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Introduction to the IWCO Direct Product Engineering Initiative

Matt Shanahan

Yesterday, Mike Dietz discussed how digital printing influences design. Today, I’m unveiling our Product Engineering Initiative which will help designers like Mike understand the full range of opportunities that our equipment affords creative formats.

There’s a saying that you’re only limited by your imagination, but some realists might argue that point when it comes to physically creating your vision in an efficient manner. Direct mail is just one of the industries where an end product’s design might be limited by equipment capabilities. However, as technology is expanding, so are our capabilities.

The Product Engineering Initiative was developed to enhance creativity and innovation through the support of new technologies and capabilities. One of the challenges we wanted to address is validating the design at the concept phase with limited details and information. To do this we needed to create a software tool that can validate the interdependent design elements between components, fill in unknown information with valid default values, and produce design templates for the product being specified. Another key goal is to streamline the handoffs and change management from the concept phase through estimating and into production.

A key to accomplishing this is a clearly defined set of design specifications. A big challenge with this is that IWCO Direct has an expansive list of equipment and capabilities. To contend with this, we grouped our equipment by product type to clearly translate the equipment specifications into Product Design Specifications.

Designed to Differentiate Between Preferred and Absolute Limitations

One key objective of the initiative is to expand our design options, not reduce them. A common problem is confusion on the real boundaries or limitations. The question we had to ask when creating this tool was how do you differentiate between a ‘preferred limitation’ and an ‘absolute limitation’? Equipment limitations are a common problem that impede creativity across many industries, and we wanted to make sure that we were pushing our production capabilities to fulfill our creative visions. Our approach involved classifying products as standard and non-standard to expand our design limitations while maintaining visibility to special design requirements.

Using the product design specifications, we created a proof of concept called the Product Design Editor (PDE). We were able to pilot the PDE over a broad group of departments including Account Executives, Account Managers, Creative Services, Estimating, Package Planning and Product Engineering to validate the concept. Over the coming year we plan to build the infrastructure and software to expand the proof of concept into an enterprise-wide system called the Product Design Solution.

The development will initially be focused internally within IWCO Direct with a future vision of creating a client-facing portal for creation and validation of product designs and formats. Stay tuned for updates as our Product Engineering Initiative continues to evolve.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2016/01/13/product-engineering-initiative/
Matt Shanahan


Matt Shanahan

Director R&D/Production Engineering and graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Bringing the philosophy of “anything is possible with the right planning and resources” to IWCO Direct for over a decade. A sports and outdoor enthusiast, two of his greatest passions are the Metropolis Rugby Club and hiking with his family.

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