In this episode…
Renaud is joined once again by Sofeast’s head of New Product Development, Andrew Amirnovin, to go over 12 ‘Design for Excellence/DfX’ goals designers can optimize for when designing and developing a new product. These DfX principles include manufacturing, quality, reliability, maintainability, and more. Some are really important for bringing great products to market, and you’ll learn which and why, as well as having the information you need to decide what to focus on for your new product.
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00:00 – Greetings and introducing the topic of DfX.
02:30 – 1. Design for short development & time to market.
Rushing through the NPI process and skipping important steps like a pilot run, for example, is risky and can result in poor quality, reliability, and safety products. When designing for shorter development times to get to market faster, simplifying the product is key. Simpler products are faster and cheaper to develop and validate.
05:16 – 2. Design for Crowdfunding.
Many of today’s companies test the market by running a crowdfunding campaign. Its success will provide a lot of indication about whether a new product is well-received and requires great marketing content to be made. The product will need to be designed to be unique, cool, smart, and/or very different to its competitors in order to stand out on crowdfunding platforms, so designers will need to bear that in mind and plan to get to a great-looking prototype ASAP as this will be widely used in materials, videos, etc, that underpin the campaign.
08:13 – 3. Design for Manufacturing (DFM).
The product should have a single clear manufacturing method, use parts from qualified and approved suppliers, review and analyze the parts in detail to ensure quality and performance, manufacturing equipment is calibrated, tested, and ready for use, the team are well-trained, there is a process control plan. All areas need to be ‘excellent.’
10:29 – 4. Design for Assembly.
The assembly line needs to be well-designed to remove or reduce risks to the quality of the line (their ability to manufacture great products), be consistent, and remove variabilities between operators. Operators must be well-trained, the line must be well-made so no single operator gets overloaded, jigs set up for consistency, etc. The goal is to be able to produce excellent products every time and, allied with DFM, achieve really good yields.
13:35 – DFM & DFA tips for product designers to keep in mind.
If you’re designing a product, consider the following in order to get to an excellent product:
- The end-user/customer
- The environment/s that it will be used in
- How it will be designed
- How it will be tested
- How it will be manufactured
The teams involved all need to do due diligence to ensure that their part of the design is perfected, such as the assembly team doing design for assembly to provide a bulletproof assembly process. Everyone needs to know ‘the plan’ before production starts.
Reduced costs and improved quality often come by using as fewer parts as possible, using off-the-shelf parts instead of customized ones, and making assembly easier and mistake-proof.
19:19 – Should more complex and custom-designed parts always be avoided?
Generally, standard parts have a lot of benefits for new products, especially when trying to get to market swiftly and with a minimum of issues. However, a very simple and streamlined assembly process with custom-designed parts is actually often better than a more convoluted assembly process with standard parts. The modularization of products means that more complex parts like a display and electronics are all combined into one module, the assembly of which into the product at large is/should be fairly simple. Modules are also easier to repair as if there is an issue with one it can be swapped out or another.
25:04 – 5. Design for Quality & 6. Design for Testing
You want to avoid too many customizations on parts and discovering too many new issues, so designing products to use tried-and-tested parts and processes like modularization can reduce quality problems. Quality and reliability are critical for products.
Using fewer parts, making assembly easier, mistake-proofing assembly, training staff well, etc, feed into better quality. Be prepared to make tradeoffs in materials, production processes, finishing, etc, if possible issues might occur (such as die-cast aluminum being too porous for anodization). Anticipating these issues and acting on them earlier in the NPD process is an important part of DfQ.
The inspection, auditing, and testing processes for supplier and component qualification and assurance help you to receive better quality parts and materials that are tested and qualified before they’re used. Designers choose the components much of the time, so they need to ask questions about the quality and capability of the suppliers early on. Whether products have been tested and are confirmed to be compliant, for example, would be a key consideration.
32:37 – 7. Design for Packaging.
Easy to forget packaging, but it can make the difference between customers receiving products in perfect condition or broken. It also impacts on your brand, as higher-value products will be expected to have appropriate packaging. Also, using the wrong packaging could be far too expensive and make the project unprofitable.
35:45 – 8. Design for Reliability
Designers and the development teams as a whole need to consider users, use-cases, and environments when designing for reliability and build reliability factors into the design from very early stages. A risk analysis may be used depending on the company’s size and product type (military and medical products would need a risk analysis, for example). The goal is to find suppliers and components that reach reliability goals and produce a reliability test plan with test cases that mimic the environment and use-cases the product will need to endure in order to find and fix problems with the design early in the development process (EVT/DVT).
45:12 – 9. Design for Maintainability.
Maintainability is about being able to know when something needs attention, such as a car’s dipstick showing you the oil level, but also about making the product easy to replace parts on if and when required. It’s connected to reliability, too, as designers should be sure that products can maintain the same level of performance over time. Using a timing chain instead of a timing belt on a car is an example of this thinking in practice, as the former lasts longer and is more reliable than the latter and requires fewer replacements. Diagnostics in many electronic devices provide users with the information they need to maintain their product (and test quality at an earlier stage, too).
49:15 – 10. Design for Ease of use/Ergonomics.
Users provide feedback early about if the product is user-friendly and ergonomic and this influences the product designer to make changes. Creating a prototype that’s faithful to the design early on is required here.
49:35 – 11. Design for Fewer SKUs.
It’s easy to create products in different sizes, colors, etc, and pretty soon you have too many SKUs taking up costly warehousing space and not selling fast enough. Market research will inform the designers which types of products to focus on, the goal being to limit the number of SKUs at first to the most popular styles, colors, etc, which is more efficient and cost-effective.
50:20 – 12. Design for Sustainability.
Becoming more sustainable is a current and necessary trend. Designers will need to consider using sustainable, recyclable, or biodegradable materials in products while being able to keep the required performance or quality.
51:02 – Which DfX principles are crucial?
Optimizing product designs for manufacturing, assembly, reliability, and quality are ‘must-haves’ when developing a new product if your goal is to get it made at an acceptable cost without too many unpleasant surprises.
51:55 – How to implement DfX?
Designate a program manager. They will work alongside a quality manager. Each DfX will require a checksheet/list of activities to be carried out by the relevant team/s and everyone is made aware of what is happening. Everything is checked by the PM and quality manager before it can go to the next stage.
For less experienced businesses developing a new product, get expert help to review your product design (companies like ours, Sofeast, can help with this) and provide feedback and challenge any assumptions and decisions you’ve made. This could be the difference between a great or poor product hitting the market.
53:58 – Wrapping up.
- The Design for X Approach: 12 Common Examples
- Design for Distribution (DFD)
- Design to Cost (DTC)
- Design for Manufacturing (DFM)
- Design for Quality (DFQ)
- Design For Sustainability
- Design For Crowdfunding (Kickstarter & Indiegogo)
- Design For Assembly (DFA)
- Design for Distribution: What Hardware Startups Need To Know
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