Engineering Problem Solving Process

Red X is another methodology that can be used effectively. Using a suboptimal methodology will generate sub-optimal solutions – solutions that don’t give the most effective results, that cost too much, that may take too much time.Because problem-solving is so ubiquitous to engineering, you can gain a significant competitive advantage simply by using the optimum problem-solving process in your daily work.

Before we talk about the stages of problem solving, it’s important to have a definition of what it is.

Let’s look at the two roots of problem solving — problems and solutions.

Some people are great at generating ideas but struggle implementing them.

Other people have great execution skills but can’t make decisions on which solutions to use.

For clarity, I have codified this into what I call “the Basic Engineering Process” or BEP.

Working as a team is absolutely critical for any complex problem.

Like all things Lean, the BEP outlined above is essentially a variation of the Deming Circle.

The above steps may seem to be obvious, or simplistic, but in my experience the biggest messes – or simply sub-optimised solutions – have been generated by teams that have skipped one or more of the above steps.

In addition, there are many, many methodologies of problem-solving. In the automotive industry, the “8D” methodology popularized by Ford has many adherents.

Design for Six Sigma (Df SS) incorporates problem-solving methodologies and is used with good success. Just pick one, train your engineers and let them solve problems – what could be simpler? Today’s engineering problems are more complex than ever.


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