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More from the AIChE meeting. Jonathan Worstell of Shell Chemical in Houston talked in a a number of sessions about the importance of Concurrent Engineering.

In Worstell's view, the basic problem that Concurrent Engineering solves is that projects are too complex and too long for traditional serial engineering, where each phase of the project is lead by a different group of people. With Concurrent Engineering, a project team consists of representative from all parts of the organization.

At the center of the Concurrent Engineering team are cost engineering, research & development, and simulations. The remaining groups interact with this core, depending on the phase of the project. In Worstell's mind, Concurrent Engineering creates a sense of community around the project with all the stakeholders involved. An in this sense, the project team has a wholistic view of the project.

He also talks about Concurrent Engineering yielding more innovation for the company. He differentiates between invention (coming up with a new idea) and innovation (developing a new use for existing ideas), and strongly discourages heavy reliance on invention in process design. His argument is that invention only increases costs - by 35% - due to the need for untested equipment or processing. Obviously, this has to be balanced with the need for new tools and techniques that may significantly lower overall costs as well. In the Concurrent Engineering model, the cost engineers work with the developers to understand the cost impact of changes and new features, rather than discovering these new costs at the end of the design phase.

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