Design is top consideration to reduce total cost to manufacture

Understanding part cost in the design phase is critical

Design considerations rank at the top of the list if you want to reduce the cost to manufacture. In fact, according to Boothroyd Dewhurst Inc. (Wakefield, RI), the first company to commercialize design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA) methodologies and software tools, 80% of the cost of a new product hinges on the design.

DFMA ForumMaking the right design decisions early in the product development process can have a substantial impact on total product cost. “The use of DFMA to help choose the right structures, materials, processes and labor has become critical given that companies get few second chances in today’s global markets,” said John Gilligan, President of Boothroyd Dewhurst Inc., sponsor of the 31st Annual International Forum on Design for Manufacture and Assembly on June 7 and 8 in Providence, RI. This year’s conference theme is DFMA Design Decision: Understanding Total Product Cost.

“Manufacturers today are striving to tighten their supply chains and move closer to key markets,” Gilligan commented. “They are also taking a hard look at whether or not their product designs help them downstream with demand fulfillment and throughput. The right designs should reach customers quickly with the high quality and performance characteristics they need.”

PlasticsToday spoke with Nick Dewhurst, Executive Vice President and co-founder of Boothroyd Dewhurst, about the importance of DFMA. “The analogy I like to use is that DFMA is the campfire around which people sit to discuss product design,” he explained. “DFMA forces those conversations, which happen too often late in the development process, to happen earlier to minimize design iterations. Everybody should be involved in DFMA from the start including supply chain management, quality, engineering and especially suppliers. The result can be an elimination of things that add complexity to a product and, thus, increase cost. DFMA forces everyone involved to go through the design and discuss the details.”

Moldmakers can benefit from this method of collaboration because everyone becomes aware of everyone else’s requirements from the get-go. Too often, there is a lack of understanding of what the moldmaker needs to get started because he wasn’t involved from the start. OEMs often send out RFQs to molders and moldmakers asking for a quote when the OEM itself doesn’t know their costs to manufacture. Then they wait until the quotes come back and the job is awarded before they involve the moldmaker or molder.

“DFMA helps you understand the product costs early and helps the OEM understand the quotes from the molders relative to what the costs ought to be,” said Dewhurst. “Getting three quotes without an understanding of what your costs should be and picking the lowest one is not a strategy. Understanding your part cost in the design phase is critical.”

Total cost to manufacture is something that more OEMs are starting to examine closely, particularly when considerations of where to manufacture the product enter into the equation. “It really comes down to an early understanding of product design, and our approach with DFMA is to reduce part count of a design, which can result in an average total cost savings of 50%,” Dewhurst stated. “You have to work to achieve those savings but when you do, it suddenly makes you very competitive. Upper management often looks at the cost of labor, and that’s all they consider when choosing a supplier in a geographic location. What they miss are all of the intangible costs that don’t get figured in such as quality issues, supply-chain complexities and transportation. A more disciplined approach we take as a product design company involves what parts of the design impact costs the most and how DFMA can reduce those costs.”

The DFMA forum provides information about the tools and strategies that help meet those goals and optimizing total product cost. Additionally, the benefits of improved reliability and time-to-market that come with DFMA will be addressed by various speakers from the likes of Boeing, Medtronic, Kohler, Dynisco and Woodward.

For more information, visit www.dfma.com/forum/index.html.

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