Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is a term used heavily in production settings, but often the history of it is underappreciated. The objective of DFM is to design and engineer a product that is easy to manufacture for everyone involved. It’s a simple goal, but creating a product that meets all criteria for manufacturing can be a challenge considering the materials used, dimensional tolerances required, and production tools available. To truly engineer a product design for manufacturing, you need to start at the beginning.
Where Did Design for Manufacturing Start?
Design for Manufacturing is now a standard term that is used heavily in every industry that involves production, and it’s taught in every discipline that utilizes production methods. In the early days before a formalized and analytical approach was documented, DFM was based on history and experience. Most of the knowledge for production was based on trial-and-error with limited capability to design and model a potential production outcome. It was an investment intensive environment where many mistakes were made, but many lessons were learned for future error-prevention.
Modeling software has been a tool that has prevented many of the original mistakes and lessons-learned from being carried forward. Geometric dimensional tolerancing (GD&T) that can calculate outcomes and probabilities for component errors are now a standard simulation check that has replaced archaic spreadsheets. Complex relationships between design, manufacturing processes, and cost can be analyzed and verified with software modeling and 3D printing before a design is permanently chosen to move forward.
What are the Benefits of Incorporating DFM?
Design for Manufacturing has many benefits that can greatly increase product profitability and decrease risks associated with daily production. The key with DFM is to start as early as possible in the design phase to eliminate potential risks of manufacturing issues that can crop up later. Once problems and risks are identified, whether through software analysis or historically earned knowledge, the next step is to generate actionable solutions to each item. For clean sheet designs, subtle changes can make a huge difference.
For designs that are currently in progress or products currently being manufactured, changing the design may be more of a challenge without significant investment. It may be easier to focus on product and process optimization to find solutions and uncover other challenges. The collaboration between design and manufacturing teams can offer problems and solutions that each expert team can work through together.
How to Use Design for Manufacturing in Your Products
Incorporating a Design for Manufacturing activity into your daily production or next idea doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few helpful steps that you can use to get started:
- Create a DFMEA process sheet that lists out every step in the manufacturing operation. At each step of the manufacturing process, the goal is to brainstorm every conceivable way that a mistake can be made in manufacturing or ways to reduce the amount of work involved. The goal of the process document is to indicate which assembly errors would be most detrimental to your end customer and product quality, and where the design and manufacturing teams should focus their attention to prevent issues in the future.
- Create designs that reflect the reality of manufacturing. Your designs should ensure your product is easy to manufacture. Your designs should remove the guesswork out of manufacturing and assembly utilizing a datum scheme to identify how an assembly comes together without an error. Your DFM activity should also determine the best manufacturing choices for reduced investment and long-term costs with tooling, assembly equipment, and logistics. A thorough DFM strategy should provide feedback to designers to easily understand what consequences their designs can have on manufacturing and indicate how to change designs to reduce future risks.
- Practice standardization throughout the DFM process. Utilizing standard fasteners and common torque application can reduce design complexity and manufacturing errors. When multiple fasteners are needed, the simplest option is to use the same fastener to reduce confusion. If you need to use multiple fasteners of various sizes or materials, make the heads different in shape or size. If tool A needs to secure fastener A, make sure tool B doesn’t fit. If your design doesn’t require fasteners for the product to be serviceable or to meet durability criteria, DFM may dictate utilizing a simpler attachment option like heat staking or ultrasonic welding for permanent attachment. Components are another area of focus to reduce cost and complexity with standardization. It may be cheaper to use carryover components that are currently being manufactured in multiple assemblies rather than starting with a new design and tooling.
- Employees and labor can be the most expensive variable cost of your business. Your designs should incorporate options to adjust manpower if demand fluctuates. A proper DFM review should investigate opportunities to add automation in place of human personnel to reduce cost at a certain volume threshold. Adding Just-In-Time (JIT) sub-assemblies and kitting from different workstations may add efficiency with reduced cost to the overall product line also.
Engineering your product design for manufacturing indicates you have researched how to manufacture a product with minimal errors, adjust the operations based on volume, and use standardized parts and fasteners to reduce costs where applicable. Some Computer Aided Design (CAD) software packages include built-in tools to assist designers with predictions, and some of the know-how will come from experience. SEA-LECT Plastics has an elite staff of designers and manufacturing professionals that design and produce world-class products. We have the knowledge to make your design simple, cost-effective, and the turn-key assembly options to produce it in-house in Everett, Washington. If you have a new idea, call us (425) 339-0288 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can offer you advice on the best technology to use, the best materials to meet your product demands, and how to navigate through each development stage with ease.
Matthias Poischbeg was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Matt moved to Everett, Wash., after finishing his bachelor’s degree in business in 1995 to work for Sea-Dog Corporation, a manufacturer, and distributor of marine and rigging hardware established in 1923.
In 1999, Matt took over the reins at Sea-Lect Plastics Corporation, a sister company of Sea-Dog and a manufacturer of plastic injection molded products with an in-house tool & die shop. Matthias Poischbeg is also a contributor to Grit Daily.