Breaking the Myth Around Triple Constraint of Time, Quality and Cost

Raghuraman Ramamurthy December 4, 2014

triple_constraintsAs a major provider of product cost optimization (PCO) and engineering solutions, it’s time we fully unravel the ominous ‘triple constraint’ of project management. What is triple constraint, and how does it affect the bottom-line for product design and manufacturing tasks?

In this article, we’ll break down what conventional triple constraint entails for manufacturers, as well as what your company needs to know about adjusting engineering processes to meet the demands of these constraints. Much like designing products and optimizing time-to-market, managing triple constraint requires a careful balance of engineering focus.

Consisting of time, cost and quality, the triple constraint ensures that your company cannot go “all-in” with one constraint (as in, focusing all of your engineering attention on optimizing time, quality or cost individually), without giving the others their due attention. For the greatest marketplace success, companies must find (and maintain) a balance between these three aspects of project management.

Doing so is what grants some companies strategic market advantage over others, and overall separates industry leaders from their competition.

Better Managing Time, Quality and Cost

The ‘triple constraint’ of project management is divided into 3 rough segments (each a component of triple constraint):

  • Time; the time aspect of triple constraint deals with the literal time it takes a company to produce a final product. Within manufacturing industries, this typically concerns time-to-market
  • Cost; the cost facet of triple constraint refers to the bottom-line financial requirements of designing, engineering and marketing a product. It’s in this product cost that companies can often make the largest strides in improving optimization and ROI; however, too much focus detracts from the other two components, time and quality
  • Quality; the product’s end quality or overall scope must meet certain parameters to be suitable, which can in turn be affected by altering cost or manufacturing time

As you may have noticed, much of how triple constraint affects project management is in how focus in one area affects focus in another. You can’t put all of your engineering efforts into optimizing time-to-market without detracting from quality, or increasing costs. Similarly, a company cannot achieve maximum quality without taking more time to manufacture a product, or spending more money on design.

The key takeaway on triple constraint is that these three components are all directly binding, and you cannot optimize one aspect without affecting the others. Keeping this in mind is what helps some companies achieve higher market values and PCO than others; by balancing time, cost and quality, you can create the most efficient, high potential products possible.

Working Within Triple Constraint and Overcoming its Challenges

Understanding the function of triple constraint, and how its interconnected components affect engineering tasks and product design, is a core requirement for effective project management. More importantly, however, is working within the demands of triple constraint, and finding profitable balance through engineering methodologies, innovation and design practices.

Perhaps the most effective of these practices is engineering collaboration, which simplifies how multi-site, multi-product companies operate internally to generate consistent revenue. A globalized, collaborative approach to product engineering is essential for optimizing time to market and quality, and thereby indirectly impacting the third constraint of quality positively.  If you were to get the product out in the market 10% faster with 5% lesser defects or rework, the impact on product cost is multi-fold.

In addition to manufacturing with alternative materials or developing lean product development practices, finding revenue-sustaining equilibrium through triple constraint is often what separates marketplace growth and company success from poor product performance.

This is what makes industry practices like global product development and standardized product design so valuable; by implementing company-wide product standards, at all levels of the value chain, engineers and their companies can gain much firmer control over triple constraints, and ensure that no aspect of constraint falls short.

When companies overemphasize or neglect one component of triple constraint, they easily compromise the quality of the remaining two (such as cost taking drastic precedence over quality). This is poor practice, especially at the early product design phase, which can put an entire product line in jeopardy and detract from any cost optimization efforts.

The triple constraints, when monitored and communicated effectively at a global, company-wide level, can be used as a mechanism for growth and improved product cost optimization. All it takes is for engineers and their teams to anticipate the challenges the constraints may bring, and work within the demands of time, cost and quality to create industry-leading products through industry-leading practices.


Topics Product Quality Product Cost Optimization Time to Market Product Development Solutions