The Role of Reduced Latency in Integrated Concurrent Engineering

TitleThe Role of Reduced Latency in Integrated Concurrent Engineering
Publication TypeWorking Paper
AuthorsChachere, J., J. Kunz, and R. Levitt
Year of Publication2009
Date Published04/2009

Since 1996, multi-disciplinary space mission design teams at NASA\'s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have been using a novel concurrent design approach. This approach creates integrated early phase designs that used to take nine months in about three weeks! To make this possible, the JPL group known as Team-X completes most of its engineering and collaboration work in just nine hours of intensive, technically mediated and socially facilitated group sessions. Since 2004, we have used the JPL methods successfully in teaching Virtual Design and Construction methods for Civil Engineering project design. We call the enabling technically mediated social collaboration process Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE). Previous research has observed that ICE uses atypical organization, process, and technology, but has not explained why JPL consistently achieves radical schedule compression while others consistently fail. Our analysis suggests the speed of most engineering processes is limited by their response latency, the lag time from a participant asking a question to receiving an answer that is good enough to enable further work. We find that typical response latencies ranging from days to weeks cause routine conceptual design projects to stretch out for months or years. In contrast, reliable, exceptionally short response latencies in the range of a few minutes can enable the extremely short durations for space mission designs at JPL and for facility design teams using our ICE method. Based on our analysis of the JPL process and our own teaching and user experiences, this paper offers thirteen factors that, when all functioning at a high level, enable extremely short response latency of ICE team participants, short design session duration, and high perceived design quality. We view ICE as a Just in Time approach to knowledge work, in that it manufactures interdependent design decisions with short latency (lead time) and high reliability (service level). This paper proposes that project managers should establish the specific, measurable objective of very short response latency as both a unifying goal for project teams and a practical metric to describe, evaluate, and manage engineering design collaboration. We propose response latency as a fundamental theoretical factor that (along with task duration, coordination, and rework) determines project duration.

KeywordsCoordination, Design, Extreme Collaboration, ICE, Integrated Concurrent Engineering, Organization Models, Process Models, VDC, Virtual Design and Construction
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