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A successful Kick-Off Meeting is one of the most critical aspects of a design project, as it sets the tone and trajectory of the entire project. Often, in the excitement of introducing and starting a new project, many important yet seemingly small details can get misinterpreted or simply forgotten. When missed details surface late in the project, they result in higher implementation costs, increased frustration, and lack of confidence in the design team. A simple, yet fundamental tool to help mitigate this risk is the Design Plan Checklist. A Design Plan Checklist, is a collaborative list of pre-conceived, common questions. Asking each of these questions during every Kick-Off Meeting will not only help guide the meeting, but will help spark deeper conversation and deeper confidence around decisions on critical points. Below are five key areas to address when developing your Design Plan Checklist:
- Basic Information. Make sure to have a clear statement of the function or purpose of the system. Include what is being delivered, specify if it is Software, Drawings, Prototypes, Schematics and what format should they be in (AutoCAD, Solidworks, Inventory, PDF, Excel, hardcopies etc...) Define early who the key decision maker is when problems arise.
- Build Information. Define the power requirements, Electrical, Pneumatic, Hydraulic and understand what the physical size and incoming power limitations are. Make sure to discuss if there are any preferred methods of fabrication, finishing, Units of Measure or Accessibility concerns.
- Ceritifications. It's critical to understand what the end environment will be for NEMA ratings but also for safety and labeling expectations. Also, if any certifications such as UL508a labeling, IPC-J-Standard Soldering, ROHS Compliance, or if AS9100 or ITAR compliance are required.
- Final Acceptance. Fully understand and record the Performance Requirements for Speed and Accuracy, along with how and where the final acceptance will be held and under what criteria success will be determined.
- Communications. Defining the communication method, protocols, format for schedule and project status to help ensure everybody is on the same page for expectations.
The Design Plan Checklist needs to be customized for your company, and for your industry. Taking the time to define these questions up front will make sure you and your client are both on the same page, with respect to what winning looks like. Having answers to each question, even if they are "Not Applicable" will ensure that the topic was at least addressed and considered during that meeting. Additionally, continuing to use the Design Plan Checklist, and updating it as trends or new questions are identified, will help you to improve Kick-Off Meetings cumulatively. When hiring a contract manufacturer, ensure they are asking and recording the answers to these questions to drastically increase the chances of success with your project.