Prototypes – Innovations in Projects

Here are some things to think about when building prototypes. Innovation in projects, always ends up costing more time and money than initially anticipated, because it is not possible to anticipate the physical characteristics of something which does not yet exist.

This applies not only to larger oil and gas developments but also to smaller marine projects such as rigs and work vessels. The author correctly points out that innovations should made in the smallest possible increments.

Projects that contain multiple innovations are doable but need plenty of time, money and competent engineering support, ready to [quickly] tackle problems as they inevitably arise. Anything prototype built for the offshore industry needs to admit our industry’s poor ability to efficiently innovate. We should consider bringing in team leaders from other industries more experienced in radical product innovation, such as software engineering, aerospace or computer electronics.

FUNCTIONAL DESCRIPTIONS
Long before design starts, the decision tree of an innovative project starts [should start] with a widely circulated set of Functional Descriptions (FD) – short 1/2 page written narratives that explain in plain language the function and purpose of each proposed system. These should be extensively commented upon by 1] end users of the proposed delivered product, 2] members of the proposed construction team.

FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS OF THE PROTOTYPE PRODUCT’S SYSTEMS Borrow techniques of functional analysis used in other industries to systematically analyse the impacts and interactions of the prototype’s proposed systems. Mr. Charles W. Bytheway’s Function Analysis System Technique (FAST) is a good place to start.

Main points: – Don’t innovate unless you really have to – Better to be second or third in the innovation stakes – i.e. let someone else built the first one. – Don’t skimp on engineering; mistakes made on paper are way cheaper than errors cut in hard steel.

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