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Outsourced Engineering: should I manage multiple vendors or use one multi-discipline firm?

I am financing a project that has all the elements required below. I am currently looking at moving forward in one of two ways... Bringing on a number of different vendors that I have worked with before that are subject matter experts in each field, however this will require intense project management across multiple time-zones and has a huge set of challenges, or looking for a multi-disciplinary engineering firm that can handle most of the below. Can anybody provide some input on pros/cons of both methods? Also, are there engineering firms in the US that are experts in all activities below - any that stand out? Thanks!
  1. Industrial Design - Casing design including end-to-end user experience
  2. Software Design and Development - Should go hand-in-hand with ID. There will be a mobile app or touch screen that controls the hardware
  3. Electrical Engineering - This will include miniaturization of a current device along with new board design, component selection, rapid prototyping, assembly
  4. Design for Manufacturing experience and deep relationships with manufacturers
  5. Product Testing and Validation
  6. Knowledge of certifications required
  7. Project Management

6 Replies

Gaurav Garg
0
0
Gaurav Garg Entrepreneur
Vice President
Robert,
Looks like you are on to an interesting journey. You are right, both the approaches have pros and cons. Someone offering to take on the turnkey project will reduce the project management overheads and headaches. Ideally, you need to prioritize what part of the user experience you want to prioritize. I know couple of folks who have done ID, electronics and software for iOS devices. Both the consulting firms have their own strengths. One is exceptional in ID + electronics, other makes boxes but robust electronics and software.

My personal experience is that it is better to outsource pieces to companies that specialize in one or two things. I will recommend a full time PM and a separate product testing team (at the least).

Have fun!
Steve Owens
0
0
Steve Owens Entrepreneur • Advisor
Finish Line - A Better Way for Small Companies to Develop Products
You should try Finish Line PDS. They specialize in helping small companies and start-ups with product development. They have all the skill sets that you list. Having one team do everything will be less expensive, faster and higher quality than trying to manage a bunch of independent engineers that have never worked together. Pros are: - Reference Designs that can be leveraged to lower cost and decrease time to market - One system of management and documentation - Better communication between the team members - they have already worked together - Single point of responsibility - you do not have to get into the middle trying to figure out were the issue is. The only con of using a single team I can think of is that you might pick the wrong team - all your eggs in one basket. Regards, Steve Owens - Finish Line PDS A Better Way for Small Companies to Develop Products e | Steve.Owens@FinishLinePDS.com p | 603 880 8484 w | www.FinishLinePDS.com 94 River Rd | Hudson, NH | 03051 Click for Product Development White Papers ---- On Sat, 17 Jan 2015 14:54:55 -0500 Robert Bent <[removed to protect privacy]> wrote ---- FD:Discuss New Discussion on How do I outsource engineering - Should I manage multiple vendors or use one multi-discipline firm? Started by Robert Bent Founder, Chief Operating Officer, Roamly. Previously Associate, American Capital. The University of Western Ontario grad. I am financing a project that has all the elements required below. I am currently looking at moving forward in one of two ways... Bringing on a number of different vendors that I have worked with before that are subject matter experts in each field, however this will require intense project management across multiple time-zones and has a huge set of challenges, or looking for a multi-disciplinary engineering firm that can handle most of the below. Can anybody provide some input on pros/cons of both methods? Also, are their engineering firms in the US that are experts in all activities below - any that stand out? Thanks! Industrial Design - Casing design including end-to-end user experience Software Design and Development - Should go hand-in-hand with ID. There will be a mobile app or touch screen that controls the hardware Electrical Engineering - This will include miniaturization of a current device along with new board design, component selection, rapid prototyping, assembly Design for Manufacturing experience and deep relationships with manufacturers Product Testing and Validation Knowledge of certifications required Project Management FOLLOW DISCUSSION or Reply Directly to this email to participate in the discussion Manage your email notifications
Marco Micheletti
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Managing Partner at Pike Product Services LLC
I've worked inside a product development firm and managed multi discipline projects like these, one in particular for a massive consumer electronic/wearable device for one of the top consumer brands in the world. I could write a novel, but I'lltryto keep this short based on my experience.
In general with any project you are always trying to manage the PM triangle along with the technical risk of your product. Optimize your team (or skills of the contractors) based around the biggest risk or feature of the product (is it more important to have a great app UI/flow, or killer mechanical ID, 0.9999% reliability, or optimized for lowest manufacturing costs or producing 100million units a year). Sure you want all of these, but pick the most important one(s).

Mid to large sized product development firms should generally be able to cover this span of needs, but could easily still need some outside consultation bolted on at the right time. I would not expect to find top notch expertise in every required discipline mentioned above except in the very top firms, and I am guessing you do not have the budget to be their client. Most product development firms will want to focus on their core areas of expertise (ME, EE, FW/SW), but as any good consultancy will do, they will want to offer more services to satisfy the needs of the client (BTW - good PDP firms will be very clear and up front as to where to delineate the boundaries of strengths and weaknesses. Do you really want the firm that provides regulatory compliance consulting writing your iOS app? They might have teams or individuals that can do it in house but are they both going to be world class at both or all?)
If you are working with a top notch PDP firm that can meet all of your requirements then they can more efficiently manage discipline integration points, hand offs and the overall PM overhead (+), at a cost (-). Then you still have to have someone on your side project managing the PM at the firm, ensuring they are moving quickly enough, being efficient in their resourcing and hitting their deliverables. You are still going to need experts at times to consult

Working with several SME's is great too, you get top notch specialists, they tend to work efficiently, less overhead than a firm (+++). But then you have 2 major down sides, the integration points between their work(-) and managing them all(-). Things will be missed in the handoffs, there will be mis-understandings and potentially other conflicts to manage through. You will need to have a really good PM AND very strong Technical Lead(s) to herd this team of cats and provide the framework for smoothing out the integration and conflict points.

My ultimate recommendation would be to use a product development firm with the team, strengths and experience to address the most critical aspects of your project, hopefully with a good PM as well. Bolt on the SME's you know in the areas the PD firm is weak in or have them select from some of their preferred SMEs to address their weaknesses (such as ID, app development, sourcing, verification testing, logistics, etc...).

Feel free to contact me directly about PD firm recommendations. Like others on the posting, I consult and advise start ups on how to develop their product development strategy from concept to end customer delivery.
Gabriel Goldstein
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0
16+ Yrs Entrepreneur, Engineer, Product Development, PCB Design, Electronics, Manufacturing, Founder
From our pective, it depends on what business you need to be in. Generally you don't want to outsource your core competency. If you are trying to create a product where the core technology is in the electronics, software, and mechanical design, you should probably suck it up, hire about 6 people of core disciplines, and managers.

If you are leveraging engineering to bring your technology to market (a therapy, smart watch, etc), the sub it out. You won't likely need a fully working team full time/long term. You'll get your product done, sell the heck out of (which should be your focus) and come back to the contract company for changes and support.

If you think you are going that way, I have a full turn-key product development firm, Anidea Engineering, Inc. http://www.anidea-engineering.com. [removed to protect privacy]. [removed to protect privacy] x7110. We have a staff of electrical, software, and mechanical people.

Gabriel


James Stayton
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James Stayton Entrepreneur
Founder / CEO at Webbome labs. Technology solution provider for the automotive Industry.
We have had really good luck with a lean and high quality firm I found on Odesk.

I am the first to say I am a big person on both communication and delivery times. We have revisions and as far as I am concerned it's part of the job. I had made my way through more than a few vendors and have no problem with getting rid of someone. I will DM you the info. - James
Lalit Sarna
0
0
Lalit Sarna Entrepreneur • Advisor
Business & Technology Leader
Personally I find that when it comes to new product development, it is very expensive to align incentives in vendor client relationships. You can usually optimize for 2 out of three constraints: Quality, speed and costs.

That being said, depending upon your need and budget here's how I would think about it:

1) If this is a one off project and cost is not an issue, I would go with a solid firm like PCH international.

2) If this is an ongoing project and you have the time, I would think about investing in an in house project management team and picking optimal vendors.

3) If this is a long term project but time is of the essence, then I would start off the MVP with a one stop shop, while I build my team.
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