Why Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is Important
Design for manufacturing (DFM) is important because it’s about creating the process for the product as much as the product itself. The design impacts every single part of production, from costs to timing to eventual customer satisfaction. Any creator who wants to bring a new product to market needs to partner with a company that has a DFM focus.
A poor design can create a domino effect that makes it impossible to manage even the smallest of production runs. Without considering manufacturing in design, the producer opens themselves up to a lot of mistakes, which could have been avoided if DFM was an original part of their process.
Why Design for Manufacturing is Important: Three Risks
The reason why design for manufacturing is important is less about covering its various benefits than it is understanding what can go wrong. When an inventor fails to design with manufacturing in mind, they can run into many problems, including:
- A process that isn’t efficient
- A fatal flaw in the design
- Ever-expanding costs
The process of creating a product is as important as the product itself. However, if that process is not considered during the design stage, it can be difficult to build standardization. Creators must remember that it’s unlikely workers on the factory floor are going to have an in-depth understanding of how to resolve issues in the design process. They’re going to follow a blueprint which will determine the result.
The design will also impact the creation of specialized tooling needed to manufacture products, like jigs, fixtures, dies, and other needed cutting tools. Without consideration during product development, the tooling may be unnecessarily complex.
Fatal design flaws
In some cases, a fatal product design flaw won’t become obvious until the creator attempts to manufacture a lot of them at one single time. A single product, made carefully by an expert, is always going to have higher overall quality than a product created by someone who must make hundreds of the same design following their process.
Consider the famous case of Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phones. The battery that powered the phone was the cause of overheating, which would occasionally result in the phones exploding. There was a production error during manufacturing that caused the negative and positive poles to get too close together. It would have been near impossible to discover this error when only making one or two batteries, as the creator likely would have been very careful in making those small batches. However, once it hit the manufacturing stage, the occasional minor mistake turned into a million-dollar recall.
The cost of creating a single unit is what will drive the cost of manufacturing later. When a creator does not take that manufacturing cost into account, they may build a product that’s far too expensive to sell to consumers, with little recourse to resolve the issue. This isn’t just about the materials, either. It’s also about the tooling. With complex, expensive to create tooling, the creator will have to manage their expectations for how large a production run they can manage.
When a creator doesn’t use a DFM process, they’re setting themselves up for scope creep. It may take much longer to create products which will eat into the budget and could potentially put a dangerous item in the hands of consumers. Instead, creators must be prepared to work with a partner who views the design process as a small piece of a much larger picture.
Working with a Partner for a DFM Approach
The best way to leverage a DFM process in production is to work with a partner who can manage almost everything in-house. They should be able to prototype, create tooling, and even offer small production runs. When they do all this in-house, they’re familiar with the whole DFM process. It’s built into their business model.
Companies that manage all the moving components know why design for manufacturing is important, so they make it the cornerstone of their process. They focus not just on how the first product will look, but how the thousandth will as it rolls off the production line. A company that controls all parts of a manufacturing process, from collaborating on the concept of completing the first run will be best prepared to help creators avoid the common mistakes that can ruin their launch.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.