1. How to Choose: The Truth About Fixed-Fee vs. Time-and-Materials

    In the world of medical product development, OEMs looking to keep costs controlled are leaning more and more towards outsourcing design or consulting services. As with any client/vendor relationship, the financial arrangement between the two companies can cause the most friction. When deciding what arrangement works best for both parties, most often the choices can be broken down into two categories: fixed-fee vs. time-and-materials. Both involve an agreement centered on a predefined scope, but the difference is that in fixed-fee the amount agreed upon is preset, while in a time-and-materials setting the vendor is paid for hours worked.

    Let’s break it down further:

    One of the greatest advantages, to the client, in a fixed-fee arrangement, is transparency of cost. They are less likely to get “sticker shock” at the end of the project and can budget accordingly. This type of arrangement forces the vendor to work as efficiently as possible and focus on the end game. If the vendor completes the scope of work on time then the agreed price is paid, but if they run over time, they are still contractually obligated to complete the work, while simultaneously eating any additional cost. In order for a vendor to stay in the black with fixed-fee projects, they must focus on quoting small, manageable scopes of work that ultimately mitigate risk and can be performed on time. Where the vendor can run into trouble is when they don’t adequately define the scope parameters to the client, as anything outside the scope is an extra cost. To that end, OEMs need to ensure that the deliverables and quality expectations are clearly outlined at the start of the project.

    On the flip side, with time-and-materials the advantage lies in the dynamic control the client has over the vendor’s work.  The vendor in turn is incentivized to keep up-selling the product to lengthen the scope. The flexibility of time and material however, does have a downside: without a clearly defined scope, it can be very easy for a project to go off track leaving the OEM with a large bill and little to show for it. The key to success in this type of agreement is a clear understanding, by both parties, of what the required tasks are and how long they should take to complete.

    As we have just seen, there are advantages to both agreements and deciding which would best fit your organization can be difficult. OEMs need to take into consideration their business philosophy, product design history, and the structure of their organization. Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding which way your organization should lean.

    Traits that make an organization more suited for a fixed-fee arrangement include:

    • Ability to sign off on large milestone payments without getting bogged down in red tape
    • Time driven results
    • An organization based on trust where open communication is valued
    • Trust in the vendor’s process to achieve the best results

    Traits that make an organization more suited for time-and-materials arrangement:

    • Require freedom to change the scope at will, regardless of the cost
    • Unable to define the next scope without previous results
    • Preference for managing all aspects of product development
    • Desire to make decisions based on large data samples
    • More comfortable with incremental payments instead of one large lump sum
    • Need a wide array of choices and an overall consensus before making a decision

    As seen above, there are many factors that go into choosing which payment arrangement is right for your company; a harrowing endeavor for OEMs new to the process. This is why we offer the Synectic Solution. With over 38 years of experience and a senior staff of engineers, we can accommodate even the most complex projects and demanding clients. We not only have extensive experience in medical device design, but our talents include aerospace, capital equipment, material handling, and automotive as well. Synectic consistently quotes projects along a fixed fee schedule so that we can align our goals to meet the client’s, all while keeping their best interest in mind. Even the smallest scope of work is another step towards a stronger, more confident, vendor/client relationship and a chance for us to earn another piece of the project. If you are considering outsourcing your design or consulting services, we would be happy to walk you through the Synectic Solution and show you how we can bring your ideas to life.

  2. Escape The Room New Haven

  3. Spotlight on STEM: Synectic at Polson Middle School


    What happens when you take a class of eighth graders, office supplies, and Synectic Engineering? You get the best STEM career day ever!


    Mac McMurray getting ready to speak with the students at Polson Middle School about product design


    Synectic’s Mac McMurray and Kathleen Murray visited Polson Middle School in Madison, CT for their Math and Science Career Day. They met with three classes of eighth graders to discuss product design engineering and put those concepts to the test. The students were given a scenario and some office supplies with the task of constructing a paper airplane.

    FDM printed 3D plane given to the winner

    Once complete, they were able to test and re-engineer their design, before competing against their classmates to see who could fly their plane the farthest. The winner of each class received a 3D printed stealth fighter from Synectic’s own FDM machine. Synectic wants to thank Polson Middle School for inviting us to talk about a rewarding career in STEM. We had an amazing time.


    Do you have a child who may be interested in an engineering career? Try out our airplane scenario at home and see where it may take them.

    • You will need:
      • Construction paper
      • Paper clips
      • Pencils
      • Tape
      • Scissors
      • Any other office supplies you want to add
    • Scenario: You need to get a message across a river using a paper airplane
    • Suggestions: Set a distance goal for the airplane that will be the river in this scenario. Have your child design what they feel is the ideal paper airplane using any of the above materials. Once they are done designing, they can test it out to see how far it can fly. Does the plane make it across the river? If not, discuss with them how they can make it fly farther. Talk to them about some physical and environmental challenges, such as wind and weight, which may prevent it from flying further. Have them re-engineer their airplane using the same piece of paper, and then retest. For an added challenge you can pretend that you are the client and give your child specifications for how you want the plane built, such as only using one piece of paper, two paperclips, and three pieces of tape. Does their plane fly better using the challenge items? Why or why not? Most importantly, HAVE FUN!

    Mac’s son Ryder with his paper airplane design

    For more STEM projects you can do at home click here

    To see what products the engineers at Synectic have designed and developed click here

  4. Just Arrived: Synectic’s Newest Product Design Engineer

    Synectic is growing and growing!  We welcomed Jeff Saller as a new Senior Product Design Engineer at the beginning of this year.  Jeff has a rich background involving multiple facets of engineering, including product design and development, bringing a lot to our organization.  A native of Milford for over 20 years, Jeff is excited to join a great team so close to home.  I was able to speak with Jeff for a few minutes about his background and here is what I found out:

    Jeff, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me.  I know Synectic keeps you busy with all the new and interesting projects we have.  Can you tell me a little more about your background and what interested you in Mechanical and Product Design Engineering?

    • JS: My father was a chemical engineer and had a lot of influence on me.  My real interest started when I was 12 working on bikes and small engines.  I became a mechanical engineer and my first job out of college was at a small startup in Stamford.  When the company was sold, I transferred to Wisconsin and worked as manufacturing engineering on scientific instrumentation products for five years.  After that I came back to Connecticut and worked in manufacturing, product design, aerospace, and engineering management.  I gained a lot of experience and skills that have allowed me to grow as an engineer.

    Wow! You really have a varied background and must have worked on a variety of products over the years. Out of all the medical device development companies out there, what attracted you to Synectic?

    • JS:  I have worked for various start-ups in the past and I like the small team feel and fast pace.  Synectic offers this, but has experience and proven results that allow a constant stream of new projects and challenges.  In the short time I have been here, I have never been bored.  While I am learning new skills every day, I am also able to use my past experience working in manufacturing and production engineering to meet the needs of our customers.

    Jeff, since we can’t talk about what projects you are currently working on, what has been your favorite project you worked during your career?

    • JS:  I was part of a team that created a handheld spectrometer.  It had interchangeable heads to allow for a variety of sampling applications.  One of these was for detecting thermal damage to sections of an airplane, that had been struck by lightning, in order to identify areas needing repair.

    That is really cool!  You will definitely work on equally awesome projects at Synectic.  Now, enough about work.  What do you like to do when you aren’t designing medical products?

    • JS:  I’m an avid golfer and cyclist. I also like to play guitar. I’m married with two grown children and like to spend my spare time with my family and friends.


    To learn more about Synectic’s other Product Design Engineers click here

    Click here if you want to see medical products we have designed

  5. Come Visit Synectic at BIOMEDevice Boston 2017

    Synectic’s Mac McMurray and Adam Lehman will be at BIOMEDevice Boston at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in Boston, MA on May 3rd and 4th. BIOMEDevice Boston is New England’s largest medtech event and Synectic is proud to be a part of it. See how Synectic can help you bring your ideas to life at booth number 170.