Success in the Middle        

Finding Common Ground Between Client and Manufacturer

June 28, 2017

Igor Zemskov, Senior Industrial Engineer, Beyond Design, Inc.

In a fast paced industry like design, with lots of moving pieces and parties you sometimes find yourself put in a position where you have do more moderating between parties versus actually designing.

Having the opportunity to work for many clients throughout different industries has brought Beyond success but also has been a learning curve. Companies that bring their own manufacturers produce challenges for consultancies. With a larger team comes more ideas and opinions, which can be a double edged sword. It is valuable for more input and minds working together, but when more people get involved in a project individual expertise can cause conflict.

With those values comes drawbacks and having too many stakeholders can complicate a project if it is not balanced correctly. Many times you’re taking one step forward, only to take two steps back. Throughout my experience at Beyond Design I have found what creates the smoothest transition and work environment when you are in the “middle” as we often are. I wanted to share a few tips that may help the middle people in our industry succeed through a project, while staying on schedule, budget and keeping their sanity.

1: Breaking the Language Barrier

Many of the clients we work with provide a manufacturing house that may be overseas. Making sure the manufacturer and yourself understand each other may come as a simple task in the states, but when multiple languages get involved communication can get tricky. Luckily for us Westerners majority of the world is capable of speaking English. To avoid any miscommunication or language barriers, try to be as thorough as possible when explaining your product and CAD. Creating visual aids will come in very handy when explaining the direction and what needs to be accomplished.

Beyond Design’s team is headquartered in Ravenswood while our manufacturers are often in China.

2: Understanding Everyone’s Capabilities

As manufacturing houses vary, coming in all sorts of sizes, it is important to know everyone’s true capabilities and goals from the start of the project. Majority of the time design will be separated from manufacturing until the very final phases. While having time and distance may give you more freedom to be creative and explore internally, it is often better to get all parties involved in the beginning stages so hard questions are answered before getting too far into the process. Remember: all manufactures are different and you will have to work with them and gauge their openness to get the results you seek. Also make sure you understand if the manufacturing house will be using your exact CAD or if they will be rebuilding it in house.

3: Red Lining is King

Red lining is what designers say when creating a PDF and areas on a CAD file are reviewed and dissected to determine what will need adjusting or completely changed. Many times the surfaces will be off and look rushed, so it’s our job to point out when lines need to transition better and need to be smoother. Red lining will be where the back and forth comes into play. Red lining screenshots with notations will be your guide of communication between parties. Don’t get offended when the manufactures send a 40+ page document back telling you they are not capable of doing certain draft, or texture. It’s our job as designers to convince and push them in uncomfortable places to make sure we have the best results for the client as possible. Luckily within Beyond we have a number of experienced employees that have the knowledge of feasibility when it comes to manufacturing. We are able to push back on the manufacturer with our experienced knowledge, examples and samples of existing projects where we have accomplished similar results. Depending on the client and how many phases we allocated to refining and moderating the progress it can take from a couple weeks to a couple months of communication to finally get to a solution that every party is happy with. It may start to seem like a waste of time when you spend large amounts of hours trying to articulate the vision, but part of being in our position is to stand behind our design and be confident with our solutions. Eventually budget, the client, or an agreement will help finalize the project for better (strive for this) or for worse.

gs between all parties. This helps us stay on track and make sure everyone has an opportunity to bring something to the table when we discuss. Being flexible to everyone’s schedule will help the outside parties appreciate your willingness to make time for them and drives home to age old adage that the customer is always right (and put first).

5: Don’t Panic, Be Patient

During this process there will no doubt be times of frustration and disbelief, but remember it will all work out in the end as long as there was and is continued open communication and flexibility. Keeping a level head and having a positive attitude will help you stay in control and move the project forward. Getting hung up on disagreements and conflicting directions will only halt progress and creativity. Never blame anyone if and when things take a turn, instead work through the problems and be willing to compromise to a degree if all other options are exhausted. This mindset can be applied to all facets of a company, not just between designers and manufacturers.

The more open and honest a business relationship is between the designers and manufacturers, the smoother the project will go and ultimately all parties will be satisfied.

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