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Be agile or be disrupted – Why agile Engineering is vital for the future of Engineering


Agility promises high potential, even beyond the IT industry

Now that agility has successfully revolutionized the software industry, the question on everyones’ minds is “How it can be applied to other industries?” After all, the idea of tackling IT challenges with an agile approach also exists in other industries. Top management in any industry wants to see dramatic efficiency gains in quality improvement, a simultaneous reduction of time to market, and a change in employees’ satisfaction

The advantage of agile approaches is directly reflected in the reasons for the introduction of agile processes. (See Figure 1 below.)

Figure. 1: Reasons for introduction of agile approaches, multiple answers possible (Source: Capgemini 2017)

Despite considerable success in the IT industry, agile process models have not yet been fully established in engineering/ manufacturing companies. Next to a few pilot projects, agile-approach models are still in exploration status.

This is partly due to the nature of cyber-physical systems. Agility must be thought about differently here – more about this in later contributions.

Despite the low distribution and challenges of operationalization, agility has a high potential for production. Agile approaches offer innovative answers to questions concerning companies from the automotive, mechanical engineering, and aerospace sectors. Therefore, agile engineering offers the possibility to increase efficiency in product development and minimize risks and it is optimally applicable to employees.

Agile engineering increases the efficiency of product development

Customers increasingly want individualized products and solutions. In response, many manufacturers find themselves with excessively complex products.

With non-agile ways of working, customers aren’t fully involved in the development process. As a consequence, questionable functions are created, which do not meet the needs of the market. To accomplish this, organizations must engage intensively and directly in dialogue with their customers.

In this environment, agile approaches have obvious benefits. Through continuous, iterative testing of intermediate products with the customer, the product is validated during ongoing development and thus the specification is directly verified. Implicit customer wishes can be better understood through customer interaction with the product and developers (“I’ll know it when I see it.”). In so doing, planning is only carried out as far in advance as absolutely necessary and reliably possible. Late change requests can also be taken into account in this way – without costly change committees and the need for new planning. The clear focus on the customer quickly generates business value. By prioritizing and concentrating on the essentials, complexity in development becomes manageable and processes become leaner and more efficient.

Agile engineering minimizes risks

The continuous validation of products with the application of agile methods decreases uncertainties in the development process. Undesirable developments are detected and corrected earlier. By integrating the subsystems, previously unknown dependencies are revealed. Development can react better to these and thus minimize the risk of high costs and delays due to late changes.

The regular integration of the system in agile product development improves transparency with regard to the degree of product maturity. Only a functioning product shows real progress, while detailed planning and specifications may overlook complicated dependencies.

But planning agile engineering is limited to the foreseeable future and leaves flexibility. This means that even late findings can be taken into account in the development process without incurring major expenses for the revision of the plans.

Agile engineering focuses on employees

The success of a company is directly dependent on the motivation and qualification of its employees. The best graduates do not go to the companies with the largest paychecks. They look for meaning in their work and the opportunity to shape it. They want to be able to contribute their creativity and innovative thinking to strong teams and experience the success of their work. In agile engineering, the designers decide which technical solution best satisfies customer needs and specifications for the product. This means that technical decisions are again made by the technical experts and the framework for true innovation is set. At the same time, the employee becomes more directly responsible and sees the success of his work. The goals are clearly defined and can be applied immediately, which ultimately leads to increased motivation and satisfaction.

Agile engineering for your company

For many companies, Agile Engineering offers interesting perspectives. However, implementation must be adapted individually to the company/project. This must be done differently than in the software industry: Read in our upcoming articles on how agile development must work differently for physical systems than it does in the IT sector. Also read about which hurdles you will encounter and which counterstrategies will make agile transformation in your company a model for success.

Contact Us

If you would like to know more about agile engineering or discuss what we can do for your business, please contact Udo Lange