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DFx - a Catalyst for Collaboration and Acceleration by Tracy Ireland

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

 The problem many designers face today is ever increasing product complexity and miniaturization. As the products have become more complex and smaller the manufacturing processes have become more difficult. The dependencies between design and process have become more intense at a time when the industry trend has been increasing separation and distance between them as manufacturing outsourcing continues for good reason. So the question is: How do we fill this gap?

Much has been written about Design for Excellence. There are many good design checklists and articles on design for almost any dimension of product success. The use of checklists for DFx is a necessary good practice but it is not sufficient. In my experience there is simply no substitute for sitting down with a group of experts who live and breathe the various challenges of product realization every day and collaborating, in a structured manner, on the design, manufacturing, usability and service of a product.

The case for embracing DFx is simple – the cost of correction increases exponentially as the product moves through the life cycle.

It is far easier to anticipate and prevent problems early in the product definition and development stages than to discover a problem downstream.

A properly structured and executed DFx practice will expose these potential problems so they can be addressed early.

At Vergent Products we have found that a collaborative approach to DFx works best. The dynamics of a designer sitting down with a group of assemblers to discuss a proposed assembly sequence or a discussion with a warranty technician about past events is very powerful and insightful. The two way exchange of ideas and concerns helps bring design issues to light at a time something can be done to fix them at very little cost. I can’t recall the number of times a product has been introduced that was difficult or near impossible to build. The cost of correction or living with a product like this can be staggering not to mention the delays caused by rework or a hard to build product.

The application of DFx is often not considered because it adds time to the development schedule when clients and investors are anxious to see a prototype or introduce the product to the market. However, while effective DFx will slow you down in the beginning it has a dramatic effect at accelerating new product introduction and manufacturing ramp-up. In the end the product will be faster, better and cheaper with collaborative DFx.

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