It never ceases to amaze us how badly many companies (including many of our clients!) do this. No documentation of new ideas, little or no documentation on the design decisions made in the ensuing development, no formal design reviews (let alone documentation of actions raised) no test reports during the validation stage. So when the engineer’s scribbles on the back of an envelope end up in the bin or fall behind the desk, the engineer leaves the organisation, gets run over by a bus or takes a liking to mind altering drugs, there is absolutely no record of what was done. So the intellectual property is lost. Very expensive.
We document all stages of the design process. The most important part of this is our Development Documentation System (DDS). This is a comprehensive system for recording the design process. It is an old methodology (and the only paper based documentation system left in our office, though we do keep an electronic copy these days) based on an obsolete British Naval Standard NWS10. All stages of the project are documented, and the system under development is split into functional blocks (subsystems) which are in turn split into functional blocks, which are in turn split into functional blocks. Yes a tree structure, each branch with its own unique number. Interfaces between blocks are defined – making it easy when there are several engineers working on the same project each responsible for a separate block. A place for everything and everything in its place. Our clients love it when they ring up 10 years after the project was completed and ask “why was a left hand thread used on the discombobulator adjustment nozzle?” and we can dig out the answer within 10 minutes.