Today’s fast paced consumer driven global economy has companies across every industry racing to offer the next innovative product that creates new consumer demand and builds market share. Due to the continued exponential growth of online consumer purchase activity, there is a wider product variety of products than ever before. The growth of online sales has created the expectation among consumers that the next hot product can be manufactured and shipped immediately. A company’s ability to embrace these demand shifts quickly and adapt to changing consumer needs is a major competitive advantage. However, a company must also consider the costs associated with being reactive to these rapidly evolving consumer demand trends. The product development strategy of Design for Manufacturing is an effective method for not only reducing time and resources required during the product development phase, but eliminating Supply Chain costs when product development is complete and transitioned into the production phase. Design for Manufacturing is the process of designing products that are easy and cost effective to manufacture. By adopting this product development strategy, any company can put itself in a position to be competitive and consistently launch innovative products while avoiding unnecessary operational costs.
Challenges with Complex Designs
Products with a unique design can bring challenges and sometimes have a negative impact on the manufacturability of the product. Research has shown that brining innovative products to market quickly can be expensive if a company does not have agile manufacturing processes and supply partners in place that are capable of supporting frequent design changes. Often times, a company’s engineering team will unknowingly choose to design a product that requires components with uncommon material, non-standard size dimensions, or technologies that are difficult or expensive to source. In this case, a common solution would be to purchase new tooling and equipment to manufacture the new component, which can create unnecessary costs that could have been avoided in the first place if the product was designed for manufacturing early on. In our experience, many leading companies have involved manufacturing professionals and suppliers early on in the product development process but company’s supply chain operations could greatly benefit commercially from involving supply chain professionals in these same product ideation meetings day one.
Benefits of Design for Manufacturing
Building collaborative cross-functional relationships with the Product Design, Engineering, Supply Chain, Marketing, and Sales teams early in the product conceptualization phase pays dividends for ultimate product marketplace success. It is much more efficient and profitable to have a design for manufacturing process in place when developing new products than to design a superior product, and underestimate supply chain capabilities and constraints by treating them as an afterthought. This should not be confused with cutting corners by designing undesirable lower cost products with low quality standards, but instead, implementing a strategy to design products that exceed customer expectations. Proper design for manufacturing processes should proactively aid in streamlining the production process, prevent manufacturing delays, and avoid costs that can impair a company’s competitive advantage. By following a list of principles and utilizing tools like decision matrices, linear regression models, and return on investment analysis in the product design process, a company can assess the financial impact for multiple design scenarios, eliminate unnecessary time and waste from its overall product launch process, and execute a prompt go-to market strategy.
It is important to offer a unique and valuable product that sets your company apart from the competition, but you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. It is all too common that suppliers are an untapped resource during the product development phase. Supply partners can be a valuable asset by offering recommendations for design improvements that address market needs and maximize profits in the future when your company scales and begins manufacturing your product in larger volumes. Leverage supply partner expertise as they are very likely to offer a more cost effective component that closely matches your requirements if you are willing to modify your product design. Flexible product designs are often times the key to maximizing profits in a new product launch. Supply Chain professionals should play an active role in these early product design commercial exchanges between engineering teams and supply partners to broker win-win future supply opportunities and reduce future supply risk.
In order to launch a product that has the highest possible percentage success rate of consumer acceptance, your company should collaborate with highly qualified supply chain professionals and supply partners to fully understand the capabilities of the specific manufacturing processes that your components will require and utilize their expertise along with your own analysis to determine the most profitable product design. The heart of any design for manufacturing system is the alignment of a strategy between the Product Design, Engineering, Supply Chain, Marketing, and Sales teams to develop a group of design principles or guidelines that are structured to help the cross-functional team reduce the cost and difficulty of manufacturing the end product. While it is critical to continuously shorten product design cycles to bring new technologies to market as quick as possible, it is equally as important to institutionalize a true cross-functional design for manufacturing process to ensure products are manufactured at a reasonable cost and quality level that drives company profitability.