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The Electromechanical Journey

 

When I introduce Cooper Perkins as an engineering practice, I find myself answering the question—what do you do for a living? Ultimately, we are a team of extremely curious engineers who convert inventive ideas into innovative products.

How do we do this? Cooper Perkins follows a product development process where we turn the words of a product requirements document (PRD) into hardware through engineering. To those with experience in product development, this looks like a familiar, phased approach to taking a PRD and iterating towards a conclusion.

But, you may ask, where do those requirements come from? At Cooper Perkins, requirements come from our technology development process where our team seeks a balance of key factors—user utility (the WHO), business viability (the WHY), and technical feasibility (the HOW). Armed with a combination of creativity and a deep knowledge of the fundamental principles of the physical science and mathematics, our team looks for the greatest overlap of these elements to define the WHAT—the requirements, the system architecture, the foundation of the design established at the beginning of the engineering project.

The greater the overlap of the WHO, WHY, and HOW, the greater the reduction of risk when entering the product development (PD) cycle. In our experience, once a design enters PD, it can be very costly to identify details that were overlooked or revisit design decisions made while rushing the development of the fundamental system architecture. Through prototype-driven, thorough exploration and systematically cataloguing our findings, we identify and define requirements to be resilient to the pressures and momentum of the formalized product development process.

When the overlap of these factors is not clear, our team draws on years of experience navigating technology challenges across industries to find or build a bridge to facilitate the balance of the user, business, and technical needs. Unfortunately, the physical limitations of our world mean this overlap does not always exist. In those rare cases, we provide our clients with conclusive data that we exhausted all opportunities to define a system architecture that meets their vision.

Put together, the entire CP process follows a tightly developed, well-practiced path with over 20 years of implementation and refinement. Whether we work with clients on a subset of these phases or the full spectrum depends on the individual needs of each business and project:

Phase 0 – Establish system architecture resilient to the product development process. Prove feasibility, viability, utility.
Phase 1 – Resist the temptation to design. Generate concepts with breadboards and benchtop prototypes. Prove system topology/feasibility.
Phase 2 – Design a fully integrated Alpha prototype (looks like, works like). Prove functionality.
Phase 3 – With contract manufacturer design input, fabricate a Beta prototype (looks like, works like, built like) including materials and potentially some methods. Prove manufacturability.
Phase 4 – Transition to production and coordinate design documents meeting the process and vice versa. Prove fabrication process.

We view each project as an electromechanical journey. Technology development is planning the journey. Product development is taking the journey. If you ask us to lead an expedition, we will take the time to understand the crew, the equipment, the terrain, the weather—whatever we can get our paws on to set the course for a safe, successful adventure.

We lift the fog, identify the obstacles, and clear a path to the destination.

 


 

In celebration of our 20th anniversary, we’ve been reflecting on our journey of upholding our mission to Honor Engineering by learning it well, practicing it honestly, and teaching it generously. Over the course of the year, we will be sharing stories, lessons, and insights gained over the past two decades, including some shared history with our PA partners and a look to our exciting future together.

Have a problem to work through? Something nerdy to share? Join us at the Whiteboard.