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Historically speaking, the governance of global markets has been dominated by the law of supply and demand. However, during the last three decades, there has been a metamorphosis of the behavior of markets, their growth, and how products are more globalized. Customer behavior is showing a frenetic evolution regarding the “buy experience” either on the traditional sale floors or through e-commerce like Amazon perhaps.
There are several factors that have been influencers to catch new clientele and win business. Innovations in products like IoT, sophisticated user interfaces, connectivity, revolutionary color, finishing, and more, try to win in the market based on these new customer needs and attributes. This will require complex product plans that integrate a mindful technology road-map, invest in technical capabilities, and introduce new technologies to the manufacturing and design process. This method seems to be the only way to pursue a better position in the market and be able to offer a competitive product to the customers, but typically most of the companies are not adhering to the basic product development methodologies.
Companies need to make sure they have a world-class design and manufacturing process integrated into the overall product development process from the conception stage until the massive production stage. One of the most common mistakes when companies articulate long term strategic planning to overcome the market challenges is to assign a significant amount of human resources to introduce new features in their products such as consumer interface innovations. These strategies do not take into consideration how robust and effective the product development process is.
"Ideally, DFM needs to occur early in the design process, which is well before tooling has begun. Proper execution of DFM needs to include all the stakeholders: design engineers, manufacturing, toolmakers, quality, service, marketing, and supply base"
A professional evaluation is needed to assess the ability of the company to launch competitive products with the best cost, quality, and timing in the market. One of the basic methodologies of product development has been historically forgotten: Design for Manufacturing (DFM). Actually, most of the design and manufacturing leaders across the companies are very familiar with DFM and they even assure that they are using it proficiently in their day-to-day activities, but therein lies the problem.
Manufacturing paradigms have historically been shaped by social, economic, and technological aspects, including limitations and needs. Design for manufacturing has been the main paradigm for the last three decades since the design is defined by the limitations of available manufacturing processes. Since reducing the time required for the development of new products has been one of the “Achilles heels” for current century companies, reducing significantly the time between design and manufacturing stages has been one of today’s main goals. A number of strategies have been developed to reduce this gap, however, current issues have been shifting toward design-related issues such that the global companies have been trying to develop products desired by the customers, but not taking into consideration how cost-effective these changes are to the manufacturing processes. Here is where the DFM methodology gets relevance as one of the “keystones” and most powerful tools that must be embedded in every single phase of the development chain.
A mature and well-implemented DFM “culture” will provide many advantages to the company such as launching in the right time in the market, competitive manufacturing cost (reducing the number of operations, selecting economical processes, reducing scrap, reducing process variation, minimizing waste material, increasing throughput, and reducing cycle times). Meanwhile, DFM’s also enables the implementation of robust quality assurance systems, optimizing parts-count-number, reducing purchase and manufacturing inventories, and decreasing the number of manual assemblies that allow a safe work environment for the labor force.
The advantages described above will contribute directly to the bottom-line at the P&L of any company that wants to proclaim that it is holding a world-class production system. There is no “one size fits all” or a single approach for DFM within the industries. Volume, end-item costing, competitive business environment, industry, end-item complexity, and product scoping are just a few variables that may change the formula for an organization’s DFM utilization. DFM is also about business culture and practices; designing the perfect part and assembly process is an ultimate goal, however, a poorly designed manufacturing business environment that fails to execute optimally can be much more costly.
DFM is usually more effective in high volume applications, although low volume high end-items can also benefit. The companies must take into consideration all design activities and should minimize or eliminate as many individual parts as possible in order to optimize the supply chain, consolidating cost-effective sourced suppliers and reducing the engineering cost. Product design should be “the first” manufacturing step in consideration when a cost reduction strategy comes into picture..
Ideally, DFM needs to occur early in the design process, which is well before tooling has begun. Proper execution of DFM needs to include all the stakeholders: design engineers, manufacturing, toolmakers, quality, service, marketing, and supply base.
The intent of this “cross-functional” DFM is to challenge the designers to look at the design at all levels: component, sub-system, system, and holistic levels, to ensure the design is optimized and does not have unnecessary cost embedded within. As the design progresses through the product life cycle, changes become more expensive, as well as more difficult to implement. Early DFM allows design changes to be executed quickly, in the least expensive manner.
As long the companies adopt proper DFM strategies with the right disciplines in place across all the product development milestones, their competitiveness will better their position in the market with an organic cost structure and sustainable profit growth path.