A Design Economics Primer


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When you start a new design, do you begin tracking costs right away, or do you wait until you have a functioning product before you start looking at the dollars and cents? Chris Young begins cost-aware design before the design cycle has even begun. Andy Shaughnessy and Nolan Johnson recently interviewed Chris, an engineer with The Goebel Company and founder of Young Engineering Services, and asked him to explain his approach to design economics.

Andy Shaughnessy: Tell us about your position and responsibilities, and we’ll go from there.

Chris Young: At The Goebel Company, I’m the chief hardware engineer. My primary responsibilities are product architecture, design, and development, which starts from a customer need and progresses into delivery and sustainability.

Shaughnessy: You have a pretty wide view of things.

Young: I’ve been lucky to be exposed to quite a bit of stuff. I’ve worked on product development from the cradle to the grave in the avionics industry, semiconductor and semiconductor test, and developing test systems for space and medical devices, ranging from airborne surveillance systems to electromechanical medical devices. I’ve had the pleasure of working with many different people in various industries.

Shaughnessy: We have been talking about design for profitability for a couple of years, and we started looking into the whole issue of design economics. In your position, how important is the cost of what you’re doing? Young: Along with the chief technologist, we are primarily responsible for the profitability of the company. The products that I design are directly related to revenue and profit.

Shaughnessy: You’re looking at the cost from the very beginning of the design cycle?

Young: You must. In my career, I have developed a systems view of what’s happening, which has shaped how I approach the issue of costs and profitability. It also depends on the environment that you’re in. I always ask myself basic questions, such as, “What are we trying to do? When do we need to do it? How are we going to do it? Which market are we addressing? What do we think our budget is?”

To read this entire article, which appeared in the April 2020 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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