Concurrent Engineering: From Project Management Perspective
Corresponding Author: Bhuta, C.J.
Author(s): Bhuta, C.J. (*), and Tucker, S.N. (+)
Organisation(s): (*) School of the Built Environment, Faculty of Engineering and Science, Victoria University of Technology, Melbourne, (Australia), (+) CSIRO, Division of Building. Construction and Engineering, Melbourne, (Australia) 
This paper addresses the concept of concurrent engineering (CE) and its application to project management. The project management process is faced with an ephemeral shifting coalition of participants who have divergent goals and objectives. Consequently, adversarial relationships between project participants can develop. This has made it difficult for organisations to co-operate, communicate and integrate with each other effectively. The CE concept advocates the implementation of a multidisciplinary team approach to project management by encouraging collaborative decision making based upon team co-ordination, and information sharing. This is also the basis of project management with the added single point authority generally provided to the Project Manager.

Concurrent Engineering can be defined as a systematic approach to the integrated, concurrent design of products and their related processes, including manufacturing and support [1]. This approach is intended to encourage the developers, from the outset, to consider all elements of the product life cycle from concept through disposal, including quality, cost, schedule, and  user requirements. This can be a basic and useful tool for the Project Manager.

Project Management (PM) can be defined as a process starting from concept stage then through the financial and physical feasibility stage, then (if decision to proceed is made) through the detail design and documentation stage, then through the procurement (physical construction) phase, then through commissioning and occupation phase and finally the decision to refurbish or demolish the facility - this is a project and management of this process is PM in building industry context. 

In 1975 President Ford introduced a mandatory rule that " any project with a total value of 5 million dollars, which had any funding from Local, State or Federal Government must follow a project management delivery process" This process was documented under the Government Services Authority (GSA) system. The person or the group managing this process is the 'Project Manager'.

General aim of PM is to provide the owner / client 'value for money' by obtaining four elements: 1.Cost /Budget control; 2. Time control; 3.Quality to be fit for purpose; 4.Risk control & minimisation

The paper illustrates the similarities of CE concepts with that of PM approach and provides some examples of use of both. 

The main difference is in the decision making involved in each case and the point at which and how the decisions are made. Examples of use of GSA system will be illustrated 

This paper suggests that a commonly proposed yet rarely implemented, multi-disciplinary approach may be achieved by introducing all parties namely the designers, the contractor, major subcontractors and suppliers during the feasibility and design phase. This approach is necessary and possibly vital to the success of a project.

The practice of considering construction needs during the design is known as design for building (DFB) and design for assembly (DFA). Both put together are known as Buildability or Constructability. CE is similar to DFB. Essentially, CE is a design methodology used to describe a series of stages whereby the various activities of building and bringing the design process to construction are conducted in parallel rather than sequentially. If this is to be done successfully, then the total project time may be reduced, leading to a competitive advantage.

During the feasibility stage of a project, there are many downstream aspects that need to be considered well in advance, including final cost, buildability, safety, and re-cycleability. These aspects represent different phases- of the life-cycle of a project. Traditional design methodologies in both manufacturing and construction evaluate the product after each life-cycle phase is complete. Since downstream aspects are affected by decisions made during the design, it is necessary to identify their impact on the final outcome as early as possible.

A multi-disciplinary team, composed of specialists is brought together during the design phase. This team has the experience, knowledge and information about how downstream issues can be affected by design decisions. The acquisition of information about downstream issues during the design phase has several advantages. Firstly, it reduces the possibility of having to re-design some or all of the project. Secondly, eliminating re-designs reduces project development time and cost. And thirdly, components and parts of the project that have been previously designed may be considered. PM allows these to be incorporated into the decision making process for the project.

Fundamentally, CE seeks to extend the DFB principle to other aspects of the life-cycle of a project. While knowledge is being accumulated about the design of the project, additional knowledge can be acquired on the other aspects of its life-cycle. As the design progresses, the construction specialist will gain an understanding of how to build the project. This accumulation of knowledge will enhance the project development process, allowing the total project to be delivered expeditiously, while maintaining its quality aspects.

To encourage and integrate interdependent disciplines into a multi-disciplinary team, design information is required to be programmed, controlled and co-ordinated into an efficiently managed systematic process. Eppinger et a]. [21 suggest that the facilitation and integration of such information between participants can be often a difficult and problematic task during the design phase. 

The fragmented nature of the building and construction industry has been a major factor contributing to its poor communication practices. There is a need to improve communication, to promote concurrency and eliminate the major cultural, behavioural, organisational and institutional barriers that currently exist between project participants. The need for a more integrated design and construction process has never been greater. Design consultants, contractors, major subcontractors and suppliers are a multidisciplinary team delivering a building project. The use of a decision making process which allows early considerations of various participants views by the decision makers (generally the Project Manager) will subsume CE, enhances the scope for parallel activities without undue penalties. The paper will examine various ways of integrating multi-discipline aspects in a building project and discuss the benefits as well as disadvantages of such an integrated approach and its relationship to CE.


[1] Carter, D., and Baker, B. CE Concurrent Engineering: The Product Development Environment for the 1990s. Addison Wesley, 1992, pp 175.

[2] Eppinger, S.D., Whitney, D.E., Smith, R.P., and Gebala, D.A. A Model Based Method for Organising Tasks in Product Development. Research Engineering Design. Vol.6, pp. 1-13.