Simultaneous engineering - definition, development and procedure

What is Concurrent / Simultaneous Engineering?

Simultaneous Engineering (SE), in American synonymously also called Concurrent Engineering (CE), means in German as much as "integrated product development" and describes a way of acting in the product development. The method initiates an improvement of the coordination of development and production, since the time of the development of a new product is reduced and one avoids subsequent production-related changes.

The process follows the principle of downstream process steps. As soon as a subsequent process step has received sufficient information from the preceding step, the subsequent process is started in parallel. The basic goal is to coordinate all process-oriented, respectively product-oriented interfaces and to parallelize all process steps from the idea to the finished end product and not to let them run step by step one after the other.

History and development of CE / SE

The idea of Simultaneous Engineering originated in a time when the work of developers and engineers (design, planning, development, production, etc.) was strongly dependent on their environment, especially in terms of time. Due to the dependency on certain process steps and their completion, there were sometimes long waiting times before the next step could be started. Especially in view of the omnipresent pressure to innovate, such delays cost a lot of time and money.

In the past, every responsibility was clarified down to the smallest detail and the individual departments were firmly anchored in the company. To counteract this, initial ideas emerged about how the process could be improved by parallelizing or reducing work steps. In addition, both internal and external iteration should be reduced, which would also save time. Especially in the parallelization of work steps, great potential was seen. The implementation of this was based on three essential points, which form the foundation stone for simultaneous engineering:

  • On the one hand, each individual process step must be clearly modeled for product design
  • There must be a clear definition of the interfaces 
  • The process steps must be independent of each other.

Basic ideas and objectives of the Simultaneous Engineering process

The basic idea of Simultaneous Engineering is that all process-oriented and product-based interfaces are coordinated and the entirety of the processes involved in the creation and introduction of the product are parallelized and do not run consecutively. From this, companies hope to save and shorten development time enormously. It is argued that in operational practice, time savings of up to 50% can be achieved. In addition, the more intensive cooperation between the various interfaces increases the quality of the development process. Furthermore, it is possible to involve external people in the simultaneous engineering system. For successful SE, a project manager is selected who has the responsibility for the decision from idea to market launch. In the hierarchy subordinate to the project manager are the different SE teams. On the one hand there are the SE project teams, which report directly to the project manager, and on the other hand there are the SE satellite teams, which in turn report to the SE project teams in the hierarchy.


Simultaneous Engineering is characterized organizationally by an extreme parallelization of project work, the formation of cross-departmental or cross-company SE project teams and a competent project manager.

Parallelization is accompanied by a high susceptibility to faulty work. Cross-divisional teams replace the internal processing of individual project phases. To this end, members for a so-called SE control team are sent from the associated company divisions, as well as from suppliers who are important for the process. In addition, there may also be SE satellite teams that are positioned in the departments or with the suppliers. Nevertheless, the coordination between the teams lies with the SE steering team. This organizational scheme is intended to circumvent any communication problems between the teams concerned, such as:

  • duplicate planning for the same project,
  • poorly communicated hierarchy,
  • production startups with the wrong tool or equipment.

The prerequisite for structured and functioning teamwork is a shared IT landscape that includes everything from CAM/CAD data to project planning and control data. 

The highest position in an SE process is attributed to the project manager. This person is responsible for all associated tasks from the market analysis to the realization of the product. The SE control team reports to the project manager. A matrix structure supports the work in the specialist departments and with the suppliers. With the help of a power promoter in the management, prioritization is carried out.

Procedure / production process

The original idea of development processes, that a new process step can only follow a completed process step, does not apply to simultaneous engineering. In SE, a new process step is triggered as soon as sufficient information is available from the previous step. This makes the simultaneous engineering method very complex in terms of communication. Each process step must deal with the current situations from the other steps and implement them when changes are made. Nevertheless, due to the constant exchange, design-related errors can be detected earlier and thus adjusted in time. In addition, product development and production planning are traditionally two separate steps.

Usually, the product is first worked out and then the machine production facilities are planned for it. With simultaneous engineering, on the other hand, production planning begins much earlier. As soon as a prototype of the desired product has been established, the production planning process begins. Final development continues in parallel, and there is a constant exchange of information between the departments. The continuous exchange of information and the interdisciplinary cooperation lead to an increase in the quality of the product as well as the development process. This is where the advantages of SE become apparent, as the continuous communication directly eliminates possible production errors. Compared to conventional development processes, the risk that the product is defective and that this realization occurs at the end of all process steps is minimized. This realization and the resulting changes are detected and eliminated at an early stage by simultaneous engineering.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • Faster and more flexible project execution: with the help of simultaneous engineering, the possibility arises to shorten development times by 25 to 50%. Delays that arise can certainly be recovered in the further course of the project. Parallelization makes it possible to react more quickly and agilely to changing market requirements and customer wishes.
  • Better cross-departmental collaboration: The SE structure manages to overcome the barriers between the participating company departments. Know-how and requirements from other interfaces thus enter the project more quickly. The risk of information loss during the transfer of work results between interfaces is reduced. The employees in the SE teams are characterized by a greater sense of responsibility, consistent communication, and stronger overall corporate thinking.
  • Better quality of results: Early and intensive testing of samples and prototypes has the advantage that problems are identified and resolved drastically earlier. The end result is well-designed, higher quality products. Both the effort and the cost of subsequent changes can be significantly reduced.


  • Subsequent changes: A subsequent change in the initial phase of a project impacts subsequent areas much more forcefully and costly than a phased project approach.
  • Simultaneous projects: Simultaneous processing of several SE projects turns out to be extremely complicated. This is due to very tight scheduling, as well as unclear priorities, personnel and capacity bottlenecks.
  • Project management: Simultaneous engineering requires competent project management, as poor leadership is quickly punished by the tight deadlines. As a result, incompetent team leadership results in serious failures compared to traditional organizational forms.
  • Compliance with hierarchy: Simultaneous engineering is prone to a certain transgression of hierarchy. In practice, a certain elite thinking and competence transgressions are observed in particular. This can lead to defensive attitudes in SE teams and the specialist departments involved. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Simultaneous Engineering

What is meant by simultaneous engineering?

Simultaneous engineering is a method for shortening the time from the idea of the product to the market launch. SE is also referred to as integrated product or process development. The aim is to carry out work steps in parallel and thus save time and costs. Simultaneous Engineering improves the conventional development process and replaces it.

What is the SE process?

The SE process differs from the conventional development process in that with simultaneous engineering the next process step begins as soon as sufficient information from the previous step is known. This allows potential errors to be identified and corrected earlier. The continuous exchange of information and communication leads to success during the SE process. Design and planning run more efficiently and cost-effectively due to parallelization.

Are simultaneous engineering and concurrent engineering the same thing?

Yes, simultaneous engineering and concurrent engineering are the same thing. Concurrent Engineering is only the American term and translated into German means "distributed simultaneous development". There are no differences in the processes and the structure of the teams. Only the names differ in the different languages.

What are the goals of simultaneous engineering and concurrent engineering?

Due to the constant pressure to innovate, the main goal of Simultaneous Engineering is to reduce the development time from the idea of the product to the final market launch. This allows significant cost savings, which in turn is also a stated goal of SE. Basically, the introduction of simultaneous engineering aims to make the lengthy development process more efficient and more profitable for companies. 

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