Benefits of Connecting Functional Design to Detailed Design


The Ideal State for Design Teams

In an ideal product design process, everything from the initial idea to manufacturing is connected. The products are designed using functional design principles, and the functional design intelligently drives the detailed design. Not only is there no need to recreate or rewrite product data, but a common dataset also drives various representations. That is to say, every step towards developing the product is transforming the data to see it from a different perspective. Suffice to say, we are not there yet. However, the concept of digital transformation is quickly pushing in the right direction–a rapid push towards digital engineering and connecting various design disciplines with a digital thread.

conntecting functional and detailed design
The elusive perfect solution connects all aspects of a design together

The Current State of Design

A typical product design starts with a great idea sketched on a napkin, jotted on paper, or detailed in a formal document. Naturally, the discussions progress from ‘can we’ to ‘what if’ to ‘how can’ as the product development process moves along. As a result, the documentation increases in size and detail. At this point, the detailed design hasn’t yet started, so all the documentation describes the requirements, functionality, and high-level architecture. The point of transfer to detailed design varies across the board. However, we can expect that more well-established teams will have a descriptive package for the detailed design team to use as a reference.

Unfortunately, the hand-off to detailed design means a lot of the work done ahead of time needs to be understood, put in the proper context, and recreated to make it available for further design detailing. There is little to no parametric connection between conceptual design efforts and detailed design. Notably, it is not because of a lack of interest or intent. The most common reason is the perceived lack of ability to switch contexts and transform the underlying data using a common toolset.

Functional Design by Definition

The definition of the term functional design differs across disciplines, industries, and even across design teams. At its core, the functional design focuses on the purpose, interactions, behavior, and users. At times, functional design is a method, while other times, it is a discipline. In the electrical design space, functional design is about creating a high-level systems design while working with abstract data and managing ambiguity.

A functional design forgoes the selection of parts and focuses on capturing and implementing the required outcome. For instance, it is important to know we are using a camera in our product. Also, it may be advantageous to know that the camera typically accepts four connections. However, there is little benefit in knowing the part number of the connector in the initial stages. The functional design is the foundation of detailed design and will ultimately transform into a functioning schematic.

Ideally, further detailed work on the schematic will include adding and creating information for manufacturing the products. The ability to carry over a conceptual design into a detailed schematic, cable, and panel designs phase is highly desirable. Most excitingly, there is a market momentum towards connecting functional design and detailed design.

Connecting Functional Design to Detailed Design

At Zuken, we are engaging in markedly more conversations about the functional design elements of our E3.series solutions. Zuken’s E3.series functional design options already empower our customers to combine conceptual models and detailed design in a single package. However, there is more to this process than functional descriptions. Complex systems require not only functional descriptions but also architectural definitions. To fully express a system’s functionality, the functions must be logically distributed, assigned to a topological system, and establish connectivity pathways between the system entities.

When we talk about functional design, we are talking about a holistic view of the product expressed conceptually, functionally, and architecturally. E3.topology, an extension of E3.series functional design capabilities, provides this holistic view by connecting functional design to detailed design.

Connected logical design and functional topology layout in E3.series

The View from Above

E3.topology is an electrical system architecture design tool that is a licensed extension of the E3.series design suite. It is a combination of functional design, cable-harness, and to-scale system layout capabilities. Simply put, E3.topology takes logical design into the physical world. As part of the overall E3.series project, the engineering will create the topology drawing to any scale; this drawing represents functional systems or installation spaces. The connection between the systems represents a harness or a cable. Easily assign parts and signals to system blocks, and the underlying schematic and connectivity logic will be hierarchically linked.

The resulting connectivity between blocks automatically transforms the wires into harnesses. Furthermore, the hierarchical nature of the design process enables rolled-up calculations and complex functional distribution. Most importantly, the tool quickly optimizes harness routes, component placement, and overall system distribution while maintaining functional capabilities.

The most common benefits of using this enhanced process include:

  • Logical segregation of functions without sacrificing design details
  • Apply and carry forward modularization from the conceptual design phase to the detailed design phase
  • The connected environment reduces error and design oversights
  • Potential for huge time-savings by avoiding rework
  • An unrivaled opportunity to optimize the design process from start to end


Many industries are quickly moving towards a holistic design and production model. A true digital transformation requires a robust connection across all phases of product design. However, design teams are not yet in the ideal position to take advantage of the best practices. A holistic look at tools, processes, and goals is imperative to chart the optimal path forward.

E3.topology is a proven tool to transition from functional to detailed design. It opens the path to creating robust functional designs and drives detailed product development in a common design environment.

Zuken, along with our partners, leads the way in creating the eco-system needed to go from concept to design to manufacturing seamlessly and with the best outcomes. The ability to capture design intent and apply it to every aspect of design is a transformative process.

Sanu Warrier
Sanu Warrier
Technical Marketing Manager
Sanu Warrier has been a product leader in the Electrical industry working with multiple solutions over the last decade. He has been helping customers find effective solutions to their design challenges, drawing from R&D experience in software, hardware and solutions development. He is a self-professed foody and loves to dabble in gastronomic alchemy as often as possible. The main focus for Sanu continues to be Eliminating inefficiencies, improving design processes and reducing costs to improve your competitive advantage.