Intelligent Manufacturing Event In Association with TiE UK North

We are pleased to announce our participation in the Intelligent Manufacturing event in association with TiE UK North. This is part of TiE’s Entrepreneurs Series.

The event is on Monday 2nd November 2020, 16:00 to 17:00 hrs GMT.

The event will be hosted by Vikas Shah MBE, President of TiE UK North. Our very own Raam Shanker will be speaking along with Deyrick Allen of IOT Horizon. This will then be followed by a panel discussion involving Nick Johns of Graitec Limited and Mark Kane from The Alternative Board.

The session will involve around the manufacturing sector. The idea is to give manufacturers a flavour of how technology is shaping the future of this sector.

Our virtual hosts of the day are Nybble.

To register please send an email to [email protected]

Graitec Limited’s Autodesk Inventor Users Group

We are pleased to announce that we will be delivering an Autodesk Inventor Nastran session as part of our partners Graitec Limited’s Inventor Users’ Group on October 21st 2020.

Autodesk Inventor Nastran is a general-purpose Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tool for engineers and analysts, and offers a wide range of simulation capabilities spanning multiple analysis types such as linear and nonlinear stress, dynamics, and heat transfer, to name a few.

During this webinar, we will introduce you to basic and advanced analysis capabilities, followed by a live Inventor Nastran demonstration. After this we will show you a few case studies and the benefits to you, your teams, your customers and your business.

Register here.

New Website – Innovation Delivery

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we are on the verge of launching our spanking new website very shortly. In the build up to this launch, we want to share with you a few brief insights into our offerings which have been slightly reorganised.

This week we look at our innovation delivery offerings.

We are aware that the only way we get to a better engineered world is constant innovation. We see innovation as a journey from epiphany to empowerment and we are with you on this journey by helping you discover possibilities.

Ideas to Market Acceptance

Over the last three or four years the term innovation has been spoken about extensively in industrial, academic and professional settings. There are misconceptions of two types. On the one hand people with ideas and inventions being portrayed as innovators and on the other hand, people doing genuinely innovative things not being seen as innovators. Both arise due to a lack of conceptual clarity. The way we see it, Innovation is a journey from Epiphany to Empowerment. We are with you, every step of this journey. Get in touch to know more about how.

Ideas Evaluation

Your innovation journey with us begins with the evaluation of ideas to test their worthiness of not only becoming products or solutions, but also providing returns on investment. At the end of this phase you will have valuable insights such as chances of the idea succeeding and the impact it is likely to have.

Our evaluation offering focuses on several factors such as product-market fit, product-organisation fit, availability of supporting infrastructure amongst other things.

Technology and Engineering

The rapid development of technology, especially digital technologies is a challenge for various reasons. Our technology selection offering helps you make sense of everything that is out there and enables you to create the right technology strategy, maximising your return on investments.

Inventor Nastran Back to Basics Webinar

We are pleased to announce that we will be conducting an Autodesk Inventor Nastran Back to Basics webinar along with our partners Graitec Limited on October 6th 2020 between 11am and 12pm.

Autodesk Inventor Nastran is a general-purpose Finite Element Analysis (FEA) tool for engineers and analysts, and offers a wide range of simulation capabilities spanning multiple analysis types such as linear and nonlinear stress, dynamics, and heat transfer, to name a few.

 

During this webinar, we will introduce you to basic and advanced analysis capabilities, followed by a live Inventor Nastran demonstration. After this we will show you a few case studies and the benefits to you, your teams, your customers and your business.

Click to register for the webinar.

New Website: Manufacturing Solutions

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we are on the verge of launching our spanking new website very shortly. In the build up to this launch, we want to share with you a few brief insights into our offerings which have been slightly reorganised.

This week we look at our manufacturing offerings.

In-House Prototyping: Your design is ready, and we have handed over the design pack to you. Now, you want to have some samples made to get a feel for the product. You need to go no further because, with in-house additive manufacturing capabilities we now offer you rapid prototyping services to complement our engineering and product development capabilities.

Our In-House 3D Printer

Low-Volume Additive Manufacture: Supposing your design is a one-off or fairly low volume to justify tooling costs for conventional manufacture. That is one less thing for you to worry about, because we can 3D-print low volumes for you, even one-off pieces.

Assessment of Needs and Technology Matching: Technology is rapidly changing and there are new and emerging products, solutions and services out there. We help you make sense of what is out there by understanding your requirement instead of throwing technology at you. Our belief is technology not for the sake of it, but to enhance the value of your offering.

Technology Strategy Development: We help you create a strategy for deploying the appropriate technologies that will give you maximum benefit and justification of investment.

Technology Implementation and Delivery: We deliver the appropriate technology and the resultant transformation. This also includes training and development, measuring and monitoring tools to help you track progress following deployment.

Industry 4.0 Consultancy and Deployment: We have a wide range of Industry 4.0 capabilities to help manufacturers with agility, productivity and sustainability. Our offerings include IIOT, modular software as a service, digital manufacturing twin, data acquisition devices such as sensors, barcode readers, PLCs, communication gateways such as WiFi, ethernet, Bluetooth, RFID and such for factory machines and utilities and cloud-based, and localised data storage and access.

Make in India: Developments around COVID-19 pandemic have necessitated exploration of alternative, reliable manufacturing destinations. With our experience of working in India and an understanding of the country’s culture and policies we can help you move your manufacturing from countries like China into India, whilst enabling you to retain your British manufacturing in Britain. Our services include regulatory compliance, setting up joint ventures, IP protection and legal support, market research, manufacturing partnerships, base for South-East Asia and Oceania and defence offset manufacturing. To know more about why India, get in touch.

Whilst our design development and engineering solutions are designed to help you in the pre-manufacture stages of your product’s lifecycle, our manufacturing solutions are designed to support you during and after the manufacture.

New Website – Sustainability

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we are on the verge of launching our spanking new website very shortly. In the build up to this launch, we want to share with you a few brief insights into our offerings which have been slightly reorganised.

This week we look at our sustainability offerings.

For us, sustainability is more than grand statements and declarations on social media. We are genuinely committed to the future of humankind and the future of the planet. This has led us to rethink how we approach sustainability, and deliver sustainability solutions that are truly sustainable (no pun intended)

Measurable Alignment with UN SDGs: The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

By engaging with us, you can automatically show alignment with these SDGs as a consequence of what we deliver for you.

Sustainability led Design: Almost all discussions around sustainability today revolve around recycling and waste management, clean energy and renewable sources of energy.

Our approach to sustainability, however, is a bit different, and it helps you realise benefits of sustainability across the product life cycle and along the supply chain, and is truly long-lasting.

 

Design for Circular Economy: Our idea of circular economy focuses on enabling you to extract maximum value out of your existing resources, followed by recovery and repurposing of products and materials at the end of each service life.

All of this is so integral to our core process, that it is obvious and gets missed.

New Website – Product Development

A few weeks ago, we mentioned that we are on the verge of launching our spanking new website very shortly. In the build up to this launch, we want to share with you a few brief insights into our offerings which have been slightly reorganised.

This week we look at our product development capabilities overview.

Technical and Functional Specifications: They drive the product development process. Therefore. it is paramount to ensure that the specifications comply with legal and regulatory requirements.

We prepare and review technical and functional specifications considering all legal and regulatory requirements.

3D Design and Draughting: We use Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk Fusion 360 to bring design ideas to life. We also have the capability to apply Artificial Intelligence to drive the design, considering essential functional, engineering, and commercial features such as strength, material, manufacturing, and costs, significantly reducing product development timescales and accelerating your route to market.

We generate manufacturing grade drawings in accordance with applicable standards.

People Centric Design: People lie at the heart of everything. Be it decision making, or operating machinery or buying and using the millions of products that are designed, developed, and manufactured the world over. Our people centric approach focusses on making life easier for everyone involved. Our people centric approach is integral to how we design things. Our people centric design process starts with an all-important question (that will be revealed at launch).

Some of our considerations include mass customisation, cultural sensitivities, and inclusivity.

Minimum Viable Products: Developing a minimum viable product, or MVP, is a challenge not just for start-ups and early stage companies, but also for established organisations. We help developing and delivering minimum viable products successfully by applying our breadth of experience, engineering expertise, technology, and innovation methods.

We take care of your MVP journey from idea to full scale commercialisation.

New Website – Engineering Solutions

Last week we mentioned that we are on the verge of launching our spanking new website very shortly. In the build up to this launch, we want to share with you a few brief insights into our offerings which have been slightly reorganised.

This week we look at our Engineering Solutions offering.

Our engineering solutions offering is a reflection of our specialist knowledge and expertise and here is a short summary of each offering.

Design for Manufacture (DfM) of a Radiation Shield Drum

Design for Manufacture (DfM): A product design is only as good as its manufacturability. A design is only useful when converted into a tangible product or solution. Our Design for Manufacture expertise ensures precisely this. Listed below are three of the many benefits:

Reduction in costs: cost reduction is achieved across multiple avenues such as materials, processes and scaling-up.

Accelerated route to market: Avoiding nasty surprises at production stage and eliminating re-work and re-design.

Compliance from the word go: Being compliance focused from the start for product assurance and certification.

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of a Nuclear Waste Container Grabber

Finite Element Analysis (FEA): Our Finite Element Analysis capabilities provide validation and assurance in design at the various stages of product development. We have the capabilities to assess against a variety of physics, materials and loading phenomena. As proficient users of industry standard tools such as Nastran and Ansys, we help companies gain assurance, and confidence in their product and their design and manufacturing processes. The wide spectrum of our capabilities and experience means that we select the right analysis approach in terms of problem physics, application, idealisation (shells, beams, solids) contact setup and modelling, and a range of static and dynamic loading conditions.

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Assessment of a Marine Antenna System with Moving Solid Boundaries

Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD): Issues related to fluid flow are a common occurrence across various sectors of engineering. These range from simple laminar flow (in pipes) to complex multi-phase phenomena with turbulence, chemical reactions, rotating machinery and conjugate heat transfer. Our Computational Fluid Dynamics capabilities help make sense of the complexities of flow across diverse sectors and applications. We also combine our fluid and structural mechanics expertise, providing integrated solutions(unidirectional and bidirectional Fluid Structure Interaction) where required. Just like FEA, setting up CFD models and performing analyses have their own challenges and are specialist processes. We use industry standard tools such as Ansys and Autodesk CFD.

Training Solutions: We offer a number of workshops, training courses and programs ranging from half a day to a full working week across various topics and for all levels of the organisational hierarchy. These include broad overview topics such as innovation culture and management, strategy for startups, successful delivery of minimum viable products, innovation pathways, product development, human factors, sustainability led design and technical disciplines such as finite element analysis, computational fluid dynamics, generative design, amongst others.

Assessments to Standards: Industry and sector practices are governed by various national and international standards such as BS, ISO and DIN to name a few. Most of these standards have mandatory requirements for various processes. The standards stipulate the mandatory minimums for factors such as life, safety, service, duty, etc and drive the various design parameters such as dimensions, mass, power, speed, load capacity, temperature, pressure and so forth. Our broad range of experience across various sectors means that we have the capability to perform assessments in accordance with the mandatory requirements of these standards.

Independent Third-Party Assessment: As an extension of our Assessments to Standards capability we also act as independent third-party assessors and verifiers as mandated by various standards. Examples of independent third-party assessments carried out by Equitus includes but is not limited to:

  • Review of input technical and functional specifications to ensure and confirm code compliance
  • Review of design documents and to confirm design code compliance
  • Assessment of reports prepared using by performing independent analyses to substantiate the design of components not covered by established design code rules

All this will soon be available to view on our new website. So, watch this space!

Heads Up! New Website On The Way!

We are on the verge of launching our spanking new website very shortly. In the build up to this launch, we want to share with you a few brief insights into our offerings which have been slightly reorganised.

This week we look at People Management.

You would have seen in one of our recent blog series how critical it is to align people, culture and processes, in order to initiate, drive and sustain digital transformation programs. Our new people management offering helps look at these very things and helps bring alignment.

People lie at the heart of everything.

Be it making decisions, designing and developing products, operating machinery or using the millions of products that are designed, developed, and manufactured the world over. Our people focused approach focusses on making life easier for everyone involved. Within your organisation, upstream with your customers, and downstream with your suppliers. We give people assurance in their products, processes, services and solutions. When people are assured, they have the confidence to excel at everything they do.

Edgar Schein defined culture as the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and have worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.

We help establish and develop a culture of leading from the top, empowering from the bottom up and continuous improvement.

Our processes reflect our people focused approach and our culture. Our belief is that there is no best way to do something, there is always a better way. This forms  the phrase ‘A Better Engineered World’.

Processes exist to define and describe how to do something and in what order. Processes are determined by the most efficient way to achieve said objectives. Processes define the standard ways in which to achieve said objectives, and offer consistency of experience, and accountability. Processes lead to improvement.

More detail on all this will soon be available to view on our new website.

So, watch this space!

Digital Transformation Webinar With Maxbyte Technologies

On Thursay the 23rd of July, we hosted a webinar on digital transformation with our partners Maxbyte Technologies. Our CEO Raam Shanker was in a live chat with Ramshankar.C.S, the CEO of Maxbyte.

The purpose was to give everyone an idea of Maxbyte and Equitus’s digital transformation capabilities. we also touched on some of the common themes such as perceived cost of digital transformation, availability and retention of skills, and concerns around cyber-security. We also touched on the need for urgent action with regards to digital transformation, especially given the current pandemic situation.

The focus was on employee safety, asset management, maintenance and supply chain resilience. This was the first in a series of webinars we are hosting over the next few weeks. Watch this space to know more about what is coming.

First Free Digital Transformation Webinar On July 23rd

Over the last four weeks we’ve published our blog series on Digital Transformation. We started with the why and then focused on how it is essential to align your people, processes and culture before you embark on a digital transformation journey.

We are now pleased to announce that we’re bringing our first live webinar on Digital Transformation focused on the manufacturing sector, on 23rd July 2020 at 11:30 am UK time.

Our CEO Raam Shanker will be chatting with Ramshankar C S, the CEO of Maxbyte Technologies, our digital transformation and Industry 4.0 partners.

In this edition, titled Digitise to Accelerate Out of a Crisis, we’re looking at the road to recovery post COVID-19, the challenges and opportunities. We will be covering people/workforce readiness management, materials / supply chain management, site/asset management, compliance management and communications management. The webinar is completely free to attend. You can register here.

Effective Digital Transformation Requires Right Processes – What Does This Mean?

We started this series on digital transformation with an overview and listed people, culture and processes as the three factors that need to be aligned and in harmony before diving into digital. We then looked at people, followed by culture. Today we focus on processes.

The dictionary defines process as ‘a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.’. For the sake of your convenience, we have highlighted certain parts of the last sentence in bold formatting. The key in that sentence is ‘achieving a particular end’.

Let us first focus on why processes are necessary. Processes often do one or more of the following:

  1. Processes help define and describe how to do something and in what order
  2. Processes are often determined by the most efficient way to achieve said objective
  3. Processes define the standard ways in which to achieve said objectives, and offer consistency and accountability
  4. Processes lead to improvement

Processes help define and describe how to do something and in what order

Most of you would have bought a piece of IKEA furniture at some point. How did you discover how to assemble it? You followed the set of diagrams that came with the kit, right? That diagram describes the process to assemble your furniture. Not just the IKEA furniture, but almost everything we buy and use these days comes with a set of user manuals, the most basic instructions in which are how to get started.

Question 1 for you to ask yourselves: How well defined are your processes in achieving objectives?

Processes are often governed by the most efficient way to achieve said objective

By efficiency we’re not just talking in terms of money, but also in terms of time, resources, human effort and other criteria. Unfortunately, most people who are part of a system often tend to forget the bigger picture. If a process saves someone a lot of time and cost, but adds more cost and time downstream then it’s not worth having such a process, because it is not efficient in the long run. However, processes that reduce overall human effort, overall time or are resource friendly overall, are efficient.

Question 2: How efficient are your processes overall?

Processes define the standard ways in which to achieve said objectives, and offer consistency and accountability

Imagine you and your friend both bought the same piece of furniture from IKEA, but received different instructions. Imagine their set of instructions were correct and yours were wrong. What are the consequences? They can range from loss of time to injuries or even loss of life. However, having a standardised set of instructions ensures this doesn’t happen. With the IKEA furniture, not just you, or your friend, but if anyone else across the planet bought the same model and specification of the same product as you, they would also get the same diagram describing how to assemble it. Moreover, they also create accountability. When things go wrong, the first thing that gets asked is ‘were standard processes followed?’.

Question 3: If two different employees in your company who have never met each other before were randomly chosen to do the same task, will they follow the same process and achieve the same result?

Processes lead to improvement

This should be very obvious by now. Given that processes offer consistency, are standardised, define and describe how to do something, and are driven by efficiency, it is easier to measure and monitor processes. Therefore there is room for improvement. There is no best way to do something, there is always a better way. Now, imagine if ten different people bought the same piece of furniture, but had no instructions to put it together. What would happen?

Question 4: How are you ensuring improvement in your organisation?

So, the point we were trying to make is, your people, culture and your process need to be aligned and in sync. If this does not happen, no amount of digital will save the say. Let us consider the following three scenarios

People + Culture – Process: No consistency, standardisation or accountability for anything (Hippyland)

People – Culture + Processes: No leadership, no values, no rule of law or ethics (Wild Wild West)

Culture + Process – People: Can this situation exist? Here’s another question for you to think about.

Also, we know a thing or two about digital transformation. So, why not get in touch?

Effective Digital Transformation Requires The Right Culture. What Does This Mean?

We started this series on digital transformation with an overview and listed people, culture and processes as the three factors that need to be aligned and in harmony before diving into digital. We then looked at people. Today we focus on culture.

Edgar Schein defined culture as the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and have worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems. Culture is more than a broad set of aspirational statements, it is more than what they see, hear or feel when they walk into the reception of your offices or factories. Based on the above definition, there are a number of aspects to developing a culture. External adaptation and internal integration refer to how your company responds to the demands of the outside world whilst continuously improving how things happen internally.

A good organisational culture has three essential ingredients to begin with. They are leading from the top, empowering from the bottom up, and continuous improvement.

Developing the right culture in an organisation requires strong commitment from the leadership. This involves, recognising the need, being honest, setting bold and daring visions, and planning the execution of these visions, pulling people towards a successful future and so forth. No employee comes to work in the morning thinking they are determined to do a shoddy job. Leadership needs to commit itself to being an active part of the process, every day. This should not be just a box-ticking exercise, but has to happen due to a genuine desire. This is then followed by empowering  employees.

Empowering from the bottom up is a matter of trust and transparency. Placing trust in the employees and gaining their trust. Consistent communication and keeping people apprised of what is actually happening helps build the much-needed trust. A good starting point will be to understand what their problems are, what is preventing them from being effective at doing their work, and how to minimise the inconvenience to them. Rather than simply introduce new ways of doing things and imposing new tools, asking what they think will be a good starting point. When people are asked what they think, they feel valued. Valued people are happy people and they become willing. Empowering people also means allocating resources to help them with implementing new ideas and methods.

Once you have willing people then, everyone starts to see room for improvement, how to do things better, they start going above and beyond the call of duty. When employees see the commitment, trust and transparency from leadership, then the resulting motivation and desire can be inspiring. Phrases like ‘we have always done it this way’ and ‘we don’t see a reason to change’ and ‘we don’t like change’ soon become things of the past and you will see employees looking for better ways of doing things. Yes, you will get somethings wrong, but mostly you will get it right.

Let us look at these with an actual story of bad culture at a manufacturing organisation in the North of England. The company has a good history and unparalleled expertise in a particular industry and family of components. However, a few years ago they were in a bit of a pickle due to a number of reasons. A noteworthy trait of the leadership was that they only ever addressed all their employees when they had to give them bad news. News of losses, job-cuts, cost-cutting and so forth. In their quest for an immediate fix, one fine day they decided to implement the 5S system and for one hour every Friday, all employees had to do 5S. It started off well, but after a few weeks, the employees were still expected to ”do 5S” at the prescribed hour every week but the leadership continued to do its meetings with no participation. Needless to say, the morale dropped and resulted in a mass exodus of numerous excellent staff. The point of this story is, there was no leadership from the top, there was no empowerment from the bottom-up and there was no desire for continuous improvement.

Now, this doesn’t mean you are destined to go down this route also. It is never too late to start. Bringing the right culture is something we at Equitus can help you with, so why not get in touch!

Effective Digital Transformation Requires The Right People. Why?

Last week we started the series of blogs focusing on digital transformation and laid the groundwork. Digital transformation only enhances your organisations’ capabilities, and that it won’t solve underlying problems. For example, imagine you want to run a marathon. However, in order to do so, you need to train for it. And to be able to train for it, you need to be free of injuries. So, if you’re nursing an injury and still want to train for a marathon, you need to first focus on recovering from the injury before starting your training.

We touched on the fact that alignment of people, culture and processes is crucial for digital transformation to be successful. Today let’s look at the people factor.

Everything starts and ends with people. You need the right people for the job. We’re referring to people across the entire value-chain; in-house, upstream and downstream. Some of this you can control, but some, you can’t. People need to have an intrinsic desire and motivation to grow. People need to have aspiration. When we say right people, we’re not saying that people are defective. We mean the people need to have a level of willingness and abilities. People need a challenge and recognition for the good work and contributions they make. What you need is people who are not afraid that problems are surfacing, and people who are willing to put their heads together to solve these problems. What is not acceptable is problems being swept under the carpet and the parcel being passed around.

You don’t necessarily need people with the right technical skills, to begin with. Start with the right attitude, a keenness to learn, a desire to grow, willingness to get into the heart of problems and finding ways to solve them. They don’t have to come up with the right solution straightaway. Simply recognising that there is a problem and it can have dire consequences if not tackled early on, will do. The actual ability to tackle the problems and collaboratively solve these problems will come as part of their learning, training, and experience.

So, with regards to people, what exactly are we talking about? Let us explore three valuable traits.

Resilience: Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from setbacks or difficulties.  Let us face it, the world today is a much tougher place than it was perhaps 20 or 30 years ago. There are even more ways to fail than to succeed. Putting the definition of resilience alongside the state of affairs in the world today, resilience can be redefined as the ability to discover the ways in which to succeed in whatever one chooses to accomplish. It is not the same thing as stubbornness. Stubbornness is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting something different to happen. Resilience builds when we learn to accept failure, understand that it is ok to fail, learn from our failures and try new things out until we succeed (a bit like Edison).

Critical Thinking: Simply put, critical thinking is the ability to look at a given situation from multiple perspectives, some of which often conflict with our own internal biases. The good news is, with practice, one can get good at it. How does one develop critical thinking and become good at it then? A good place to start is looking at the problem and how it affects other people not just oneself. The ability to focus on a problem, combined with the empathy to understand how and why if affects the people is essential. When I say people, it’s not about passing blame or pointing fingers. It is about acknowledging that there is an impact on people and then minimising the bad and maximising the good. Critical thinking is essential to effectively solve problems, the next skill on this list.

Problem Solving: As the phrase suggests, there are again, two stages to it; the problem stage and the solving stage. The first stage is getting to the root cause of problems. Only with perseverance, inquisitiveness and willingness to ask questions, is getting to the root cause of problems possible. These are again variants on the resilience theme, in-fact these are some of the behaviours that resilient people often display. Once the root cause of problems has been identified, then comes the phase of solving the problem, or finding the solution. The behaviours required to be able to effectively solve problems with consistency and efficiency are the same behaviours required to identify the real problems.

Solving problems will indeed require technical ability and skills. However, if your people have already displayed qualities like resilience, critical thinking, a willingness to collaborate and recognise problems, it means they will pick up all the necessary technical and on the job skills easier than most others and become better solvers of problems!

Get in touch with us, we know a thing or two about this and can help you implement this effectively.

What Is Digital Transformation And Do We Need It?

Today we hear the phrase ‘digital transformation’ quite a lot. There seems to be an urge to get digital transformation going without realising what it actually means. We start this series of blog posts on with what digital transformation is, what it is not, the groundwork you need to do, how to benefit from this, and then we bring everything together. Our focus is specifically on the engineering and manufacturing sector, but this can be applied to non-manufacturing sectors such as services also.

Digital transformation usually refers to the use of automation and computing power to perform routine, dangerous (to humans), and handle-turning tasks where the repetitive nature of the job and threats to humans, combined with the speed of delivery take precedence. Simple things like programming a 5-axis machine to perform a particular task is an example of digital transformation. Using remote controlled robots in a highly radioactive nuclear environment is another.

There are a number of reasons a company may choose to implement digital transformation. Some of them include:

  1. Let’s follow the trend
  2. Technology is available and we must have it
  3. Everyone else is doing it and so should we
  4. It could be the silver bullet to deeper problems we have
  5. Let’s make our company even more effective and efficient
  6. Let’s enable and empower our people
  7. There are a number of redundant processes that we can automate and let people focus on where their strengths are
  8. There will be better transparency and visibility of our performance across all levels of the hierarchy

Here’s a question for you. What do you think are the right and wrong reasons from the above list for doing digital transformation? Feel free to leave your response in the comments section below.

If you’re familiar with drag racing, you will know what nitrous-oxide boost means. In simple terms it enables fuel to be burnt at a higher rate than normal, therefore providing an extra boost providing a higher than normal acceleration. This only works if the vehicle itself is aligned in the right direction. If the vehicle itself is facing the wrong way, no amount of nitrous-oxide boost will help the cause. Digital transformation is a bit like this, a nitrous-oxide boost for your company. It provides that vital acceleration, but works only when the rest of your organisation is aligned in the correct direction. What does alignment mean? There are three things that need to be in harmony. People, culture and processes. We shall look at these three independently in the next three posts and then bring it all together in the final post.

To summarise, three questions you need to answer before embarking on digital transformation:

  1. What is the purpose of implementing digital transformation in our company?
  2. Are the people, culture and processes in our company aligned and in harmony?
  3. Are we ready to lead from the top, but empower from the bottom up?

Next week we focus on people.

To know more, get in touch: [email protected]

Twitter: @equitus_

How To Go From Autodesk Inventor To 3D Printing With Ultimaker

As you’re aware we now have a 3D printer called Ultimaker. We now have the capacity and capability to not just design products but also do some prototyping. Understandably we’ve been playing with the printer and with Autodesk Inventor. We’d like to share a workflow to take model from Inventor to Ultimaker.

Icosahedron
Icosahedron

The above figure is an Icosahedron that we’ve designed in-house. An Icosahedron is one of only five perfect Euclidean solids in which all edges have the same length and the area of all surfaces is the same. The other four such solids are Tetrahedron, Cube, Octahedron and Dodecahedron.

Now that we’ve got this solid ready, we need to convert it into an ‘stl’ file. Conventional Autodesk Inventor wisdom will suggest you to go as shown in the image below and select ‘stl’ in the export file type. However, there is a better way to do this.

Firstly, go to the extreme right side on your 3D Model tab and click the downward pointing arrow. You should see the menu as shown below. In this menu, look for the option that says ‘3D Print’ and make sure it is checked.

Now you should see the ‘3D Print’ button on the ribbon as shown in image below. Click on this and you enter the 3D Printing workspace.

The 3D Print environment is shown below. In this environment you select your 3D printer and specify print settings and then export your model into an ‘stl’ file.

This is it. Once your ‘stl’ file is ready, then all you need to do is to take it into the software that will slice it and then print it using the SD card or USB cable.

Design Tools We Use – The Equitus Four-E Method

As a product development house, we use a number of tools to help maximise your return on investment in your product and us. For us a product can be many things; objects, experiences, processes and interactions to name a few. Our success lies in our ability to deliver one or more benefits, each of which can be clearly perceived and expressed. To be able to do this consistently requires us to be proficient in the usage of a number of tools and mechanism that help drive the project forward. Today we focus on our slightly modified version of the Design Council’s Double Diamond method. We call it the Four-E method.

More often than not, a problem statement that we receive may not be the root cause, but instead ends up as one of the downstream consequences of the actual problem. The way we get to the root cause is shown in the image below.

Initial Problem Statement to Root Cause

On a simple XY graph, we plot time on the horizontal (X) axis and the number of potential sources of problem on the vertical (Y) axis. Time is an important factor because it takes a certain duration to ask relevant questions, speak to pertinent people, brainstorm ideas and list down all potential sources of problem. Having the time factor also helps with meeting delivering within a stipulated duration.

We start with the initial problem statement, shown by the blue dot, and once all sources have been established, we reach the peak, as shown by the purple dot. We call this the ‘Establish’ phase. At this point we start eliminating those sources that do not fully account for the particular problem, and eventually narrow it down to a root cause, as shown by the orange dot. The objective here is to define the root cause in clear and specific terms. The more specific it is, the better. We call this the ‘Eliminate’ phase.

Now begins the task of addressing this root cause. This is shown in the image below.

Root Cause Definition to Solution Delivery

Once the root cause has been identified as shown by the same orange dot as the last image, this forms the starting point for considering various solutions that will aim to address and solve for this root cause.

This begins what we call the ‘Evaluate’ phase, where we start considering a number of potential solutions that could address and solve for this root cause. We reach the peak shown by the red dot, where all potential solutions have been considered. Then we start the ‘Execute’ phase where we look at the most appropriate solution that will present maximum value in terms of effectiveness, consistency and efficiency to solve for the root cause and deliver this solution.

So, this was a quick introduction to our Four-E method. There are a number of other tools and techniques we use, most of which are industry standard, about which we will tell you more in the coming weeks.

Happy reading!

Design Tools We Use – The Morphological Matrix

As a product development house, we use a number of tools to help maximise your return on investment in your product and us. For us a product can be many things; objects, experiences, processes and interactions to name a few. Our success lies in our ability to deliver one or more benefits, each of which can be clearly perceived and expressed. To be able to do this consistently requires us to be proficient in the usage of a number of tools and mechanism that help drive the project forward. Today we focus on the morphological matrix.

More often than not, a lot of the designs we do end having a number of components, with multiple option for each component. Listing these components and options in the form of a table helps us look at all the options on one screen (ideally) and then compare options with one another to arrive at the best combination to develop in more detail. Now, doing a morphological matrix on engineered products might be a bit longer than what a blog post might allow. So, we’ve used a product we’re all familiar with, to illustrate how a morphological matrix works.

Consider the customary kebab at the end of a long night in town. The usual options are meat + bread + salad + sauce. Consider the table below that breaks our kebab down into its constituent elements.

The Humble Kebab

This is a morphological matrix in a very simple form. Given that there are four components as shown by the four rows, and there are three options for each component shown by the three columns, mathematically we can generate 34 (81) combinations of kebabs. So, if the morphological matrix can provide 81 design combinations for a kebab with these options, imagine the number of possibilities you will have when designing complex products!

Driver Number 5: Ethics, Society And Compassion

Last week we spoke influencing factor 4: Global Perceptions. Today let us look at influencing factor 5: ethics, society and compassion.

Humans are social beings. We love a sense of community, contact, and communication. This urge to communicate with the rest of our species has by far been the single most driver of technological advancement in the modern age. What has changed is the way we communicate and the mediums we use to do this. What has remained constant is our need to be connected with the rest of our species.

Let’s briefly touch upon ethics, society and compassion.

Ethics

Companies and enterprises exist as businesses to make money. There’s no question about that. However, the way they make money is paramount. Ethics and ethical practises are more about going above and beyond the bare minimum requirements one must meet to stay within regulatory frameworks. What do we mean by this? Allow us to explain this with an example.

The rail industry in the UK is driven by a number of quality requirements and standards, which must be met for train companies to operate services. However, despite all this, the quality of customer experience has been deteriorating, thanks to delays, cancellations, rising fares and crumbling infrastructure. Whilst the legal requirements are being met, the ethics of doing business, especially in a customer facing industry are found lacking.

Society

In this context, when we are talking about society, we mean more than the people and social structures we have in place. We are talking about the ecosystem the company is dependent on to deliver it products and services. It is not only about how many direct employees you have as a company, but about how many indirect opportunities for employment you create in the form of direct and indirect supply chain.

For example, Airbus in the UK has around 13,000 direct employees, and over a 100,000 strong workforce forms part of its supply chain, which ranges from giants like Rolls-Royce to many SME, a total of around 2,500 different companies.

Compassion

Compassion is not an effect, but is the cause of good ethical practises and care for society. Having compassion as an organisation is what drives care for society and ethical practices. Compassion can be developed by adopting  and define that values that a company stands by. It is possible to be profitable and still have compassion, values, care for society and ethical practices.

For example, pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson was founded in 1886. This means, the company has been around for just under 130 years. That is an incredibly long time. How they do business is reflected in their credo, which is available on their website.

Three pointers for today:

  1. Ethics is more than just meeting the bare minimum requirements that allow you to stay in business
  2. Having a positive impact on your society and communities matters a lot
  3. The key to all this is being compassionate as a business, and it starts with putting people first

Driver Number 4: Changing Global Perceptions

Last week we spoke influencing factor 3: Inclusivity. Today we speak about influencing factor 4: changing global perceptions.


We will start by going back to our roots, reflected in the roots of our founder, Raam Shanker. Growing up in India in the 80s and 90s where socialism was the accepted norm and people’s perception of success was to score good marks throughout your academic life and apply for the very limited ‘government’ jobs and stay there until you retired. Things changed in the early 90s due to the 1991 Indian Economic Crisis, which forced a sort of liberalisation of the markets. Suddenly, this opened up opportunities hitherto unavailable to this population. Along with this, slowly the perception of success changed.


India isn’t the only country to be affected by globalisation. The clue is in the name! We can no longer classify the world into first, second and third world, or developed and under-developed, or label expats and immigrants based on skin colour and country of origin. Let’s look at a three changes in global perceptions that will drive how you design and develop products.


Perceptions of Success
Perceptions of success are no longer associated just with a good academic record or a job for life. It is about a sense of achievement and contentment with career choices. In some markets such as India, perception of success also comes with a materialistic side to it. A stark example is the failure of the Tata Nano, touted as the world’s cheapest car. As a technological and cost-cutting exercise, the Nano was brilliant, but it failed as an innovation. People don’t want to be associated with the word ‘cheap’ anymore. People will pay a fair price for a quality product and the image of pride and prestige it projects (see my piece on customisation and personalisation).


Perceptions of Market
Another mistake companies tend to make is determine affordability of people based on historical data and any cognitive biases they may have about a particular region, country or demographic. In our last piece we spoke about inclusivity. This is an extension of that piece, where the underlying principle is to not exclude anyone. The more people you can cater to, the better you will perform. The key is to not make special features or highlights too obvious to the point of embarrassment.


Perceptions of Capitalism
The old school idea of irresponsible capitalism won’t work anymore. As more and more people get access to current affairs and the state of the world, their purchasing choices tend to focus also on the ethics. Things like sustainability, care for the environment, community, society and giving back are starting to matter more to people. This is truer with the younger generation. However, don’t do it as a box ticking exercise. If you’re going to pursue responsible and ethical practises, do it in the right spirit and with wholesome commitment. Be genuine. we’ll reflect more on this next week.

Today we leave you with three pointers:

  1. The perceptions around things that matter to people are changing
  2. People are prioritising ethical issues like planet, sustainability, society and community
  3. Responsible capitalism is the way forward, but it has to be genuine and with wholesome commitment

Driver Number 3: Inclusivity

Last week we spoke influencing factor 2: Care for our planet. Today we look at inclusivity.

Go to any professional network and you hear people talk about diversity and inclusion. You might even hear phrases like ‘diversity is natural, but inclusion is choice’. These conversations currently revolve around the workplace, careers, opportunities, and to everyone regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and many such factors.

When we look at demographics that are likely to be catered to, you will always find a portion of the target market left on the fringes or on the margins. Here when we say inclusivity, we ask you ‘whether the products you design and develop cater to a wide variety of audiences, including the marginals?’. Allow us to explain this with four different examples.

Example 1: Population that drives on the left-hand side of the road

65% of the world’s countries drive on the right-hand side of the road. That is two thirds of the world. 65% market share is a high number. However, as we’re all aware, the automotive companies don’t just make cars for the 65%, they also make cars for the other 35%. They do this because they feel it’s worth the effort to cater to the minority and include these countries as part of their market.

Example 2: People who are left-handed

A number of us write with our right hand, but a lot of other things, we do with our left. Some of us use our left hand when we use knives, spoons, play snooker etc. If you’re left handed ask yourself, have you come across a pair of scissors exclusively for lefties? We admit that only ca. 10% of the world population is left-handed, but still, 10% of 7.3 billion is around 730 million. A need in the market, which now seems to have been fulfilled by specialist websites that cater to left-handed people.

Example 3: Culturally appropriate characteristics

What maybe appropriate in one culture may not be acceptable in another culture. You need to ask yourself whether your products are sensitive to various cultures and their characteristics. For example, certain cultures are more emotionally expressive, whilst the others are mellowed, in certain cultures it is the norm to mix work life with personal life, and so forth. Different people respond to stimuli differently, it’s up to the designer to determine what stimuli evoke a positive response and apply that knowledge.

Example 4: People with special requirements and needs

Not everyone is the same. Most of us get by with what’s available on the market. However, some of us require special features. Look around you and you will find tall people, short people, people with small hands, big hands, people who have certain conditions and disabilities which come with special requirements. None of their conditions should make them feel left out. Therefore, it is important to design products for people with these needs. It is also equally important to preserve a sense of subtlety, to hide the fact that it’s designed specifically for certain people.

To summarise it, we are leaving you with three things today to ensure your products are inclusive:

  1. Design for the marginals
  2. Be aware of cultural sensitivities
  3. Imbibe the designs with a certain subtlety that enables usability without the feeling of being special

To know more, get in touch!

Driver Number 2: Care For The Planet

Last week we looked at influencing factor 1: Increased need for personalisation and individualisation. Today we speak about influencing factor 2: Protecting the planet – sustainability in practise.

There has never been a more urgent requirement to care for the planet and tell the world we do. Sadly however, sustainability and environmentalism are still only at an activism level, if you look at the large-scale participation of people. There are more activists than active practitioners of sustainability, telling others what not to do. This is akin to presenting problems than solutions. This is where change needs to happen, and happen now! The good news is it is possible.

The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) present a clear and comprehensive guideline for practising sustainability with 17 individual goals and actionable items. The image below shows the UN SDGs based on their influence on economy, society and biosphere. How to lead with sustainability is something we’ve touched on in the past, but today is more about why.

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As the cost of technology adoption is going down, the ease of technology access is going up. More people have access to high-speed Internet and therefore more people are creating and posting content, thereby raising awareness. As people become more aware, there will be a shift in mindset towards sustainably designed, sourced and manufactured products, locally sourced and produced products, products made from recyclable materials, to name a few.

Keeping this changing culture in mind, three things we wish to leave you with today:

  1. Sustainability led design and development is not optional. It is essential and will become mandatory.
  2. It doesn’t simply mean a lower carbon footprint. There’s a lot more to sustainability than this.
  3. Enabling people to practise sustainability is the right thing to do. It has to be driven at scale and for it to happen, the first question to ask is ‘how do we make the right thing to do the easiest thing to do?’.

Driver Number 1: Personalisation and Individualisation – (Or Lessons From A Kebab Shop)

Two weeks ago we told you how the product development process will change in the immediate future based on five influencing factors. Today we talk about influencing factor 1: Increased need for personalisation and individualisation.

Let’s face it; we’re surrounded by social media. We have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and who know what fresh platform will crop up by the time you finish reading this. With the influx of social media, there comes the inherent pressure. To be accepted. To belong. To be part of a cult. This stems from the desire to find common ground amongst our peers and the society around us.

AS a paradox, this also carries with it, the urge to express our individuality. We’re all individual people, with our own personalities, tastes, choices, desires, needs and wants. Who we are is reflected in how we express ourselves. An inseparable part of this is the products we buy and use. We no longer crave for the latest smart phone or the latest piece of gadget. We want to personalise it, to the point it has to be an extension of who we are. We no longer want our BMW to be a standard Metallic Ruby Red, we want it to be a Equitus Eternal Red!

Now, the challenge you need to overcome is to balance the desire for personalisation (value addition) with the standardisation of the parts (cost minimisation) that you have to make your products. Let’s look at it with an example that we’re all quite familiar with: the ceremonial night-out kebab!

If you live in Manchester, or anywhere in the country for that matter, the local kebab shop will be a familiar haunt. There are so many of them, specialising in serving a selection of kebabs. Flavourful food apart, we love how they individualise your kebabs.

They have the standard kebab meats, marinades and grilling style, which form your standard parts, let’s say. The personalisation happens with your selection of accompaniments which enhance the flavour of your base product. You can go with a variety of naans or pittas, then again, pick and choose what aspects of a salad you want or don’t want, and the final step is the sauces you’d like on your kebab. Your friend and you could be having the same chicken kebab, but with different enhancements to suit your individual tastes!

Three things we wish to leave you with today:

  1. The base/core product is always about meeting the requirement/solving the problem/addressing the issue. There can be no compromise on that.
  2. The personalisation comes in the bits that aren’t the base/core product, more often to suit individual taste or for aesthetics.
  3. When you’re engineering and manufacturing products more complex than a kebab, your challenges are different, and you will need specialist support from the likes of us.

Epiphany to Evaluation – Feasibility (or The Path to Global Domination)

During the last two weeks we spoke about the evaluation of ideas against desirability and viability. Today we focus on the support ecosystem and infrastructure, and talk about Feasibility.

Feasibility focuses on the supporting eco-system and infrastructure, to determine whether or not the right conditions exist for our product/solution to be deployed and used effectively. Typical questions we answer here include ‘is this right infrastructure available?’, ‘if not, is our product/solution disruptive enough to push for the infrastructure to be created?’, ‘will the lack of supporting infrastructure put people off using our product/solution?’

For the idea to succeed as a product or solution and become an innovation, it will have to be utilised as intended by the target audience identified in the desirability stage. Quite often it will require external enablers such as support infrastructure and an eco-system.

For example, when the Internal Combustion engine was invented, and motor cars were developed on that basis, the support infrastructure required was availability of fuel to power the engines.

Similarly, when the electric bulb was invented, a prerequisite would have been the availability of electricity, without which, the bulb would be useless.

Now, the other possibility is that if the supporting infrastructure or ecosystem doesn’t yet exist, the product/solution must be impactful enough to enable the creation of such an ecosystem.

Steve Jobs’ showmanship is well documented on the Internet. Who doesn’t remember his keynote, back in 2007, when Apple launched the first ever iPhone? If you look it up on Google or YouTube, you’ll see a clip of this recording in which he presents ‘an iPod, a phone and an internet communication device’. Do you remember the state of mobile internet in 2007? Now, what happened in the aftermath of the iPhone launch? Three things happened:

  1. Touch screen smartphones started appearing rapidly.
  2. Mobile Internet became more and more powerful.
  3. There was extensive adoption of the mobile platform by major service providers (banks, retailers, restaurants) and social media, and the race began!

So, the point we are making here is, if a support infrastructure and an eco-system don’t exist, your product/solution has to have so much of an impact that it does what iPhone did to the Internet and mobile communications.

As a summary, feasibility assessment of the idea is about ensuring your idea has support infrastructure and an eco-system to enable rapid adoption at scale or that your idea has so much of an impact, it triggers the generation of this infrastructure and eco-system.

Feel free to get in touch with us to see how we can help your quest for Global Domination.

Five Factors That Will Influence Product Development Going Forward

We live in a world in which we’re surrounded by products. Products that make life easier, products that gives us a sense of prestige in a social context, products that make us look cool, products that entertain us, products that we are forced to use, products that frustrate us, products that make us happy and so forth. The list is endless.

A product’s journey from the mind of the person who came up with the idea, to the hands of the person who uses it is a rather complex and tedious adventure with many intermediate stops (some necessary, some unnecessary), each with the potential to kill it off. We’re also at a phase where the consumer consciousness is focused not just on self-interest but also on the future of the planet, sustainability and so forth.

Keeping these in mind, we believe these the top five factors influencing product development, going forward. At the very basic definition, product development is the process of taking an idea and developing it into a product. Over the last few centuries, different factors such as technology, purchasing power, economies of scale, costs and so forth have influenced the product development process.

However, going forward, a lot will change with the way we design and develop products. It will not just be a simple contest of price, features, prestige and technology anymore. The product development process and philosophies will change based on a few other factors. We are throwing our hat in the ring with what we believe will be the five factors to influence this change:

  1. Personalisation and individualisation
  2. Care for the planet
  3. Inclusivity
  4. Changing Global Perceptions
  5. Ethics, Society and Compassion

In the coming weeks, we’ll talk about each of these factors individually, trying to explain what these mean for the future of product development, and for you.

Epiphany to Evaluation – Viability or (How Do We Know This Is The Right Fit For Us?)

Last week we spoke about the evaluation of ideas against desirability. Today we focus on the company, and talk about Viability.

Viability focuses only on the organisation or the company that has come up with the idea. It’s a test with an inward focus. Typical questions we answer here include ‘is this the right product for us?’, ‘do we have the resources (time, money, skills,) to do this?’, ‘will this have a nett positive impact or nett negative impact on the company?’

This is an impartial and unbiased assessment of the company’s capabilities with regards to technology, financial strength, culture, perception, resources, upstream and downstream partnerships and the impact of said product on the company amongst other things. Let’s look at the first three of these items briefly.

Technological Capability: The two focus areas here are technical and technological expertise, and the application of this technology. For example, the technological capability/expertise of McDonald’s is preparing and serving food, but the area of application is in the fast food sector as opposed to gourmet dining.

Financial Strength: This is not just the ability to invest money into the venture, but the ability to survive the failure of the product/solution with minimal damage to the bank balance. For example, when Sony released the Betamax format for video recording and playback, they were beaten by the VHS format introduced by JVC. However, despite this failure, Sony survived.

Culture: Innovation doesn’t happen by accident. Innovation is a result of the culture of companies which enable, encourage and empower the people to express themselves without fear of being looked down upon. For example, it’s well documented that 3M has a policy which states ca.30% of its revenue has to come from products developed in the last 3 years and that employees are allowed to work on their ideas for up to 15% of the time.

Equitus Engineering Limited’s innovation delivery capability helps with detailed exploration of these factors and creating a sustainable and effective innovation strategy.

Stress Linearisation With Autodesk Inventor Nastran

Another question we get asked frequently at Equitus Engineering Limited is how to perform stress linearization as per standards such as ASME VIII.

Before I proceed further, I will assume that:

  1. You are familiar with the Autodesk Inventor Nastran interface and have been doing some Finite Element Modelling using the software.
  2. You are also familiar with the theoretical concepts around stresses in thin and thick cylinders.

Once you’ve done the analysis, and want to look at the membrane and bending stresses, this is what you do:

  1. Display the stress results. You should then be able to select ‘Stress Linearisation’ from the top bar.
  2. Then, in the stress linearisation window, select one of the six tensors you want to see.
  3. Then select the nodes that will form your stress classification line, across the thickness of your cylinder
  4. Now select the reference point that will define your ‘N’ axis. The H axis automatically follows the right thumb rule
  5. Once you’ve selected all these, you should be able to see the stress linearisation graph, the membrane stress (pm) and bending stress (pb) based on Maximum Shear Stress or Maximum von mises Stress

To know more about how we can help you with all your Mechanical Engineering requirements, get in touch!

Equitus Support During Corona

As we write this piece, we are facing a historic and unprecedented situation. The Corona Virus, which originated in Wuhan, China has now been declared as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Across the world, countries and governments are doing their best to help reduce the number of infections. Some of the recommended things include avoiding unnecessary commute and working from home as far as possible. In these times of crisis, we’d like to provide you with an update on what we can do for you, to keep things moving until normalcy is restored.

  1. Mechanical Engineering Design Services: As companies in the engineering and manufacturing sectors, we understand you have requirements to keep the development of designs active. With all our engineers working remotely, we can act as an extension of your engineering design team and help you progress with the work until your core team is ready to take over. We can help you with numerous activities including but not limited to  3D modelling, design development and draughting. We have a full suite of Autodesk licences including Inventor Professional, Autocad Electrical and Mechanical, Fusion 360 and a host of other software.
  • Finite Element Modelling: An important part of design development is the design verification and validation exercise. We have the ability to perform computer based numerical modelling and simulation. Our abilities include structural mechanics using Finite Element Modelling (FEM) methods that cover a number of phenomena such as linear, non-linear, thermal, fatigue, vibration & dynamic, impact and drop analyses, ROPS and FOPS to name a few. Software we are well versed in include Nastran and Ansys.
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics: We are able to also help model and simulate various thermal and fluid flow phenomena such as simple laminar, multi-phase involving turbulence, rotating machinery and components, conjugate heat transfer, fluid structure interactions, chemical reactions and many more. Software we are well versed in include Autodesk CFD Ultimate and Ansys.

To help through these tough times, we have numerous flexible pricing options also, all of which can be discussed and agreed upon.

To know more, please get in touch with us via the contact form or the following ways:

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @equituseng

Epiphany To Evaluation Desirability or (How to Ensure We’re Solving Actual Problems)

Innovation is a journey from Epiphany to Empowerment. The image below shows this journey and Equitus Engineering Limited’s main areas of focus.

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The Innovation Journey

Evaluate: Test the worthiness of the idea against market, company and surrounding ecosystem

Engineer: Develop the idea into a product/solution

Execute: Measure impact, monitor progress and monetise the solution

Enable: people, teams and organisations to do things they wouldn’t have been able to do without said solution

Empower: people so that the next epiphany strikes

Once the idea strikes, the very first thing to do is evaluate the idea. It is essential to evaluate the idea against the market, the company and the ecosystem. Today we focus on the market, and talk about Desirability.

Desirability is purely market focused. Typical questions we aim to answer here include ‘whom are we selling to?’, ‘what problem are we solving?’, ‘where are we selling?’ Look at the finished product/solution through the eyes of our target audience should be your focus.

Focus on the problem that needs solving or the issue that’s bothering your customer, rather than the product you plan to develop for them or your technical capability. If you are lucky, there won’t be any variance in their description of the problem and the actual problem. However, more often than not, there will be a significant variance. The main reason for this is that they are likely to be describing a downstream consequence that’s bothering them as opposed to the cause. What do we mean  by this?

Imagine a customer calling their Internet Service Provider saying they can’t get online. Whilst that is the problem they’re facing, that’s not the real problem. It’s a downstream consequence. At this point, the technical support person will go through a series of probing questions such as whether the router is on, whether the Wi-Fi light and the Internet light etc are on. What the tech support is doing here is getting to the root cause, the real issue that’s preventing the customer from getting online. Only once the real issue has been identified can an effective solution be provided. Now, apply this same logic to your innovation process and to the problem you’re trying to solve for your customer.

Before we let you go, here’s a little anecdote. A famous multinational company once designed a manufacturing line that could make both table sauces and shower gels. They did it because they had the technical ability to do it. But when it came to selling this, both sets of customers rejected it because it was a manufacturing unit that was not specialist enough for their needs. The sauce guys said ‘why do we need something that also makes shampoo’ and the shower gel guys said ‘why do we need something that also makes mayonnaise’.

Innovation – A Brief Overview

Over the last few years the term innovation has been spoken about extensively in industrial, academic and professional settings. There are misconceptions of two types. On the one hand people with ideas and inventions being portrayed as innovators and on the other hand, people doing genuinely innovative things not being seen as innovators. Both arise due to a lack of conceptual clarity. Therefore, we as a community and nation are not quite sure about whether we’re innovating, and if so, how much innovation is happening. Based on my experience, innovation needs three things; a solution to a problem or an unmet need, a demand for said solution or creation of a demand for the solution, and a way to monetise the solution and its delivery.

Innovation Basics

In this sweet spot lies Equitus Engineering Limited, and our capabilities.

Moreover, Innovation is a journey from Epiphany to Empowerment, as shown in the image below.

The Innovation Journey

Epiphany: The idea strikes

Evaluate: Test the worthiness of the idea against market, company and surrounding ecosystem

Engineer: Develop the idea into a product/solution

Execute: Measure impact, monitor progress and monetise the solution

Enable: people, teams and organisations to do things they wouldn’t have been able to do without said solution

Empower: people so that the next epiphany strikes

As you can see, innovation doesn’t happen by accident. Discoveries happen by accident, so do inventions (sometimes). The process of innovation itself is a bit like a game of football. One needs the right team with the right intent, the right environment and culture, the ability to create chances, and more importantly the ability to convert those chances to secure victory. Then start all over again.

Extracting and Displaying Beam Bending Moments in Autodesk Inventor Nastran

Another question we get asked frequently at Equitus Engineering Limited is how to extract results for beams such as bending moments in Autodesk Inventor Nastran. Let’s go through the way to do this.

Before I proceed further, I will assume that:

  1. You are familiar with the Autodesk Inventor Nastran interface and have been doing some Finite Element Modelling using the software.
  2. Your analysis is all set-up and ready to run.

You can model beams by using frame generator in Autodesk Inventor or by creating line sketches within Inventor and then assigning beam idealisations to them in Autodesk Inventor Nastran.

Once you’ve done this, you will right click on ‘Analysis 1’ (or name of the analysis in which you want to look at beam bending moments) in the tree on the top-left side of your screen and go to ‘Edit’. In the window that opens, under the ‘Output Controls’ tab, in the ‘Elements’ section you will put a check mark on ‘Force’ and then exit the window.

Once you run the analysis, you then go to the results section in the window and right click and select new. Then under ‘Result Data’ select ‘Beam Diagram’ and then under ‘Type’ select ‘Beam Moment’ at either end. Then press ‘Display’ to view the bending moments on the beam.

Product Development: The Equitus Way

As your end to end product lifecycle partner, we share the risk & complex challenges in product development, by collaborating more closely, offering fixed price services, and delivering right first time.

We bring the following value additions to the conventional product development process:

Cultural Characteristics: Our multi-cultural and diverse team knows what’s appropriate in various cultures and how to apply this knowledge with consideration and compassion for cultural sensitivities.

Mass Customisation: Our multi-disciplinary team provides designs with the ability to combine flexibility and personalisation of custom products with the cost benefits of mass production.

Concurrent Engineering: Our concurrent engineering process reduces product development time, time to market, improves productivity, quality and helps control costs.

Collaborative Approach: An inherent property of how we do things, our collaborative approach breaks down siloed working with transparency and unity of approach with one version of the truth and a common purpose.

Manufacturability: By considering variables such as ‘how to manufacture’ ‘to make or to source’ we ensure that the best resources are deployed at every stage of the product development from concept to commercialisation.

Emotional Appeal: Our human behaviour experts bring the softer, intangible benefits of generating positive human emotions and helping make our products as inclusive as possible. Sustainability: Bringing sustainability into the design process in accordance with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, enabling and empowering people to actively participate in the process.

What is Industry 4.0?

Today in the manufacturing sector and circles, everyone is talking about Industry 4.0 or the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Depending on where you’re getting your information from, the future is painted as a dystopian one. Either the robots are going to rule, much like Terminator, or it’s all about augmented realities being so close to actual realities that you don’t know what’s real and what’s not, much like Inception.

Given how much we get asked by our clients about the 4th Industrial Revolution, here’s a quick and short guide to what it is, and perhaps what it is not.

  1. It’s a gradual evolution of industry, driven by technology.

It all kicked off in Victorian England, in a city called Manchester, where we’re based, with the discovery of steam and its benefits. The technology being water and steam, kicked off the first industrial revolution. Then, along came electricity, bringing with it the second industrial revolution, which went on for a while. Then, at some point of time, the silicon chip and its wonders were made known to humankind, giving rise to computers and the third revolution. Now, we’re in the era of high-speed Internet and as a result we’re able to send and receive a lot more than we could. Welcome to the fourth revolution, where the speed and volume of data transfer drive change.

2. The Nine Pillars and Two Key Ingredients.

According to experts, and now, common knowledge, this fourth industrial revolution comprises nine pillars. In alphabetic order, these are additive manufacturing, augmented reality, autonomous robots, big data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, Internet of things, simulation and system integration. You can read about these by doing a simple Google search. What we’re going to briefly touch on are two essential ingredients to successfully implement any Industry 4.0 technologies you may want to.

Ingredient 1 – Collaboration: Adopting a collaborative approach is paramount to driving Industry 4.0 in organisations. Collaboration within teams, between teams, within organisation and collaboration along the entire supply chain is a must. Working in silos won’t work.

Ingredient 2 – People: People not just as a resource or a pool of skill or talent, but enabling and empowering people is essential. The flow of ideas and initiatives has to be both ways. When people are enabled to do things, they become empowered to take ownership of situations and deliver their best.

3. Technology and Humans.

Looking at the last three revolutions, it has always been humans and technology working hand in hand. It has never been us against them. Technology has always been used as a toll to aid us humans in what we need to do. Yes, there is a certain level of work that can be automated and robotised, but that will free up us humans to do what we do best, think! No amount of AI can match human ingenuity. As a result of this, our jobs will become more interesting and more fun, so cheer up!

4. Change and Constant.

Over the last few centuries, technology has changed and it has driven only how we do things. It has not changed what we want from work and life. As industry what we have always wanted from business has not changed and will not change. The quicker we adopt the new technology, the quicker we can continue to reap the benefits it has to offer.

As a closing note we’d like to stress that contrary to popular belief, industry 4.0 is affordable, fairly easy to adopt and any company regardless of size or turnover can adopt it with a little effort. To know more, get in touch!

Human Centred Design: The Equitus Way

Our core competencies have a people-centric approach. The idea is to enable people to excel at everything they do. This is reflected in every aspect of our work including how we design things. Today we look at our Human Centred Design philosophy.

The way we practise Human Centred Design is driven by the following factors:

Convert a business problem into a human solution: For example, how do we change thinking from ‘reducing customer support technical calls’ to ‘making our product defect-free and therefore removing the need for customers to call us for tech related problems’.

Our values: Particularly our emphasis on culture, which enables and empowers people, augurs collaboration, is action oriented (we try a lot of things and retain the good bits) and we share ideas without bias or judgement.

Balance: Our ability to balance cognition (interpreting and understanding the world) and emotion (making quick decisions about our surroundings).

Our People Behaviour Experts: study existing behaviours, understand desired behaviours, observe the differences, and help create a conducive environment that encourages desired behaviours, i.e. making the right thing to do, the easiest thing to do.

Our product development process: At its core it has principles of sensitivity to cultural differences, sustainability, mass-customisation, emotional & inclusive design as standard. UN SDGs: Our commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, enable people to participate rather than just talk about sustainability.

Running Multiple Analysis In A Queue Using Batch Mode With Autodesk

A frequently asked question for us at Equitus Engineering Limited is how does one balance the need to meet product development and validation timescales with computing resources availability i.e. is there a way to queue up multiple Finite Element Analysis jobs to run autonomously whilst the person can go about doing what they need to do, and if so, how.

Let me introduce you to batch processing mode using Autodesk Inventor Nastran. Before I proceed further, I will assume that:

1.      You are familiar with the Autodesk Inventor Nastran interface and have been doing some Finite Element Modelling using the software.

2.      Your analysis is all set-up and ready to run.

3.      You are able to access the Autodesk Inventor Nastran Editor.

This whole Batch-mode thing involves three stages as follows:

1.      Generating and saving the Nastran File via Inventor Nastran Interface

2.      Loading the Nastran files in the Inventor Nastran Editor to form a queue and running the queue

3.      Opening and viewing the results (what’s the point otherwise, right!)

Stage 1: Generating and Saving the Nastran File

You have your CAD model open in Autodesk Inventor and you’re in the Inventor Nastran environment. All your loads and constraints have been applied to your model, it’s meshed, contacts are defined and it’s ready to run. Now, instead of pressing run in the Ribbon, on the analysis tree, right click on ‘Analysis’ and then go down the options to ‘Generate Nastran File’. You will see a progress bar indicating the generation of the ‘.nas’ file. Once it’s done, you’ll see the ‘.nas’ file within the Inventor Nastran environment. Now, save the ‘.nas’ file using the save button with an appropriate name and at an appropriate location that will enable you to easily find it. If you have multiple subcases in the analysis, they will all be solved together.

Tip: It’s a good practice to save the .nas file with the same name as the .ipt or the .iam file

Repeat the above process until all the analyses you need to run are saves as .nas files.

Step 2: Loading the Nastran Files in the Nastran Editor and Solving the Queue

Open Autodesk Inventor Nastran Editor from the Start menu. If you have the Product Design and Manufacturing Collection, it should be part of your standard Autodesk Inventor Nastran installation. Once you’re in the Inventor Nastran Editor environment, open the .nas files generated in Stage 1. If they’re all in the same location, you can bulk open them and add them to the queue. The queue will be visible at the bottom of your Nastran Editor interface. Right Click on Default Queue and select ‘Start Queue’. It will solve all the .nas files present in the queue.

Step 3: Loading and Viewing the Results (The Really Important Bit)

There are two ways to view the results.

Option 1: Autodesk Inventor Nastran (CAD Interface)

Open the appropriate Inventor file (ipt, iam) and go to the Inventor Nastran environment. From here, select ‘Load Results’ from the ribbon. Go to the location where your batch queue was solved and select the appropriate ‘fno’ file. View the results as normal.

Option 2: Nastran Editor

Open the desired Nasran (.nas) file. Now, go to ‘File’ and ‘Load Result’s and select the appropriate results (.fno) file. View the various results. If you have multiple sub-cases, the results will also be listed as per these sub-cases.

This was a short summary of how to queue and run multiple analyses in Autodesk Inventor Nastran using batch mode. For further queries or in case of questions, get in touch!

Productivity – A Personal Journey and Observations

Next time you’re at a round table discussion or a panel discussion, say the word productivity and you are likely to hear lots of opinions on the topic. What I am about to tell you here is my personal journey and the steps I have taken over the last three and a half years, and how I have benefited from making some simple changes to my lifestyle.

Change #1: Deactivating my Facebook Account

Facebook is one of those things, that offers a means to stay in touch with friends and family across the world. True. However, there are too many people there with too many opinions on too many subjects. Nothing wrong with that, but it can become a swirling vortex that takes up a lot of time, responding (reacting) to everything that’s happening. So, I deactivated my Facebook account around November-December 2015. Initially I missed it, but eventually realised that ca.90% of what happens there has little or no bearing on my life. I also realised that those that truly want to stay in touch, will find a way. Deactivating facebook was a moment of instant gain, that made me realise I had a lot more time on my hands. More time on hands means more pertinent and useful things to focus on. Here we are, three years hence, and I have found more productive uses for my time.

Change #2: Meditating

Today’s world is chaotic, to say the least. As a species, we’ve been reduced to coping with change, rather than staying on top of things, and working hard to make sense of all that is out there. Taking, five, ten or even 20 minutes in a day for ourselves seems to be a struggle. But, taking that first step to allocate a few minutes of the day to ourselves is vital. We are blessed with 1440 minutes in a 24-hour day. 20 minutes is a meagre 1.4%. I started consciously meditating around two years ago and it has helped me tremendously. I am more aware of my feelings, my emotions, my body, and my thoughts. Being self-aware has helped me present more rational and measured responses to situations around me, and as a result, I have grown, and still am growing, as a person.

Change #3: Reading and Reading More:

There is an abundance of knowledge out there. Why not make the most of it? The best inspirations often come from the humblest of origins. Curiosity may kill the cat, but it enables humans to grow. I let my inherent curiosity take over, and have rediscovered my love of reading and learning. Again, it’s time I allocate for myself, and see it as an investment in my own self. It’s not complicated. I would suggest starting with topics that interest you and see where the journey takes.

Change #4: Ronan Keating

I must start this by telling you, Ronan Keating is not someone you are likely to find on my playlist. However, one line he wrote has stayed with me since I heard it the first time; ‘you say it best when you say nothing at all’. As humans we love expressing ourselves, be it through our work, or hobbies, or simply by giving our opinion. However, it is also important for us to learn and know when to speak and when not to. This hasn’t come naturally to me, and I am still learning when to stay quiet, and when to speak. It is a work in progress, but I have made a start. Before I speak, I ask myself, if I have facts, if I am adding value, if I know the truth, or if someone is likely to benefit. If none of these criteria are met, shhhh!

Change #5: Picking Which Battles to Fight and Which Ones to Let Go

We often are put through the experience of watching heroes that went against all odds, and ended up winning, or inspiring others. This is inspirational, and there is a lot to be learnt from this. However, the biggest learning I get from this, is choosing which battles to fight, which to let go, and which ones to revisit at a later stage. Let’s face it, all of us as humans, have a finite reserve of energy. Choosing how, and where to expend it to maximum advantage is a call, we all have to make. So, rather than engage with everything and everyone, learning to accept certain facts and focusing on stuff where we can make maximum difference is a habit we need to cultivate.

Thank you for patiently reading through this. These are just a few things I consciously have practised over the last few years and have benefitted from. I hope you find some of this useful. I wish you all a very Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 2019!

Best Wishes,

Raam Shanker

Mastery of Failure – The Key to Success

Have you failed at anything at any point of time? I have, and I believe most of us, if not all of us, have at some point, failed! However, our failures as people is not we’re talking about here. We’re talking of a different kind of failure and why the mastery of failure is key to success for engineers.

For the best part, the main focus of engineering has been the pursuit of failure, or rather, how failure occurs. From the simple paper clip to the complex aircraft, the primary requirement is for them to not fail. So, in order to ensure that they do not fail, one must understand how they are likely to fail.

The most obvious failure is technical failure, where the device does not perform its intended function. This results in anything from a broken paper clip to an air crash! Whilst a broken paper clip can simply be replaced, the downstream consequences of an air crash care often catastrophic.

The most valuable asset that we must preserve and protect is human life. Broken components and systems can be replaced or fixed, but the human life is irreplaceable. Yes, we talk of reputations and perceived value of organisations, but nothing comes close to the importance of ensuring that people are protected from any and all possible harms.

So, with human lives in mind, as engineers, our primary pursuit is to understand failure, its mechanisms, its causes, and consequences, and eventually attain mastery of it. Mastery of failure, gives us better control over its effects, and therefore enables us to develop better, more robust and highly functional designs and increases our chances of being able to protect and preserve lives.

What about non-technical failure? Failures whose consequences are indirect, but still have adverse consequences. In our pursuit of designing against technical failures, we run the risk of over-engineering components, machinery, systems and structures. This results in increased costs of material, manufacturing, resources, transportation & logistics, all of which when put together drive the price up to the point of unaffordability.

Let’s look at the aircraft. Over-engineering it will result in a heavier aircraft, more robust wing structure, sturdier landing gear, more and sturdier tires, requiring bigger or more number of engines, consuming more fuel. Agreed, that airlines can increase ticket prices, to meet the costs. But then, why would someone want to pay more when something similar is available for less? So, airlines may find the operating costs prohibitive, and therefore not invest in the over-engineered aircraft after all. This is also a failure, albeit not a technical one, but still, a failure!

Non-technical failures must matter to engineers, simply because, if the technically brilliant devices we design and make aren’t usable due to whatever reason, they will not fulfil their purpose. This is why, mastery of failure, both, technical and non-technical is the key to success. Because, as engineers, it’s important to not just design and make technically sound products, but also to see them used and loved by people, making them a commercial success.

The Changing Face of Manufacturing

the future of maufacturing

Manufacturing. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you see or hear this word?

Cambridge dictionary defines manufacturing thus: The process of producing goods in large numbers. 

Oxford dictionary’s interpretation is: The process of producing goods in large numbers. 

These definitions are narrow, and are out of sync with time. These ‘traditional’ definitions of manufacturing can no longer be applied to manufacturing anymore.

Manufacturing no longer stands for just ‘making things’. Its definition today entails the entire product lifecycle process from concept to decommissioning/repurposing. The manufacturing process involves a number of stages such as concept development, concept to solution, detailed design, design substantiation, fabrication, machining, assembly, 3D printing, systems integration, testing, deployment, maintenance and decommissioning/repurposing.

Moreover, the world of engineering is becoming increasingly connected and collaborative. The various engineering sub-systems such as mechanical, thermal, electrical, sensors and electronics, and software, talk to one another and work in harmony, resulting in a consistent, efficient and effective engineering system.

The increase in computing power, capability, and Internet based connectivity speeds have resulted in the popularity of Computer Aided Engineering and virtual proto-typing, where the entire development lifecycle of a product can be seen, altered, and finalised on a computer screen, even before the first component hits the shop floor.

So, given how much activity happens before components arrive at the shop floor, and how much happens once the product has been made, we can no longer look at manufacturing as simply ‘making things’. It entails a lot more than that; it stands for the entire lifecycle of a product.

Innovation Singularities

A few days ago, I attended the Factories of the Future expo at Manchester Central. The day after that I was at another manufacturing event at Old Trafford football ground, where one of the speakers quoted what, according to Warren Bennis, factories of the future would look like. This is the quote:

The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.

This image that Warren Bennis has cast is, frankly speaking, quite disconcerting, especially to us human beings. However, there are a few reasons to be optimistic about. For instance, no one knows how far into the future this will become a reality, or whether it will become a reality at all. All we’re doing is trying to predict/extrapolate what might be.

All we’re doing, understandably so, is extrapolate and predict what might come. The big risk in doing this, is the assumption that existing trends will continue into the future, and similar behaviours and conditions will exist. What the generic extrapolation models are not prepared for are what I’d like to call ‘Innovation Singularities’; specific innovations/technologies/processes/practises that have changed the course of how we do things.

Companies like Facebook, AirBnB, Uber etc. are some examples of Innovation Singularities that have changed the way we do certain things, all of which owe their naissance to the prolific growth of the Internet. These were unheard of 20 years ago.

Talking of Innovative Singularities in engineering and manufacturing, I must mention the Industrial Revolution and everything it brought to existence. After all, Manchester was the seat of it, and as a proud Northern Powerhouse business based in Manchester, we are proud of this city’s industrial heritage! A few decades later Toyota pioneered process improvement initiatives like JIT and Kanban, which can be broadly considered as Innovation Singularities, for they helped the company control costs, prices, and ultimately the American car market, a few decades ago.

Moving forward a few more years, Computer Aided Engineering and associated technologies like CAD, FEA, CFD, CAM etc. took this to another level. Then came additive manufacturing, also known as 3d printing. Today we’re able to do a lot more with how we design, develop, manufacture and decommission a product, thanks to advances in the field of CAE.

The point I am trying to reinforce here is that nobody was able to predict what shape or form our future would take. They made some amazing films like Back to the Future and Terminator, with flying cars (in 2015), scary looking robots enslaving us and so on, but these possible scenarios of the so called “future” are not where we are. Instead, we see that the humans are still very much in control of everything.

Technology’s influence over human life (directly or indirectly) has largely been, in the past, driven by Innovation Singularities and is likely to be the case. In our pursuit of a Better Engineered World, we seek answers to a number of questions. Some of which are:

  • How accurately can we predict or extrapolate what the future holds?
  • Can we make a prediction of in what area the next Innovation Singularities might occur and when?
  • Can we predict the speed of this resultant change?
  • Or have I over-simplified the vision of humankind’s future?

Innovation Cycle – Evaluate

From hunter-gatherers and settlers and colonisers to space explorers and social media champions, our human race has travelled quite a distance. A large part of this journey has been possible due to the innovative and inventive abilities of the humans.

We’ve already seen what the Six Es of Innovation look like, from Epiphany to Empowerment.

To continue this journey of innovation, one must evaluate, engineer and execute the epiphany. In this article we focus solely on the Evaluate stage.

Evaluate:

Any idea needs to be assessed for worthiness, mainly against three factors. Desirability; which focusses on the market, viability; which focusses on the company/individual with the ideas, and feasibility; which focusses on the surrounding ecosystem/infrastructure necessary for the idea to flourish.

Desirability: With desirability, our focus is outward, towards the market. Some of the questions we try to answer from a desirability perspective are:

  • What problem are we trying to solve and who is/are our target market(s)?
  • What is the existing state of the art and what will make people choose us over it?
  • What functionality will our product have that will make it desirable?
  • How pleasing will it be aesthetically?
  • Are we making this product for the masses (sell by volume) or is it for fewer people (sell by niche)?
  • Where should we price it to keep it affordable and attractive?

Viability: With viability, our focus is inward, on ourselves and our organisation. Questions that we will aim to answer here include, but are not limited to:

  • Do we have the necessary resources (skilled staff, money, time) for this?
  • If not, how easy is it to find them and is it worth?
  • Following on from desirability, what is the size of our target market?
  • Will selling to this target market generate enough revenue and keep us profitable?
  • What are the risks involved and can we overcome/mitigate them?

Feasibility: With feasibility, our focus is bi-directional, outwards on the supporting eco-system, and inwards on whether we can create one, if a suitable eco-system doesn’t exist. We aim to answer questions such as:

  • What external resources or capabilities will our product need in order to fulfil its purpose?
  • If supporting infrastructure/eco-system doesn’t exist yet, is our product worthy of creating one?
  • Are we enabled enough to also create the supporting infrastructure?

Once we are convinced we have a winner here, the next phase is to engineer the proposed product/solution.

The Six E’s of Innovation

Last summer, I had the pleasure of attending a Knowledge Transfer Network event at Manchester Metropolitan University. Whilst the main speaker from Innovate UK was talking the delegates through the Design Foundations contest he mentioned the initial product viability process undertaken by many organisations. Depending on what one’s favourite letter was, one could come up with synonyms for each of the basic steps in the process. Taking cue from this I decided to give it a go. Given that we are Equitus Engineering Limited, E is our favourite letter of the alphabet.

Epiphany: This is the phase where the idea gets planted in one’s mind, for a new requirement. The seeds of the idea are sown. The details are a bit hazy but the idea has been generated.

Evaluate: This is the next stage. The epiphany has struck, the idea has been planted. Now what? This is where the journey begins. You start looking at the idea not in isolation, but into context. What does it mean? Has it been done before? Who is doing it? How successful are they? How much does it cost? Who will want to buy my product? Do we have the resources to make this idea work? What is the supporting infrastructure like? Once you look at the idea from three perspectives, i.e. market, your own organisation, and the surrounding ecosystem, the worthiness of the idea comes to light.

Engineer: This probably the trickiest but also the most important bit. This is where your idea takes shape, literally and figuratively. This where you start looking at the technicalities in detail such as material selection and compatibility, systems integration, fatigue life, product life-cycle, maintenance scheduling, operation manuals, warranties etc.

Helping you find these solutions is what we do best at Equitus, and this is where we add value to your innovation journey. By effectively going through this phase of the journey, you will be able to firm up potential pricing, warranty, supply chain, lead times, build times etc. By the end of this stage, you will have a robust design ready for prototyping and field testing.

Execute: Now that your design is ready, you get to the execution phase. You make a few actual working models, display them at trade shows, and maybe even put them out to trial with the intent of asking these questions:

  • Is the product effective? This means, is the product doing what it said it would?
  • Is the product consistent? Is the product effective, every single time?
  • Is the product efficient? Is the product effective and consistent, whilst using minimal resources?

By the end of this stage, you will have a well-designed and manufactured prototype firmly in place, which is ready for mass manufacture/assembly.

Enable and Empower Now that your product has successfully launched, you have enabled and empowered people and their lives for the better. You deserve a pat on the back, some celebration, before we go back to the drawing board, in search of your next Epiphany.

Remember, there’s no best way to do something, there’s always a better way; hence Equitus’ quest for A Better Engineered World!

The Importance of STEM Education

Early this year I was asked if Equitus could attend a STEM event organised by the STEM Transpennine Hub at a school in Oldham, Manchester. I immediately said I would, even though I had very little time for preparation; this conversation happened on Wednesday and the event was on Friday! I had been hearing a lot about us engineers becoming a dying breed in this country and how we, as a fraternity, need to engage more at grass roots level to encourage more young students to at least think about a career in engineering.

So, come Friday afternoon, I was on my way to meet the students and staff of this school. To begin with, it was encouraging to see staff take a keen interest in giving their students options for the future.

I was introduced to two classes, which was about 60 primary school students in all. I asked the students if they had given a thought to what they wanted to be when they grew up. I got all kinds of answers from doctor, actor and marine, to ‘I don’t care as long as I make money’ and the most common one ‘I don’t know’. At that age, even I didn’t know what I wanted to become when I grew up.

We then got around to talking about engineering and what engineers do. We were able to establish that engineers design things, build things and fix things. Their knowledge, inquisitive nature and enthusiasm impressed me more than anything else. My observations, based on this experience are as follows:

  1. There is no shortage of eager minded, enthusisastic youth to fly the flag of engineering
  2. The school and staff are pro-active in ensuring that their students get to interact with industry and academies of higher education
  3. There is a desire to learn more and know more amongst the students and they need appropriate mentoring and direction
  4. The key is to maintain the students’ quest for knowledge and to mould them into not just competent engineers but responsible and ethical leaders of tomorrow
  5. It was a learning experience for me also as it opened my eyes to a different way of communicating effectively and efficiently

I enjoyed interacting with this group of students and would definitely involve myself with such initiatives. I also encourage all of you to take a few hours of your time to further the cause of engineering by talking to young minds and giving them an idea of what it is like to be an engineer.

A Better Engineered World

When we decided to form Equitus Engineering Limited, we set out with a vision; to consistently deliver efficient and effective solutions to engineering problems and to establish and continue a heritage of excellent engineering practises and process, leading to a better engineered world.

Consistency, efficiency and effectiveness form the three pillars on the strengths of which we deliver solutions to engineering problems. By being consistent we make ourselves accountable, provide stability, make it easy for others to measure us and more importantly we provide an assurance to our partners that they can count on us. However, all consistency alone is not enough. It is paramount to be consistently good as opposed to being consistently bad. This brings us to our efficiency and effectiveness.

By being efficient, we ensure optimal use of resources and minimise waste. In a dynamically changing business scenario, anticipating and planning for multiple eventualities is an asset we pride ourselves on. Given our knowledge, skills and experience, we get to the heart of the problem in very little time and apply engineering principles to find and implement solutions that are effective.

Whilst being consistent and efficient are great attributes to have, it is the effectiveness of our solutions that truly portrays our expertise, technical horsepower and capabilities. Simply put, effectiveness defines how well, or even, whether or not a given problem disappear. When you have a headache, the effectiveness of the pill is its ability to make that pain go away. If the pill isn’t effective, the pain doesn’t go away. In the same way, if the solution isn’t effective, the problem doesn’t go away. Hence our focus on effectiveness.

This sweet spot, which is a combination of consistency, efficiency and effectiveness is shown below.

Change is inevitable. Times change, people change, technologies change and requirements change. This understanding drives our desire to establish and continue a heritage of processes and procedures, which again are also subject to change. For us this is a journey, perhaps an adventure, which will certainly have its ups and downs. This pursuit is fuelled by the belief that ‘there is no best way to do something, there is always a better way’. Hence our quest for a better engineered world.

Unit Cube Methodology

Early on in my engineering career, when I was doing a lot of simulations and numerical modelling, I got introduced to this concept of the ‘Unit Cube Approach’. I found this particularly useful whilst trying to understand how the system/model in question will behave under the applied restraints or boundary conditions. The objective of this approach was to arrive at an approximation of how the system would behave without consuming too much time. After all, time is one of the most valuable resources we have in our hands and staying in control of it, helps us stay in control of the project.

So, what is a unit cube? The idea is to reduce an analysis problem to its simplest form to get a basic understanding of the system’s behaviour whilst subjecting it to actual loading conditions. From a simulation and numerical modelling perspective, a unit cube when used with certain underlying approximate symmetries to the real problem often set us on the right track very early on. It has the potential to validate two critical things for us:

  1. The direction and pattern of deformation/displacement of the system.
  2. Reaction forces (mass*applied gravity).

Imagine you are tasked with analysing the behaviour of a complicated piece of kit subjected to inertial loads, forces, pressures etc. Modelling the real thing often takes time, meshing, setting up and running, before you get to look at the results. Given the tight timelines of projects (we engineers know that, right!) the margin for errors and reworks is seldom there. We’re also left with the question of ‘whether it is behaving how it should’.

Let’s recreate the problem using a unit cube. It’s a cube. So, it’s homogenous, i.e. it is the same when looked through the three dimensions of space, which we will call x, y and z. Secondly, because it is a uniform shape, it makes life easier from a meshing point of view. It enables us to create nice chunky elements with perfect aspect ratio, skewness etc (I won’t bore you with mesh quality here). Thirdly, because it has six flat faces, applying of boundary conditions/restraints and loads is also made simple. Now, after meshing and applying the loads and restraints, we run the model and after a few minutes (or seconds), we have a solution.

We then observe the behaviour of the cube under the applied conditions. Whilst quantities like stresses, failure, strength etc. depend on component size, shape, cross-section, material and other things, getting an idea of the cube’s deformation and the net force reactions in the three directions (x, y and z) should put us on the right path, when we look at the actual model.

Please feel free to leave your comments, criticisms, thank-yous in the comments section.