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How to Design Products with Operations Management in Mind

A large part of a product’s cost to manufacture is determined by the product design itself. The design affects operations and determines how many components make up the product and dictates how these components must work together to provide the product’s necessary functionality. Consider using some of these design techniques that successful firms use when developing products.

Long ago, product designers developed new products without any input from manufacturing engineers. This “throw it over the wall” approach often resulted in designs that were difficult to manufacture and that incurred higher-than-necessary production costs.

Most firms now participate in concurrent engineering, which brings product design and process design personnel together early in the design phase. This allows manufacturing to have input into the design and to make suggestions on how best to design a product that minimizes production costs. This meeting of the product and process design minds is commonly referred to as design for manufacturing (DFM).

The DFM revolution has led to the design for revolution. Following on the heels of DFM, every aspect of the product is considered in the design, and this generates a sea of DFXs — you fill in the X. Here are some examples:

  • Design for assembly (DFA): This is similar to DFM and focuses solely on how to design for ease of assembly and for reduced assembly time. Accomplish this by designing a product with few parts and by making the interface among the components simple, such as designing snap-together parts rather than parts that have to be bolted together.

  • Design for logistics (DFL): This involves designing a product for ease of transporting from manufacturing to the customer. With rising transportation costs, the importance of DFL is only increasing. Utilizing DFL, companies design and package products to minimize the space required to ship.

  • Design for sustainability: Companies now design products with the product’s end of life in mind. Environmental concerns are forcing designers to consider how a product can be reused or recycled. Examples include designing an ink cartridge that can be easily refilled and incorporating biodegradable materials into the product.

  • Design for service: Throughout their life cycle, many products need to be serviced or repaired. Depending on how components are placed in the design, they can be easy or difficult to access when service is needed.

  • Design for reliability/quality (DFR, DFQ): Quality doesn’t just happen, and it’s not solely the responsibility of manufacturing. DFQ recognizes that quality starts in the product’s design.

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