Meet Ben Arlett: our new Head of Engineering
We've been enjoying getting to know our new Head of Engineering, Ben Arlett; so much so, we thought we'd grill him about his new role and how he has been enjoying KD life...
Having had a career in engineering and product development spanning both consultancy and client side, what would you say are the areas where consultancy teams like KD can add most value to client businesses?
There are a wide range of reasons for companies to engage with external partners like KD. These range from strategic objectives such as getting a different perspective or challenging engrained thinking through to more practical issues such as gaining access to a wide skillset in a cost-effective way or accessing specialist skillsets. Sometimes the very fact that an external team is not subject to internal politics enables a conversation to happen which would not be possible internally. This can be particularly helpful in requirements gathering or concept selection where external teams can be truly ‘solution agnostic’. Ultimately this flexibility can confer a range of objectives such as faster time to market, reduced development costs or developing better products.
You have worked with some of the largest companies in the world, and have also been CTO for a successful startup; what would you say were the most important lessons that each could learn from the other?
The focus when working in a technology startup is often centred on the product or technology. However, it is the business case for the product that will make the difference between success and failure and this is where the focus of a large company will sit. Sharing that perspective is important for a startup in order to be successful, whether they are looking to be acquired or build the business themselves. Probably the biggest learning for larger organisations is having the confidence to empower individuals. The people who really move things forward can come from anywhere in the business and these are the staff that you want to retain. Nothing takes away from this momentum and motivation quicker than getting mired in bureaucracy and your most talented staff will quickly move on to somewhere where they are empowered to make a difference.
With 2018 being defined by the UK government as the Year of Engineering, what do you see being the biggest challenges and most interesting opportunities for engineering today?
The pace of change in the tools that we have at our disposal today is incredible. The accessibility and power of CAD, FEA and CFD packages combined with improvements in rapid prototyping techniques that make iterative, functional prototyping a reality, allows us to refine designs to a level that we would not have been able to 20 years ago. However, with all these tools there comes a risk of losing touch with the understanding of how a design really works. Often the greatest value of a theoretical model is understanding what variables a design might be sensitive to, rather than calculating its performance at a nominal operating point.
Having had an opportunity to get to know the KD team and the business over the last few weeks, what have been your initial impressions and what are you most looking forward to in your role as Head of Engineering?
The speed with which the KD team moves through the design cycle is fast, and I’m looking forward to using that as an asset in product development. I’m also looking forward to the variety of product development challenges that our environment provides and the opportunity to transfer learning across different products and industries. The understanding that the company has in design, user interface and human factors is world class and integrating this capability with engineering to deliver better products excites me, particularly in areas of focus such as medical device design.
If you have a project or problem that needs solving and would like to have a chat with Ben, please do drop him an email to [email protected]