Design release is related closely to other design activities such as design reviews, production design, and configuration control. Designs may be released which are incomplete, inaccurate, or premature. When this happens, it obviously causes problems downstream for all activities involved with the hardware or the design documentation. Designs frequently are released early for scheduling or other reasons, and get-well actions are lengthy and not always satisfactory.
Design release is driven most often by previous project production accomplishments that have little or no application to the current effort. Setting up release schedules by "back planning" from manufacturing schedules often requires engineering to meet unrealistic dates, and thus to deviate from standard procedures, permitting inferior-quality documentation to reach users. By using uniform practices and procedures concerning technical requirements and evaluating current manufacturing capability, more realistic design release dates can be established. Formal drawing release negotiations should be conducted at the functional management level since this responsibility is too critical to be delegated. Any changes or adjustments to schedule should be made by concerted effort of affected disciplines, on a normal or emergency basis as required, and as specified in standard procedures.
There is seldom time permitted for interface between disciplines when emergencies arise, so that schedule and cost impacts are not examined. The flexibility of an "in-series approval cycle" delays data flow, and detracts from time allotted to review documentation prior to release. If disciplines are not adequately involved in design development, their inputs in the last phase of design release will be ignored.
By organizing formal negotiations for design release between engineering, manufacturing, and purchasing, schedules can be prioritized by mutual agreement and in accordance with manufacturing and procurement requirements. A project team made up of representatives of affected function integrates milestones and conducts surveys of design progress, and allows for schedule adjustments to cover contingencies.
Expedited and advanced releases, used extensively as catch-up devices, generally create a need for second-and third-generation efforts and clog the design release pipeline. The same is true for "early-issue" specifications burdened with "TBD" passages and requirements. Manufacturing unreported "work-arounds," (i.e., fixing problems by red-lining, and reviewing blueprints without engineering support), slide a large workload into inappropriate time frames and disturb product integrity. Similarly, engineering changes not transmitted in a timely manner to manufacturing can play havoc with operational schedules. To correct this recurring condition, the design should be validated in stages, using experienced personnel from technical and production disciplines to ensure that the design is adequate, complete, and on schedule (or adjusted schedule) when released. Proofing the design on manufacturing models and providing the results to engineering ensures that the documentation maintains its integrity. The same type of information flow is required to incorporate the findings of design reviews.
Counting drawing releases does not provide a measure of design progress versus schedule versus budget used. In the same vein, excessive changes immediately after initial design release may seem more important than they are. Minor corrections often are required at this point, and without a concise analysis of the nature of the changes is meaningless. The practice of only auditing when directed by the government (or imposed by any customer) does not permit a reasonable estimate of the status of design release activity.
Measurements for technical performance should be a planned policy, done in concert with scheduled configuration reviews to determine compliance with contractual and company requirements.