The Value of Design for Excellence (DfE) During a Global Crisis

The Value of Design for Excellence (DfE) During a Global Crisis

By Wally Thomson, Benchmark

Originally published on Benchmark’s blog

wallyIn my 30+ years in the manufacturing services industry, I have seen varying levels of interest and commitment to the practices of designing for manufacturability, testability, component and quality during the product development process. Different companies and industries may have varying definitions of Design for Excellence (DFX), but in general, it is planning for an optimum production performance during the product development cycle.

In the scope of a large product development project, the investment of time and effort to do a thorough analysis and implement recommendations is a relatively small percentage of the over-all cost, but the payback can be significant.

DFX Makes a Product Resilient

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Benchmark has worked with customers to deal with demand spikes and push-outs as well as identifying a need to realign global supply chains to mitigate risks with shifting and varied public health policies and practices. Products that have been developed implementing strong DFX techniques have proven more resilient during this time.

Here at Benchmark, I currently focus in the area of medical device development and manufacturing. Many of these devices in design and production are complex electro-mechanical systems and often include advanced technology such as opticsfluidics or microelectronics. They are also highly regulated to ensure consistent quality. Making any change to a design or production environment requires analysis and approval to ensure that quality is maintained. Below are some examples of how different areas of DFX can be beneficial in today’s environment.

Design for Manufacturability

Taking time to consider manufacturability during a development project can provide dividends in almost any environment. However, in the event you need to rapidly engage a new manufacturing facility, having a product that meets standard production guidelines will make a huge difference. This would be the case in anything from injection-molded plastics to printed circuit board assemblies.

Not all manufacturing services providers have the same equipment sets and processes in all facilities. In some cases, pushing the edge of technology is what will make your product unique, but it will also limit your supply base. When making design decisions, try to stay within industry standards where possible and only push technology limits in areas that truly differentiate your product.

Design for Testability

Test Strategies can vary drastically depending on the culture of a company. Some invest heavily in multiple levels of automated subsystems and final product testing. Others focus more on product design validation and minimize automated manufacturing test at a subsystem level.

Both have advantages and I won’t make an argument for which decision is better in this discussion. What I will say is that having a documented test strategy and an understanding of test coverage is essential if you need to rapidly bring up a new production facility. Typical automated test equipment can take months to fabricate – even if you are duplicating an existing design.

Having a clearly documented test strategy can allow you to fully understand the impact of excluding specific tests or substituting others. Sometimes this means asking yourself tough questions early in the design process, like: Can you use a flying-probe continuity test in lieu of comprehensive in-circuit board test? If you don’t test a sub-assembly, will any failure be caught in a final system test? Having a comprehensive test strategy and Design for Testability (DFT) analysis from the product design can make these decisions much easier and defendable for deviations required from regulating bodies.

Design for Component

Component selection during product development typically has long-ranging effects on product cost and reliability. Selecting standard components and qualifying multiple suppliers of that component is always preferable but not always practical. With unique components, it is critical to select suppliers that fit well in your supply chain strategy and can build a long-term relationship with your company. Understanding a supplier’s ability to respond to global challenges will help you to prioritize your efforts in managing supply during challenging times. When parts are on allocation, it is critical to be able to leverage relationships to acquire components. This is when supply chain design and management are invaluable.

Future-Proofing Your Design

In summary, there is always value in good design process and practice. Considering how components will be procured, assembled and tested to manufacture your product during the design cycle is a key best practice. And wherever your product is today in the product lifecycle, it is likely that situations will arise that are outside of your control and having a robust design will help you manage your risk more effectively. In today’s environment, the dividends of DFX are invaluable, so consider what these activities can provide for your product.

To learn more about how Benchmark can help optimize your product, contact us.