Integrated Concurrent Engineering

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Developed by Simen Michael Dilling Hjelseth



Integrated Concurrent Engineering, ICE, is a working method used in several industries and starting to get implemented in the design process in construction projects to make the projects more efficient. The spacecraft industry says the method is increasing the feedback in the project team by combining analysis and communication. [1] Here is some of the key benefits ICE provides:

  • Decision-making, together
  • Time and money saving
  • Improvement of the quality
  • Shortening design iterations
  • Reduced wasted effort

The method grabs old challenges like easy misunderstandings, poor formulations and other challenges which was common earlier. Then, the communication and workflow was, and still are in most cases, by email, telephone and file sharing. By facing and solving challenges in an early design phase face to face with the different disciplines in work sessions, is the idea that the project will run smoother with less complications and collisions in the project phase. The method is not new and is used in several industries, and some large engineering companies have made their own guides that employees can use. Projects in Norway and Unites States of America are successfully using the method. [2]

The construction industry has by the last decades been facing a negative trend when it comes to efficiency. While other industries increase the efficiency of time schedules and economy, the construction industry seems to be heading the other direction. The article will look further into ICE as a working method. The method will be explained step by step, and with fictional examples from the industry. The article will show how the method can be implemented into a project, and how a management teams can benefit and or have challenges with the method.


Established systems, and old ways of doing tasks, often destroys new ways of thinking and practices. Many projects have a clear hierarchy of how decisions should be made, and things must be approved on different levels. Messages must be sent, and small and big decisions, could take days to solve. This is an inefficient way of solving challenges, and when time is crucial, decisions needs to be taken faster, more accurate and efficient. As a reaction to this sequential engineering, a possible solution is ICE with work sessions. Integrated Concurrent Engineering is a method that can be adjusted from work group to work group and project to project. The method is therefore seen as flexible and adjustable. When a workgroup is sitting together in work sessions, with different disciplines from different subjects, interactions could be discovered right away, and because the manager are at present, discussions and decisions could be taken right away. A new way of working, a better way of discussing and solve interactions and a much faster decision process, with a flat organizational hierarchy. The method is useful in the way that it solves problems discovered in the design phase along the way in projects. A problem engineers have today, when they are sending drawings and project documents back and forth to each other and work step by step, is that the different disciplines doesn’t know what needs to be taken into account when designing. Therefore, some parts often must be redesigned, when all the disciplines have done their design.

The method is time efficient. Decisions made in the design phase, and the planning done before making a product, and all the decisions planned ahead of manufacturing, are time consuming. The more you plan, the less you will be surprised in the construction, building or assembly phase. [3]

The method

In the design phase of a project today, meetings are the only face-to-face communication the team has. Meetings are often based on one moderator going through an agenda, and figuring out how the different disciplines should solve the problems after the meeting. In a work session, one can for example solve problems while designing at the session, and everybody having interference with that part of the project, will contribute.

Decisions in the process are made based on reasonability. The organizational hierarchy is flat, and everybody in the team knows the goal. The work session manager is not the boss, but the manager. The manager works with the team and gives guidelines, when the boss more directly tells what the team should do. ICE distributes the responsibility to the whole team, and makes everybody pull in the same direction. [4]

The method suits many projects well. A common goal, given start and end date and a budget, should give a drive to the group to work together towards this. The flexibility and the adaptability of the method suits different sectors well. Examples of industries where the method can fit in:

Construction business

The design phase in the construction industry today are inefficient. A too short design phase, and an eager to start building, influences the design. Companies are forced to build before the design phase are finished. The industry is now building and solving problems along the construction phase, instead of having a good plan by designing and solving the solution first, and building it afterwards. [5] If ICE had been used more, solutions could have been discussed and solved instead of passed on to the contractor at the construction site. It is easier to brush out a pencil line on a drawing, then tearing down an already built construction.

Oil and gas section

The business in this section have a lot of different projects which suits this method well. It is the complex projects which must be solved together in close collaboration, and that makes the method good for this section. Companies here have already made their own manuals for ICE. [6]

Spacecraft industry

The spacecraft industry was early when implementing integrated concurrent engineering. Massachusetts Institute of Technology was writing about ICE already in 2006, and NASA was using Concurrent Engineering, the predecessor to ICE, as early as 1990. [7] With all the small details and zero tolerance for failure in the industry, the collaborative method suits the section well.

Car industry

The industry making cars, and other businesses characterized by assembly lines, can benefit ICE. When a product is to be produced many times, the design and planning phase is very important. Sitting together solving the different problems, could benefit and abbreviate this phase.

Project management in ICE

When implementing ICE, a project team can experience to work way different than before, depending on how problems were solved from earlier. ICE with work sessions, tries to gather the different experience from the different disciplines from earlier projects, and use this knowledge into the design phase of a new project. There are several ways to solve a problem, and many ways to do project management. Experience comes by working with new challenges and climb new trials, sometimes alone, sometimes with a team. A project is temporary, and the goals can vary, but gained experience is something that lasts. No project is the same, and a project manager or a project team must manage to readjust for the different projects. Skills acquired, must be used in the right way to solve the new project. A good project team, adjust to the actual problem, and sees obstacles and solutions in different ways. The team should have the overview at all time, and still be able to solve all small problems along the way. In the start, have an overview of the requirements of the projects, read and understand the contract for example and understand the scope. Later, the project team must manage and balance the scope, and juggle with quality, budget, time schedule, resources and risk. [8] The method can, as mentioned, be used on different projects and teams. Dedicated projects will be full-time management and part-time project teams are working at the same time on other projects. [9] ICE with work-sessions can be implemented on both types of project teams. In a dedicated project team, the work-sessions will be more often. In part-time projects where meetings usually have been the working method, work-sessions now can be applied.


In many projects, the lack of cooperation is high. People are working on their own, and sending their work forward, having faith in that no one would have problems. Problems will occur, and there will be revisions because of collisions and complications. The figure explains how it often is, and how ICE implantation can solve the problem.

Figure 1: Integraded Concurrent Engineering. Adapted from figure 3 in Observation, Theory, and Simulation of Integrated Concurrent Engineering: Grounded Theoretical Factors that Enable Radical Project Acceleration , (2004). [10]

The design phase will be more efficient, because problems doesn’t have to be solved many times. Making a good decision once, is much more efficient then solving the challenge several times through revisions. Tasks are solved in work sessions, and when a detail is to be made or produced, the process have been thought through. This will make the process after the design phase much faster, because there will be less need for communication between the executing part and the designers.

Application of Integrated Concurrent Engineering

The method is flexible, but if the project should benefit the given key points as mentioned in the abstract, the implementation must follow a certain structure to be working. [11]

Work sessions

A work session, the main thing about this method, is when everybody in the work group are sitting in the same room, working on the same project, together. The work session has a manager, who controls the agenda and assures progress. A clear agenda for the work sessions are established prior to the session by the work session manager, and a well-prepared group works together towards a common goal for the work session. A typical work session lasts from a couple of hours to a whole or several days, and it depends on the task about to be solved. The duration is adjusted according to the tasks and are influenced by what stage the project is in. Typically, the longest sessions with most collaboration, is at later stage in the design phase, when more disciplines are represented. It is important to mention that work sessions with a duration longer than 2 hours without a break can be inefficient, and the planned long sessions should have intentional breaks. These breaks should be administered by the work sessions manager. A work-session can for example have the topic Technical floor if it is a building which is about to be designed. Here will different disciplines like structural, mechanical, electrical, architectural and energy engineers sit together. They could be solving for example how to calculate the size of the room, place the equipment, design the different loads at the floor or how it actually is going to be built. The sessions should end up with a clarification on the goals for the session are met, and what is going to be done until the next time. A report of the sessions should be made by the work session manager, and be sent to the participants later.

Figure 2: Suggestion of two different types of seating in work-sessions

Work sessions manager

The work session has a level of discussion where everybody contributes, but a manager for the session is necessary. Decisions made in sessions are done together, and with everybody who has something to do with the matter, but in some cases a decision needs a leader. Other responsibilities are taking care of time, making the agenda and a report afterwards. The work session manager also sends the invitation to the different sessions. If the sessions should be daily, weekly, monthly or other, is up to the manager, but as often as necessary according to where in design phase the project is in, and what needs to be done. This again shows how flexible the method is. Feedback and a report of a work sessions is important, especially at the early stage. This will help everybody in the session, and particularly the work session manager in the implementation phase. Since the flexibility is so wide, it will help to form the method to the special case, and make it work as good as possible through the project. No project is the same, and adjustments in the method is therefore necessary and important.

Benefits and disadvantages

The method has many advantages, but also some disadvantages. The method requires a group willing to work together towards a common goal, and want to try something new. A work session can also divide the group in discussions and disagreements, but this is also something that the method is perfect for, because problems then can be solved right away. Some participants at a work session can feel that they are redundant, because they are directly influenced by the current case. The work session manager can decide that other tasks or projects also can be worked with simultaneously, because it is the presence of the discipline in the sessions that is important. It is being in the room and have the possibility to answer questions immediately when a problem occurs, that is the clue to this method. The session manager has here the manager role, and must lead the group towards the common goal for the session.

A trend these days is to use resources in low-cost countries with cheaper salaries, to do the tasks people in the high-cost countries does nott want to or have the time to do. The task is done faster and cheaper somewhere else, and can just be sent in the afternoon, and be received solved the morning after because of the time difference. This is highly efficient, but does not create the necessary collaboration in the team and efficient problem solving. And if something needs to be revised or discussed, the problem then again will have to be sent to the other side of the world, and the project must wait another day for the solution. This underlines the possibilities regarding effectiveness with this method. And this kind of working doesn’t fit the ICE method well.


The method does not fit every project, industry or people, and different challenges can occur in use. The method is flexible, but there are things that should be avoided if possible. To include stakeholders or disciplines to early, could make challenges. If people feel that they are redundant already in the first couple of sessions, they will not appreciate that method of working, and you might risk that they don’t care later on in the different sessions. Also, if stakeholders are at present too early in the case, and force input on solutions and cases they don’t have anything to do with, but just have interest in, they can come with input that benefits their interest and their opinion, and not the project in total, without the manager noticing. This can ruin details in the project, and make the project go in the wrong direction.

Too many people in the room, who doesn’t have anything to do with actual case, can also be very disturbing. Because the team working on a specific case can be disturbed by the noise. As mentioned, people can, and should, be at present if they have influence on the case, and can then be working with other projects if at present, but this should be limited.

People who do not get along is always a case in teams. The work sessions can have many discussions and disagreements, and people will work close for a longer period of time. If members do not get along, and have a hard time to separate work and leisure, it can ruin the whole method, because everybody will be influenced by it. Cultural differences could also have the same effect. Therefore, good conflict management and team building is of importance.

The other way around, it is crucial that everybody that have something to do with the case at the different work sessions are represented. No one is irreplaceable, but the sessions can be amputated without the most important disciplines. If the different work sessions are once a week, the extra week for the next session, can be decisive. That is one of the disadvantages with ICE, when it is a group with so few people working together. This makes it harder for other people to deputize into a work-session, because it is nearly impossible to continue where other people have left their work. This can stop the process. Misunderstandings and wrong use of the method, according to the intendancy, will not make this method work. A tool can be as good as it wants, but it is not working well if it is not used right. This is also the conclusion in other papers. [12]


William R. Duncan (1996): A Guide to The Project Management Body of Knowledge: The guide gave insight into project management, project integration management and time scheduling.

Margit Hermundsgård (2017): Integrated Concurrent Engineering: A guide about how Integrated Concurent Engineering could be implemented in a project.

Steinar G. Rasmussen (2016): Integrated Concurrent Engineering i Samferdselsprosjekter: A master thesis about how Integrated Concurrent engineering can be introduced into infrastructure projects.

Referance list

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, «», Retrieved 2018-02-22
  2. Prosjekt Norge, «», Retrieved 2018-02-08
  3. National Cheng Kung University «», Retrieved 2018-02-20
  4. Stanford University,, Retrieved 2018-02-22
  5. Teknisk Ukeblad, «», Retrieved 2018-02-08
  6. Prosjekt Norge, «», Retrieved 2018-02-08
  7. NASA, «», Retrieved 2018-02-22
  8. Annex A1, 1996 ed. PMBOK® Guide
  9. Chapter 2.3, 1996 ed. PMBOK® Guide
  10. Stanford University, «>> Retrieved 2018-02-13
  11. Prosjekt Norge, «», Retrieved 2018-02-08
  12. Stanford University,, Retrieved 2018-02-22
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