Design For Manufacturing: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Matters
Up to 70% of the costs associated with new product development (NPD) can be traced back to design decisions that determine the materials, components, production technologies, and supply chain considerations used in bringing an innovation to market. Knowing this, it’s easy to see why optimising product design for scalable manufacture is a critical piece of the broader product development puzzle.
Design For Manufacturing (DFM) is a specialised competency that is deployed for the express purpose of achieving this goal. (Ensuring scalable manufacture.) By approaching product design from the perspective of manufacturing, DFM integrates design requirements, engineering options, and production methods. This fuels cost savings to increase clients’ ROI and power their market success.
At Pivot UK, our in-house DFM teams are the driving force behind some of the world’s most award-winning products. With nearly fifty years of NPD experience and DFM know-how that spans fourteen industries, our single-source model ensures a seamless process from start to finish. We deliver 320,000 square feet of manufacturing space across three continents. Thanks to our DFM expertise, we are uniquely equipped to tackle many of your toughest supply chain challenges via alternative procurement approaches and innovative engineering hacks.
It’s important to understand that not all single-source firms are created equal. Just because a single-source firm delivers design and manufacturing under a single company umbrella, this doesn’t qualify them as a DFM partner. DFM expertise is a distinct capability that integrates design and manufacturing from the earliest phases of product development. Whatever NPD partner you ultimately choose, DFM expertise should be a non-negotiable part of the equation.
To better understand DFM, let’s look at how it contributes to cost savings by fostering standardisation, efficiency, alignment, innovation, supply chain solutions, and compliance.
The less standardised any aspect of NPD, the more costly it becomes. This is why one of the primary objectives of DFM is to identify standardised parts, components, engineering approaches, and manufacturing methods that can be repurposed across products or product lines. Standardisation also plays a significant role in fuelling cost savings by reducing inventory needs and promoting modularisation (where optimal).
With the streamlined approach of a single-source model, DFM further fuels efficiency by minimising assembly steps. It reduces the number of setups and rotations per part and identifies opportunities to use multi-functional parts. For example, DFM determines where it’s optimal to use snap-fits in favour of bolts, the latter of which takes longer to secure, adding unnecessary time and expense to the process. DFM also increases efficiency by identifying opportunities for line improvements and enabling testing of design iterations through AR or low-cost 3D printing.
When discussing how DFM promotes alignment, we must first distinguish between production alignment (a technical challenge) and process/workflow alignment (an operational and organisational challenge).
DFM helps resolve assembly issues arising from errors in production and assembly alignment that can lead to damaged parts and equipment that increase costs by reducing yield. DFM can head off these dangers at the pass by analysing tolerances, designing integrative parts, and strategically modifying designs with tapers or chamfers to achieve more reliable assembly insertion.
DFM also promotes process alignment across all the major stages of product development: design, engineering, and manufacturing. In firms without DFM expertise, design, engineering, and manufacturing are approached more or less linearly. While this may make superficial sense, the result is often the very problem DFM exists to prevent: the design and engineering of a product that looks and performs flawlessly but is too expensive to manufacture at scale. So, rather than drawing a linear arrow through design, engineering, and manufacturing, DFM draws a circle around all of them, taking a truly holistic approach to NPD, and thus to cost-savings.
The utility of DFM is readily apparent, but what is less obvious is its ability to foster innovation. DFM narrows the field of possibilities, ruling out specific options in advance in the service of cost savings. But this has the paradoxical effect of forcing DFM teams to think outside the box: new design routes around common roadblocks must be devised and taken, and novel engineering workarounds must be incorporated.
Supply Chain Solutions
DFM also plays a hand in surmounting supply chain challenges by identifying alternative parts and components that can be substituted for those that are currently unprocurable or cost-prohibitive. (At Pivot UK, between 30-50% of the products we currently have in development are created with just these kinds of engineering workarounds and supply chain hacks.)
Last, DFM helps to ensure that products are designed with compliance in mind. Especially for medtech and industrial products, compliance with strict regulatory standards is a significant concern. At Pivot UK, between our DFM expertise, multiple ISO and ISE certifications, and FDA-registered facilities, compliance is never an issue.
If you’re looking for a global single-source partner with proven DFM expertise, we deliver. We’ll work closely with your team to turn your product vision into a winning market reality. Contact us today to learn more about how we support your business and help you scale.