Importance of Design Documentation

Design strategies should always allot time for design documentation. almost always, this is the least priority in any project, may it be Engineering design or software design.

One of the qualities of a good design is good documentation. An inventor may have invented a very good machine but if he is the only one who can operate it, then its useless. It does not truly serve the purpose. The same is true in design. The assumptions, references, calculations and all other data used one way or another in the design process to come up with the result should be well documented. This will be very useful in design verification. The verifier need to have a very good grasp of the basis of design in order to understand fully the design itself.

If the design does not have documentation, it may be that even the designer himself may not understand what he have done after few months. People are not computers where there is a way to extract contents from their memory or storage. Unless put down in writing, other people could not read what the designer is thinking.

I can still recall, being a newly hired Engineer in one of the companies that I worked with, I went to a review meeting. I was wondering how the other Engineer marks up the design drawings. There are so many mark ups which I believe should be referred to a calculation, design basis or specification. I then asked, what is your basis in commenting the drawing. He answered backed without any second thought. Its all in my mind. WHAT? I just said to myself.

Another example was when I was still working as a Service Manager with a company having an on-going maintenance contract with a manufacturing company. I was told that the Electrical Engineer was rude and very strict on workmanship. I asked then, was there any plans, specifications or documentation of the electrical works we have been doing for the company, I was told none. The electrical engineer was just pointing to where he wants his cable ladders to be routed, lights to be installed and motors to be located. And if the result is not what he expected, then he will issue a rework. Much so, what is coming out of his mouth was rubbish. If only this engineer has a sense of responsibility documenting what he wants even in a simple sketch, then other people will be able to understand.

These are examples where design documentations should have come in handy. In any design implementation, documentation should not be taken for granted may it be a small project or a very large one.