Research Shows Multitasking Power Engineers Are Under Pressure

May 6, 2016
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After our recent webinar, A Process for Designing High-Performance AC-DC Power Systems, we asked attendees to tell us about their power system development cycles. The results make interesting reading. The respondents came from around the world, although there was a bias towards engineers in the USA and Europe.

The results of the survey show that engineers who develop power systems need to be very flexible: not only are they working in parallel on more than one power project, but they also need a broad range of knowledge as most of them design other systems in addition to the power chain.

Wide Range of Knowledge

Although this was a seminar on power design, only 20% of respondents considered themselves power experts.

levels of power expertise

This probably reflects the fact that many engineering departments don’t have the luxury of being able to have one engineer focused on power design, but instead engineers are responsible for designing a variety of systems, with power being just a part of their role, something that was supported by the even spread of answers to the question, “How much of your current job is power-design focused?”.

Front End Design Takes Longer than PoL

Perhaps not surprisingly, on-board power design is quicker than developing front-ends. Almost 60% of on-board projects are completed within three months, and none of our respondents said that on-board design projects took longer than a year.

Almost 60% of front end design projects take over three months, and around a third of them take longer than six months.

average power system design cycle

Testing and qualification is also very time consuming. Although 15% of the engineers who completed the survey took less than a month, the vast majority, 78%, took between one and six months to get through this process. The good news is that only a small percentage took more than six months to complete verification of their systems.

Engineers Must Multitask

The survey identified that engineers who develop power systems need to do other tasks that are not directly related to power design, with over half saying that less than 50% of their current job was focused on power design. They also need to develop more than one system at a time: on average respondents must complete around four power system designs per year. With an average design cycle time of around four to five months, it’s clear that the next project starts well before the one that is being worked on is complete.

Conclusion

From talking to design engineers over the years it wasn’t a surprise to us that this survey shows that power system design can take a long time, particularly front-end design. Engineers are required to work on several projects at once, across a variety of electronics disciplines, not just power. This all adds up to a lot of pressure on power developers!

We believe that modern approaches to power design are the way for engineers to relieve the pressure and get more done. By adopting the Power Component Design Methodology, and using tools like our Power System Designer and Whiteboard, it’s possible to reduce development timescales, ensure predictable performance and design-in flexibility to accommodate any unforeseen specification changes. Visit the PowerBench tools section on the Vicor website to find out more.

 

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