The evolution of product design in industrial companies in the last 50 years



It is true that the Design and the Engineering are the bases of the companies which, like INNERGY, work to adapt their solutions to the needs of the clients. Covering the evolution of both fields in a single document is almost an odyssey, that is why in this post we will pay tribute only to the Design.

This is a tribute to the way in which the design engineers and draughtsmen draw up an agreement to make magic and translate, to a language understandable by the rest of the mortals, the specifications that transfer from the departments of Marketing, R + D + i and Commercial. A great abundance of ideas which are essential to the Department of Research and Budgets. 

Thanks to the fact that we have the experience of professionals with half a century of experience in the sector, we have been able to put together this article. A journey through the history of the design of industrial solutions that surely brings to the memory of many, endless memories.

ELEMENTOS DE DISEÑO

Hand-drafting gave way to sophisticated 2D and 3D drawing software, such as AUTOCAD, INVENTOR and other custom applications.

Forty years ago the drafts of the installations were made in pencil, on an ordinary paper, later they were traced on vegetable paper with a pen, which had to be refilled continuously, first with inkpots, later with those plastic cartridges that are now a distant memory. That rechargeable stylus, popularly known as Rotring, name of the brand that marketed it. They then began to transfer the drawings to ink using this "precision" tool. When some element of pencil drawing had to be erased, the traditional eraser was used, but in the case of ink it was necessary to use a Gillette type blade, this being a costly task that required great patience and skill. How many schemes, synoptics and sheets did we have to throw in the trash after correcting with a razor blade? ... the indicative letters that we found in old drawings were written using templates, with time the office technicians would use crab or adhesive rulers.

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And the calculations? Those endless mathematical operations with the paper calculators that were collected in attached documents to justify that the materials were going to support vibration, load, humidity, temperature ... Not to mention those lists of materials and pieces that carried the facilities or products, and that they were written by hand ...

The revolution of the sector would come with the appearance of the computer, a fact that streamlined the times and guaranteed the accuracy of the figures when drawing. As we have indicated before, erasing was practically a work worthy of a surgeon, an action that takes only a few seconds with the new technology. The same thing happened with the copies, whereas before it was necessary to make the copies manually, with the computer it was no longer a costly and slow task to be carried out at a "click" speed.

The precision of the forms and accuracy of the calculations offered by a computer meant that it was no longer necessary to draft in plan and cut, for example, the figures with curves such as cones to check that they fit properly. Currently programs such as PLATE'N'SHEET mean that the checks are no longer necessary, also AUTOCAD or INVENTOR among others, revolutionized the way of work of draughtsmen, designers and engineers in general.

Now the calculations are made with the most modern programs of thermodynamics, simulation, structures, etc. that allow you to optimize the designs.

The design and projection in 2D eventually became the projection and conception in 3D. A new world to conceptualize the fabrication and connection between elements, a technique that will soon become obsolete as a result of the speed at which the world advances. Now systems of production of elements are being shuffled in the form of virtual planning (virtual reality) supported by elements printed directly on polymers in 3D. The plans on paper were stored on discos disks, then on CDs, physical hard drives and now in what we call "The Cloud". Nobody sees them, but they are there when we need them.

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Time management and product control is done with an ERP instead of by hand and on paper.

While today it is essential that there is a Technical Director who schedules all the tasks, from design and drawing to the implementation of it, through calculations and simulations, it has not always been like that.

The organization of the products or items that were acquired have evolved in terms of the processes used. When buying a product for its incorporation or manufacturing, it is no longer manually recorded by ink annotation, now companies have a next-generation ERP capable of automatically placing orders and controlling materials, stock and inventory. We just have to tell it what we are designing and it alone is responsible for calculating the list of materials and then making the order to the manufacturers.

The range of design codes and standards with which we are able to design in a responsible manner, guaranteeing a quality and basic product safety, has been significantly expanded.

In the sectors of pressure equipment and electrical switchgear assemblies (the ones we know best) there are codes with a multitude of rules and instructions that give guidelines on how to design and manufacture. Fifty years ago, only one code was applied for each sector, but thanks to the experience and the evolution of the techniques, it has been possible to expand the knowledge and apply a great variety of international codes, from Japan to Latin America, depending on the needs of the client.

Increase support to other departments with technical responses adapted to their needs and with the creation of computer applications for their own calculation.

The business structure of the eighties was stagnant, the departments were isolated from each other. In contrast, the modern company encourages interaction and the creation of synergies, in INNERGY for example, the Technical Departments, work together with the R & D department, Commercial, Studies and Budgets, Production, Quality, Projects, Marketing and even Communication, helping to write technical content of interest for specialized magazines.

The Designer participates actively and frequently in the support of the sale.

There are many occasions in which a member of the Technical Department accompanies the sales representatives in meetings with clients, the objective being to be able to answer questions and see simulations at the moment and give a better service. They adapt well to the new times in which the client is the King and giving the best answer is essential if you want to give them the attention they deserve.

A good Technical Department grows with draughtsmen, designers, design engineers and calculators.

It is not necessary to think that with the new technologies the number of staff in a technical department are reduced, far from it. A company that really wants to offer the best solutions or products, must be fast in research, development, innovation, adaptation of their products. This is driven by the needs of customers and new technologies that come to the market. What would our company be, if it weren’t for the members of the design team of a company?

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