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When Should You Outsource Engineering Services?

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Article Contributors:

James Dean-Moore (Program Manager for Industrial and Marine) | Maayan Harel, P.Eng. (Program Manager for Aerospace and Defense) | Alastair “Alf” Trower (Director for Business Development) | Ysa Gonzales (Marketing Coordinator)

Here’s everything you’ve always wanted to know about outsourcing engineering, but were afraid to ask.

We’ll cover the different situations, risks, and how you can choose the right partner to outsource your engineering challenges.

 

Perhaps you’re in need of a specific, specialized skill set on a particular project.

Maybe you need some work done quickly and lack the bandwidth in-house to get it done.

Perhaps the thought of taking care of project management for a new project on top of all of the other requirements in your organization seems like too steep of a hike.

Whatever the case, outsourcing engineering services to technical providers like Enginuity or your local engineering firm is always an option.

But how do you know if it’s the correct business move to make? We’ll discuss the different situations and risks for outsourcing your Engineering Services, and how you can choose the right partner for the job.

But first off – who should outsource their engineering services?

Across a multitude of industries, whether you’re a small or medium enterprise (SME) or a large corporation, there are many businesses that find outsourcing to be an ideal solution, providing flexibility and cost control while satisfying client demand.

For example, if you’re a start-up or a small company, it’s important to recognize what your company’s core mission is. Often, especially for high-growth start-ups, that core mission may be to quickly develop a kick-ass product, and not necessarily to build a multi-disciplinary engineering team.

Since getting to market first (or fast) is one of the drivers of start-ups especially in the early stages, it makes sense to outsource these technical and specialized services so that you can focus on your primary objective.

This also makes sense to mature organizations or large corporations – you may have stretched resources in-house for a specific problem or project, or you’re asking your team to do things they haven’t done before. Perhaps it’s a skill or a system that you only have the occasional need for. In this case, it’s better to outsource the project instead of spending resources to fill in that expertise in-house.

When Should You Outsource Your Engineering Services? All The Different Use Cases

If you find yourself using the expression, “this should work” or “who is going to take this on?” it may be time to outsource your engineering services.

Here are 4 different use cases for when you do need to outsource services.

1. You don’t have the in-house expertise to get it done. Or if you do, it’s not enough.

This may seem like it’s a given, but there are specific instances where you need a desired skill set temporarily, and so for the time it takes to bring people in-house (considering hiring, training, and more), it may be better to just outsource the services to engineering firms who have engineering education that may be deeper in a specific area.

You may have an in-house team and top engineering talent, but the team’s being stretched thin – the project may be too big for the team to handle, or the team just simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on more work; and so, in this case, it would also make sense to outsource a specific part of the work. You may find yourself benefitting greatly by having your in-house team and outsourced team integrate and work well with each other.

2. You have a Lack in Resources.

If a particular project requires certain equipment, it may be better to outsource to an engineering design firm that not only has the specialized team, but also has the right technology.

Engineering service providers (ESPs) are typically industry-focused, which means that they are constantly investing in the latest technology that may not necessarily be available to ordinary businesses. And because they have the advanced technology to constantly be on the forefront of their industry, they would likely also have the right people onboard that have the correct training and skill set to make the most out of these resources. These resources could include hardware for building or testing, or software to perform a specific function.

Typically, a good engineering firm will walk through a discovery process to see what’s involved in terms of resources and whether that approach would be cost effective or not.

3. The project is time-bound and needs to be done quickly, or else your client relations will be impacted.

We’ve all been there before. You’re taking on a specific project, and a certain task needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly. Either something will break, or something won’t be able to run – and in turn, you’ll suffer a huge loss in revenue. It’s like an emergency call or an SOS.

In this case, it’s best to call an engineering provider, a team that has seen it, experienced it and can bring things back on track for you.

4. The problem is not necessarily your business’ specialty. But you need to get it done.

For example, if your business’ focus is on production and manufacturing, but you have an occasional need for custom systems or tools, you could benefit greatly from outsourcing that part of the process. Since you don’t need it all the time, it might be better to partner up with a specialized team of engineers instead of looking to hire in-house to maintain certain systems.

We are able to have the insight to know that if Enginuity is faced with some kind of earthwork challenge or civil engineering project, we’re going to need to lean on some partners. We have a range of experts that come from many engineering professions but we’re not the agile experts in civil engineering.

With how technology has moved forward, there are lots of ways where technology can be properly monitored and integrated even remotely. In addition, doing so can reduce your overhead in the long-term (more info about this below).

Digital Scanner with ocean view SDMM Enginuity

If you do decide to outsource your Engineering Solutions, What’s In It For You?

Here are the key benefits in Outsourcing your Engineering Professional Services:

1. You save time.

Usually, there’s a faster turnaround time for projects. This is because independent engineering teams are used to taking a project from start to finish as efficiently as possible. In addition, an experienced team may have worked on a similar project before, accelerating the design and development process.

2. You reduce your overhead expenses.

Typically, when you outsource your engineering services, your labor costs can be reduced by around 30-50%, and can even result to saving about 20-30% on the overall development cycle and operating costs. [1]

3. You get access to support.

Engineering providers typically provide valuable support in the event that things go wrong or malfunction, including during after-hours for emergency work. You don’t have to figure it all out by yourself.

What are the potential risks that come with outsourcing your services?

When you bring in an external partner for a project, risks will always be introduced.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

• Sharing secret or proprietary information externally.

You will have to share confidential information with the provider so that they can get to the root cause of the problem. Best practice is to sign a Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement to ensure both sides protect their confidentiality during and after the project.

• Original project timing may be impacted.

You need to factor a ramp-up time for the Engineering partner to get up to speed, but once they are up and running, their efficient design process kicks in, speeding things up.

• Inferior quality work

Does the partner have a process in place? Can they demonstrate the quality of their work?

• There might be different standards applied.

This can be drawing standards, ISO vs ASME, metric or imperial units, and more. You have to keep in mind that the outsourced team will have to well integrate into your company or workflow should you decide to go in-house in the future.

• There might be supply chain, shipping, security clearance, or data exchange issues.

With these in mind, how do you select the right engineering service provider to partner with?

Here are some actionable tips that you can do to help you minimize your risks and choose the correct engineering provider to partner with.

 

Make sure to audit their past projects, as well as client reviews.

  • Most engineering companies have a repository where they keep a portfolio of their past projects and case studies. Checking these can give you a good idea of how the company operates, what their capabilities are, as well as similar projects they’ve worked on in the past (if any).
  • With today’s digital space, there’s a lot of different ways to get access to client company reviews. You can check their Google My Business account for reviews, or their social media for specific comments from the community. Check their website for testimonials! Seeing real reviews and testimonials can give you a good feel of how they treat their clients, and what type of clients they’ve successfully worked with in the past. 
  1. Word of mouth is KING! Ask your network; personal recommendations work both ways. They are great for you because someone you trust will recommend someone they trust. They are great for the partner because a previous customer will only pass on a recommendation if they are happy with the work conducted.
  2. Check the members of the team, their background, technical expertise, and experience. This will give you a good idea of whether the company has the right people, with the right attitude, for the job.
  3. Check if you have technical preferences. This can be in the form of software programs, units, standards used, etc. This is particularly important if you have an in-house team that will be working with the outsourced team, to ensure adaptability and flexibility in terms of gaining access to the files that will be worked on. This is also important for ensuring a scalable solution, should you decide to bring in a different team in the future, so that they can easily update designs and work with the existing files in place.
  4. Avoid cookie-cutter engineering. It’s important to select an engineering outsourcing services provider that ensures to understand your specific challenge, culture, and environment; and will adapt to help you achieve your distinct goals. You’ll be able to get a proper feel of this during your initial talks with an outsourcing provider, with the way that they approach the conversation and how they ask their questions.

    How can you ensure a successful and collaborative partnership?

    We asked some of Enginuity’s in-house experts on their tips on a successful and collaborative partnership.

    “Communication and clarity are always the challenge. That’s why it’s really important that there’s a sense of honesty, not just in the sense of truthfulness, but also in actively exposing both the good and the bad of engineering projects as they progress. Without this brand of honesty there is no trust; and without trust there is no collaboration. Without collaboration, success will be partial, at best,” says James Dean-Moore, Enginuity Program Manager for Industrial and Marine.

    He continues, “Here at Enginuity, we always make the effort to embed ourselves in a client’s distinct challenge and work to integrate into their operations as smoothly as possible. By completely understanding a client’s core problem and how they operate, that’s how we’ve managed to bring hundreds of projects and partnerships to success.”

    Maayan Harel, Program Manager for Aerospace and Defense, adds: “It’s important to set expectations early on, in terms of schedule, design process, and budget – and that goes both ways.” He continues, “Obviously, communication is key, and it has to be frequent, open, and direct. There must be constant feedback from both parties, and the engineering provider must keep the client in the loop, providing frequent status updates. Another important thing I’ve learned is that we should account for and discuss potential unknowns – like material prices, lockdowns, change in personnel, capacity, current clients, and more.”

    Summary – Deciding if Outsourcing is Right For You. 

    Whether it’s a lack of internal resources, time-sensitivity, or the nature of the problem not being a company’s main expertise, there are different instances where outsourcing complex engineering services might be the smart business move to make.

    Of course, when involving an external partner to a particular project, there will always going be risks – that’s why it’s important to select the right engineering partner for the job. Luckily, there are some ways where you can check if a company is the right fit – such as checking their past work, testimonials, and how you interact during initial discovery calls.

    As with anything, the key to a successful and collaborative partnership is a good two-way communication and transparency, that works to understand every step of a project as it progresses. 

    With the right partnership in place, your business is all set up for success.

    About Enginuity’s Engineering Services

    Not sure who to call? Enginuity offers a full-range of engineering design services – with specialties in mechanical engineering, electronics design, robotics, and automation. We work with small and medium enterprises as well as large corporations across a wide range of industries including Aerospace and Defense, Industrial and Marine, Manufacturing, Product Development, Medical Devices, Food and Beverage, and more.

    Our cross-functional team has a wide range of expertise, ensuring that we get to the root cause of your problem while evaluating your long-term needs, so that you get the best service possible.

    Is Enginuity the right partner for you? Well, like what we’ve said, make sure to audit a company’s past projects and testimonials if you want to get a better feel of how they operate. Good thing you can read about some of our past projects (and engineering case studies) and read why clients love working with us.

    Our principles-based, agile engineering over the past 17 years is built upon our core mission of making a lasting impact to our clients and ensuring that they get what they truly need moving forward – no cookie-cutter engineering. No meaningless micromanagement. Just lean, fast, creative engineering leadership that understands and moves you forward to your goals, at your pace.

     

    If you think we’ll be a good fit, we can start that conversation here.

    Your journey begins here. Get a glimpse of our Discovery Process.

    For more information about how we work, go here.

    To keep up with new projects and industry information, follow us on:

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    References:

    1. RFA Engineering. 2021. 5 Reasons Why Outsourcing Engineering Services Is a Good Business Decision. [online] Available at: <https://www.rfamec.com/blog/benefits-of-outsourcing-engineering-services.html> [Accessed 28 September 2021].

    2. Saunders, B., 2021. Outsourcing Engineers: When is it Right for You?. [online] Machinedesign.com. Available at: <https://www.machinedesign.com/community/article/21837023/outsourcing-engineers-when-is-it-right-for-you> [Accessed 25 September 2021].

    3. Bild, S., 2021. The Benefits of Outsourcing Engineering Services. [online] Blog.trimech.com. Available at: <https://blog.trimech.com/the-benefits-of-outsourcing-engineering-services> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

    4. Albright, B., 2021. The Case for Engineering Outsourcing – Digital Engineering. [online] Digital Engineering. Available at: <https://www.digitalengineering247.com/article/the-case-for-engineering-outsourcing> [Accessed 22 September 2021].

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