Concurrent Design

Concurrent Design (CD), also known as Concurrent Engineering (CE), Integrated Concurrent Engineering (ICE), Simultaneous Engineering or Concurrent Development, is a widely used design method in which a team works simultaneously on the design of a service or product. Design stages run simultaneously, rather than consecutively. All project stakeholders are involved simultaneously, from the outset of a project, in understanding the objectives of the project and the range of activities to be carried out. All team members communicate with each other through the common design specification and through the shared model. The resulting comprehensive understanding facilitates the early detection of potential problems, allows complex or unclear interdependencies to be identified and leads to increased motivation of human resources.

The concept of Concurrent Design and Engineering has become commonplace in factories and literature since the early 1990s. The primary objective of this approach is competition and the rapid obsolescence of products. An essential feature of concurrent engineering is the involvement of several corporate functions, through the creation of multidisciplinary teams, in the analysis of the life cycle of a product from development to disposal. The integration of several functions makes it possible to anticipate the constraints generated by industrial dynamics. Another cornerstone, closely linked to the previous one, is the parallelisation of activities.

The European Space Agency, which has a Concurrent Design Facility, defines this activity:

"Concurrent Engineering (CE) is a systematic approach aimed at integrated product development that emphasises meeting customer expectations. It incorporates in the team the values of cooperation, team and co-partnership so that the production of decisions is consensual, involving all perspectives in parallel, from the beginning of the product life cycle."

Concurrent Engineering is in contrast to sequential engineering, where each step starts when the previous one is fully completed. This mode of operation lacks visibility of the total duration of the process.

One approach to speeding up the whole product development process would be to decouple the tasks to be carried out, without exchanging information between phases, and to do them in parallel. However, this type of organisation would require significant changes to the stages and/or architecture of the product. An alternative approach would be to overlap the stages by increasing the frequency of information exchange between upstream and downstream stages. In concurrent engineering, teams organise themselves in parallel to move the project forward. A common metaphor used to describe CE is that of a rugby team organised in a line to move the ball forward, whereas the organisation of activities in sequence is more like a relay race, with the milestone being passed on successively between teammates. Here, the key point is the way in which information exchanges take place. In order for activities to be carried out concurrently, information is decomposed and provided as quickly as possible to downstream processes so that they can start as soon as possible, even if it means that the downstream process has to evolve when additional information is provided by the upstream activity.

Concurrent engineering, also known as simultaneous engineering, is a method of designing and developing products, in which the different stages run simultaneously, rather than consecutively.

Concurrent Engineering is a long term business strategy, with long term benefits to business. Though initial implementation can be challenging, the competitive advantage means it is beneficial in the long term. It removes the need to have multiple design reworks, by creating an environment for designing a product right the first time round.


Concurrent Engineering is a strategy formulated in the late 1980s to meet the industry's growing need for lead time reduction (time to market) in addition to cost control and quality improvement. Concurrent Engineering can be described as the effort to make traditional sequential processes run in parallel. Although the benefits of implementing Concurrent Engineering are obvious (lead time reduction, cost reduction and quality improvement) there are also risks when activities are performed in parallel. The design process is an iterative process. The information that is released during the design process is still subject to change, and therefore the use of design data that is subject to change can lead to wrong decisions and therefore to remedial work, higher (re)design costs and long lead times. Application of Concurrent Engineering is a trade-off between the intended reduction of lead time and the risks that this may entail.Joint development is defined as the process in which participants from different disciplines share their knowledge during the design process. What is meant by "sharing knowledge" is an interesting point that invites further research. Do we mean by "developing jointly simultaneously" knowledge sharing?

Concurrent Design has background in aerospace and defense - Systems Engineering (SE) for improvement of production process for complex systems (since ~ 1940) - "An interdisciplinary approach to enable realisation of successful systems" - Concurrent Engineering (CE) as an implementation of SE - Simultaneous design and production activities - Applied in the whole project life cycle

Concurrent Design as a niche within CE - Developed and used within the ESA ESTEC Concurrent Design Facility (CDF) since the late 1990s. - Focus on first project phases: feasibility studies and conceptual design conceptual design (feasibility, conceptual design)


The purpose of the Concurrent Design process is to:

  • Shortening the development process. Because there is a lot of communication between the teams, the team members influence each other in a positive way. If this communication does not take place or takes place badly, misunderstandings arise which must be rectified later in the development process. Correcting these misunderstandings (change loops or engineering change orders) costs a lot of lead time. So by communicating well with each other, the development lead time (time-to-market) is shortened.
  • Increased quality. Because the team members take all aspects into account simultaneously, a higher quality product or service is obtained.
  • Reducing costs. Because the lead time of the development process is shorter, fewer costs can be incurred.
  • Taking all aspects of the product life cycle into account. By developing in parallel, the energy consumption, maintenance and reuse at the end of the product life cycle are also included in the design.

It decreases product development time and also the time to market, leading to improved productivity and reduced costs.

The main advantage of concurrent engineering is that it greatly reduces the time to market for a product (time-to-market). On the other hand, this approach requires perfect management of information exchanges and a compromise must be found between the gains provided by the concurrent approach and the costs generated by the organisation of information exchanges6. Furthermore, the dependence that exists between phases, with the possibility that significant changes may be required during a downstream activity, creates a financial risk (cost of change) or a technical risk (e.g. quality defect if the change is not adopted) which limits the use of the CE to developments with a moderate level of technical uncertainty


The main characteristic of Concurrent Design and Engineering is the coordination of the communication between all team members. Through this coordination, all knowledge and skills are mobilised simultaneously. All team members communicate with each other. The common denominator in this communication is the design specification and the model of reality. Conditions for the Concurrent Design method are:

  • Being familiar with the process.
  • Having a multidisciplinary team.
  • Having a common design specification.
  • Having access to a common (software) model.


  • multidisciplinary team and the client
  • clear roles and disciplines
  • unambiguous language: parameters!
  • openness, trust and anticipation
  • Systems Engineering principles
  • understandable integrated model
  • level of detail, quality and progress
  • implementation of the process
  • design sessions with the whole team
  • steering towards goals by CD Team Leader
  • supporting SW/HW
  • exchange, combine and integrate, storing multidisciplinary information


Concurrent Design has 5 basic elements:

  1. Structured design process
  2. Multidisciplinary team
  3. Integrated design model
  4. Software infrastructure
  5. Facility


Concurrent Design was first applied to the development of US weapons systems. This allowed engineering change orders to be reduced by 50% and production costs by 40-60%.

In the automotive industry, Concurrent Design was first used by GM for the development of the Le Sabre. There were 50 project teams working on the following 6 subsystems:

  • Doors and mechanical subsystem.
  • Front part of the body, bumper and windows.
  • Body structure.
  • Interior and instrument panel.
  • Chassis, engine and transmission, heating and air conditioning.
  • Electrical system.

Concurrent Engineering (CE) is an engineering method that involves all project stakeholders simultaneously, from the outset of a project, in understanding the objectives of the project and the range of activities to be carried out1 . The resulting comprehensive understanding facilitates the early detection of potential problems, allows complex or unclear interdependencies to be identified and leads to increased motivation of human resources.


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Concurrent Design
Concurrent Design and Manufacturing
Concurrent Design Facility
Concurrent Engineering
Concurrent Manufacturing
Industrial Design
Lean Engineering
Lean Manufacturing
Parallel Development
Production Design
Production Engineering


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This page was last changed on 2021-09-21.