Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frugal Engineering and PLM

The term frugal engineering was coined in 2006 by Renault Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn to describe the competency of Indian engineers in developing products. He says in an interview "...We are here to learn about frugal engineering".

So what is Frugal Engineering?

From Wiki Answers "Frugal Engineering is the science of breaking up complex engineering processes into its basic components and then re-building each component in the most economical manner. The end result is a simpler, more robust and easier to handle final process. It also results in a much cheaper final product which does the same job qualitatively and quantitatively as a more expensive complexly engineered product.
It is generally believed that Indians and other South Asians are the most adept in frugal engineering, because resources and capital are scarce in this region."

The Economic Times says:
"Frugal engineering is not simply low-cost engineering.
It is not a scheme to boost profit margins by squeezing the marrow out of suppliers' bones. It is not simply the latest take on the decades-long focus on cost cutting. Instead, frugal engineering is an overarching philosophy that enables a true "clean sheet" approach to product development. Cost discipline is an intrinsic part of the process, but rather than simply cutting existing costs, frugal engineering seeks to avoid needless costs in the first place."

"...It recognises that merely removing features from existing products to sell them cheaper in emerging markets is a losing game. To achieve the drastically lower prices that emerging markets require companies must be open to rethinking all aspects of the product."

Frugal engineering is catching on as per this report in Business Standard.

Some examples of such products in this strategy paper:
The trend that surfaced when Tata Motors' tiny $2,200 car, the Nano, hit Indian roads in July, has resulted in a slew of new products for people with little money who aspire to a taste of a better life. Many products aren't just cheaper versions of well-established models available in the West but have taken design and manufacturing assumptions honed in the developed world and turned them on their heads. For the farmer who wants to save for the future, one Indian entrepreneur has developed what is, in effect, a $200 portable bank branch. For the village housewife, a wood-burning stove has been reinvented to make more heat and less smoke for $23. For the slum family struggling to get clean water, there is a $43 water-purification system. For the villager who wants to give his child a cold glass of milk, there is a ChotuKool - the $69 fridge for rural India that can run on batteries. And for rural health clinics, whose patients can't spend more than $5 on a visit, there are heart monitors and baby warmers redesigned to cost 10% of what they do elsewhere.

automotiveproductsfinder says: "The real thrust for frugal engineering and innovation seems to emerge at the supplier level. And helping put up a smooth communication link between suppliers and automakers to seek a closer and more fruitful collaboration are IT companies that are introducing better and more open PLM, engineering and link platforms in India at the same time they are introducing them to automakers in other parts of the world."

My question is:  In what ways can an existing (or even new) PLM system aid the frugal engineering process? Btw some thinking on a slightly different line here: “Is Frugality Fashionable?”

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