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DFX survey

Some Background

From concept to manufacturing organizations make dozens of decisions that influence product outcome. As noted in the diagram above, making better decisions sooner in the process typically drives better product and lower cost.

Pressure on Design Teams to Act Earlier

Historic product development largely separated later stage decisions from concept and design.  Rather than rework designs based on later decision feedback loops, increasingly direction and responsibility for formerly later decisions is happening as part of the original design phase. An example of ‘old style’ design development would have a design team handing off to other teams like manufacturing, cost, tolerancing, assembly and more. Now design teams are tasked with making sure their conceptual design is practical across all of these later stages – if not already designed for them.

What is DfX?

Design-for-manufacturing or design-for-assembly are not new concepts.  What is new is a body of tools that bring awareness for things like manufacturing and assembly more directly into the original design environment.  What might have formerly been handled by a separate design-for-manufacturing team is now typically handled by a more unified team at earlier and earlier stages of design.

The list of these later-stage design-for- processes is large: Manufacturing, Assembly, Quality, Tolerance, Six-Sigma, Serviceability, Reuse, Recycling, Logistics, Sustainability, Cost…

In the last few years CAD and other software developers have scrambled to provide intelligent tools for these processes.  Some independent software products take CAD files and give feedback on, for example, tolerancing. More and more, these tools are being built into or integrated with CAD environments.  You can now find great design-for-manufacturing or design-for-costing tools.

All of these later-stage design processes have common functionality: they must read and write intelligent CAD data, they must handle a myriad of design ‘rules’ specific to their process or specialty, and typically they must be able to access ‘knowledge-ware’ like costing databases or other data.

The next natural step in engineering software development is to expand the ability of DfX or Design-for-X, where X represents any of these formerly later-stage activities like manufacturing, cost, etc.  Software developers right now are codifying the more common toolsets that span different “X’s” and building better and better ways to capture design ‘rules’ and to build and access knowledge-ware.

You Probably Already Are Doing Some DfX

What if your CAD environment was enhanced so that any number of DfX tools could be invoked at the earliest stages as concepts give way to design?

This is now happening. Similar to how simulation, analysis and other tools are increasingly built into CAD environments, software developers are bringing DfX to CAD. And similar to how initially, for example, simulation specialists needed to impart their smarts into tools more destined for the masses; no doubt DfX specialists will do the same. Also similar to how, for example, early simulation tools were clunky before they got smarter and better, it is likely going to be a while before DfX tools get smarter and better.  No doubt designers and engineers used to handing off later stage decisions to others will also have to adapt.

Why This Survey?

This survey will measure how organizations are moving towards DfX.  Some organizations are already using one or more distinct DfX tools, some none.  Some forward leaning teams are working on integrating various “X’s” into a common environment on their own or with software partners.

Based on various inputs like market survey, internal R&D, customer requests, an organization decides to bring a product to market. The first step of bringing a product to life is design. The design stage is probably the most important stage in the lifecycle of the product.

The design stage also involves the highest commitment to the final cost of the product. Many studies pointed out that while design stage takes a very short period in a product life cycle, it dictates around 70-80% of the product life cycle cost. Organizations have identified that if the product was designed such that it could be manufactured, assembled, serviced with ease, and quality was “built into the product”; then downstream and operational problems could be prevented. This has resulted in the design stage slowly gaining more importance in influencing downstream activities.

With this thought process, various concepts evolved which have guided organizations over time in designing products for ease of manufacturing, having better quality and costing less among others. “Design for manufacturing” (DfM) was one of the foremost among such concepts. Slowly, methods and techniques like Design for Assembly (DfA), Design for Quality (DfQ), Design for Six-Sigma (DfSS), Design for Serviceability, Design for Reuse, Design for Recycling, Design for Logistics (DfL), etc evolved. The recent focus is on Design for Environment or Design for Sustainability.

All these terms can be grouped under a generic name – Design for “X”, where X can be manufacturing, cost, reuse, sustainability, etc. On the other hand, X has also been used to represent excellence (Design for eXcellence). DfX provides means for collecting internal best practices, disseminating information and realizing the implementation of these practices. Design for eXcellence (DfX) is an organized way to systematically address the early involvement.

The objective of this survey is to seek individual feedback on the current DfX processes in organizations and establish a link with DfX process maturity. The questions do not focus on a specific area such as manufacturing or assembly but are generic covering process and framework maturity which may be applied to any and all DfX areas.


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