We often have to ask ourselves a vital question: Is this design production ready? The production readiness, or manufacturability, of a product is where the rubber meets the road in product development. The design first has to meet the intended objectives and be something that is worth building. But if it can’t be built efficiently and at good margins, why build it at all? The goal of developing and launching new products is to grow your company by meeting a market or customer need. Delivering a solution that is cost-effective to manufacture is vital to the success of product design.
Can you make it outside of the lab?
When asked if a design is finished, design engineers often say, “Yeah, the design is done and it’s working well.” This often means: “I can build five in the lab, they cost three times what they should, and I’m not sure anyone else could make one… But this thing is cool and it works great.” Once a design is finalized functionally, a new stage in the design process kicks off: Manufacturability. This process doesn’t have to be complicated. Utilizing a few key practices can greatly improve the ability of a design team to deliver products that can be manufactured efficiently. Here are a few simple steps that are often overlooked:
- Establish manufacturing cost, efficiency and yield goals.
- Review the design and build sequence with process owners to take advantage of their hands-on knowledge.
- Utilize high skill level production personnel for a pilot build and cover the build with engineering personnel. It is vital that members of the design team work hand-in-hand with actual operators and process engineers.
- Analyze the pilot build and tweak the design and equipment as needed.
- Iterate this process until it’s optimized and goals are met.
Top line versus bottom line
Don’t fall into the trap of designing for the Top Line if the deliverable is going to negatively affect the Bottom Line. The best product designs start with manufacturability as a key consideration in the mind of all involved in the design process. If you keep the end game at the heart of the design process from the beginning, the end product will be something great that can be greatly made. Good margins fund future developments and growth; if you can’t make it, you can’t sell it. And if it can’t be made at good margins, then it’s not worth selling in the first place.