How DFM Can Dramatically Cut Product Costs and Increase Quality
Examining the engineering practice for manufacturability and cost reduction over the lifetime of a product.
What is DFM?
The engineering work of DFM or Design for Manufacturing is the practice of designing a product so that is able to be efficiently manufactured. It is set apart from traditional functional engineering which seeks to achieve a desired mechanical or visual design.
While functional engineering is focused on performance, DFM aims to reduce overall product cost. It does this through key design principles and improvements. Good DFM achieves these cost minimizations while maintaining function and visual design.
When thinking of DFM, you can consider it a process to make manufacturing easier.
DFM can achieve cost reduction in several ways. One way is by reducing the amount of and complexity of required steps in the process. If operations can be eliminated through small design changes, time and cost savings are achieved.
Another way is through optimizing the design for the type of manufacturing. For example, injection molded plastics are susceptible to breakage if ejected on shear from the mold. Placing pins for ejection in strategic locations can save on material costs.
How DFM Affects Cost
The design phase represents the area of product development that has the greatest affect on cost. Changes that are made in the design phase are also much less expensive than those made during the production phase. This means that DFM should occur as early as possible, ideally before tooling has begun. Here are ways in which costs can be lowered by DFM:
Reduced Total Number of Operations
DFM seeks to optimize production by eliminating unnecessary steps. With each additional step in the process, more potential for error is introduced. By examining and reducing complexity, overhead and labor costs are minimized.
Optimized Process Tolerance
Certain manufacturing processes such as injection molding are susceptible to various types of failures. For example, the way the material is ejected from the mold could become problematic if the mold doesn’t have significant enough tapering, or draft to ease the release from the tool.
Failures such as this increase the time of production as well as material waste. This results in increased costs.
Optimized Material Tolerance
In the same way that designing for the manufacturing process can decrease costs, so can designing for the material tolerance. Continuing with our injection molding example, plastic materials with walls that are too thick cool much slower and run the possibility of causing sink.
Conversely, areas of the design that are too thin are fragile. An engineer will identify these areas and address with ribbing or other design changes in accordance with the material type. This increases the product quality and viability, also decreasing costs.
Standardization of Parts
Part of the DFM work includes examining the potential for combining similar parts into a global standardized part. This can be done by either adopting the same material across parts, or by adopting the same part design.
This approach accomplishes a total reduction in number of parts which eliminates the tooling and overall product cost.
How Much Can DFM Save?
Because there are so many variables involved, it is impossible to say how much DFM can save you without a proper DFM analysis. At AMS, we have gained our customers savings up to 50% on manufacturing costs. Not all customers see returns as great as these, but savings are still significant especially on high volume production.
Probably more significant, however, is the cost of quality. Product costs are not simply accounted for in total waste, remakes, and time. DFM can be considered a type of “prevention cost” which includes the cost of things that improve product quality. Luckily, at AMS it’s a service we include for free, so technically it’s not even a cost.
Regardless, implementing proper DFM early on in the development process can eliminate much of the risk of returns, recalls, warranty claims, replacements, and lost customers. This is a type of hidden cost that is intangible to the company, but can easily snowball out of control and kill profitability.
DFM proves that increasing quality doesn’t have to be expensive.
At AMS, we follow a production part approval process (PPAP) which is common in the automotive industry. This provides a clear understanding for ourselves and our customers on tolerances during the manufacturing process. High tolerance production is not good, as it results in lower yield and higher costs.
This is a process that is performed during the design process, but also during the tooling and prototype phases. Designers and engineers should work together to ease tolerances where possible to increase the manufacturing yield and lower costs. This can also result in higher quality by reducing the number of potential defects.
How Much Could You Save?
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