials on post-it notes generally don't present well.

Design reviews really serve two functions.

  • They are an opportunity to critique the design progress for its' technical merit and viability.
  • They are also an opportunity to bring the entire cross-functional team together to address issues that are peripherally related to the technical aspects of the design; an opportunity for purchasing, manufacturing, test, marketing, sales, service, and others to see how the project is progressing so they can have their interests addressed and make their individual plans for support of the project.

These two functions don't necessarily have to be included in every review. Since everyone involved has work to do, and schedules to meet, most people don't want to spend non-productive time in meetings, e.g. marketing department personnel will likely find a four hour discussion of technical issues a waste of their time and conversely production test engineers will likely have the same problem with a lengthy discussion about philosophies of the introduction of the product into the existing customer base and its' expected effect on sales of current products.

Quite often this can be avoided by conducting several mini-reviews with focus groups of similar interests and then feeding the salient points of each mini-review to all concerned. Depending on the scope of the project these mini-reviews can be scheduled on a weekly basis with an overall review conducted on a bi-weekly basis. Given what I've just stated I do believe that everyone involved with the project should be aware of the occurrence of all the mini-reviews and be allowed to attend at their discretion.

The point here, is this method of conducting reviews tries to be respectful of everyone's time to every degree possible, but it does not intend to exclude anyone from any of the meetings. This does require a project engineer/manager to be very active and they will probably be in meetings of some sort every day.