If you’re starting an engineering department because that’s part of a carefully crafted business plan you set in place two years ago, congratulations on your foresight and organizational skills.
More likely, you’re starting an engineering department because work keeps coming in and the one guy at your company who figured out how to use SolidWorks last year can’t keep up anymore. In short: you’re scrambling and you need help fast.
In either case, for the fledgling company that finds itself understaffed, hiring another engineer (and essentially starting a department) seems straightforward. You figure that if you bring in another CAD engineer, you can handle twice the design workload. Add the headcount and some new technology to your budget… and it’s back to work everybody!
But the truth is, we rarely see it go that smoothly. That’s because the right people for the job are harder to find when you’re starting out.
Sparta has the expertise to help you design your products economically and on time, while allowing your new department to get up to speed.
Plus, even A-list engineers need certain tools and processes that aren’t usually in place yet.
This is where an engineering services firm can help. While many people think of companies like Sparta Engineering when they need to outsource project work, just as often we enhance the project teams you already have—or are trying to build.
Consider the following:
The first or second engineer in a company must have the broadest knowledge
In big companies, it makes sense to hire technical talent that can focus on, say, finite element analysis. And we’d all like a team member who’s widely regarded in material sciences. The trouble for small companies is that you need people who are all that – and more. Your first engineers must be experts at everything from concept design to manufacturing processes in order to get products out the door on schedule.
If the talent you want to engage can’t do it all (yet), then engineering services can often fill in the gaps. Sparta can be your FEA expert for just one project. We can tell you when material extrusion might be a better idea than cold rolling. We have the expertise to help you design your products economically and on time, while allowing your new department to get up to speed.
Early team members need to be good cultural fits too
Your first employees will pass on the company values to anyone you hire—or wish to hire—later. Is your new talent enthusiastic about your vision? Will he or she be comfortable in the uncertain atmosphere of a startup? And will the engineer you hire today inspire and lead well tomorrow as the department grows?
“A talent hires more A talent,” writes Lemnos Labs, a hardware startup incubator. “While B talent tends to hire C.” In short, the first engineer to your new department may drive success (or failures) for years to come.
That means that you might have to search for a while to find just the right person—at exactly the time when you are too busy to dawdle. Engineering services, however, can buy you the time you need by doing the work competently while you search. That way, you don’t rush into decisions you might regret later.
More can go wrong with two or more engineers
Even with an A-list engineer, communication issues arise once two or more engineers start working together. I’ve seen many cases where a developer who worked on a project a year ago can’t update that project today—because the files are misplaced or software formats changed. Companies lose time as work that’s already been done has to be repeated for this year’s revision. Add a second engineer, and the odds of finding old data plummets. You also have to start worrying about teams overwriting each other, or working on the wrong version of a design.
If you don’t have a data management strategy yet, this is the time to develop one. Putting in place these processes and technologies protects your intellectual property and makes it easier for any team member to reuse work.
Sometimes, we also see a mismatch in developer skill levels and design approaches. Do both (or all) of your designers use techniques, such as top-down design, that make it easier to change a model later or work concurrently with others? Do they use global dimensioning and tolerancing? Should they?
Sparta can help
Because we often work with more established companies (who have already faced all these same problems themselves), we can help advise you on what questions you need to answer sooner, rather than later, so that your team doesn’t encounter any project-slowing surprises.
Many small companies hope to be where you are someday, with customers and projects just waiting for you to deliver. Congratulations on your success. If your team needs a little more expertise or bandwidth as you grow your business, contact us at Sparta Engineering—we may be able to help.