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An important methodology for virtually all companies that create products is design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA). This practice improves the design of components so production costs as little as possible. As DFMA has taken shape over the years, focus has expanded on the delicate balance between serviceability and reliability. Sometimes, optimizing one component of a product can result in another component being degraded.
Most Recent Breakthroughs
Software, electronics and sensors are making their way into the world of product design. New composites, plastics and alloys are replacing traditional metals. Designs are even reducing the carbon footprint of manufacturers, and more products can be recycled when they reach the end of their use.
Some breakthroughs have been software intensive, reducing reliance on outside DFMA consultants. There are also techniques that apply to product redesign and the creation of new products that are more eco-friendly.
The latest DFMA advancements revolve around seven key areas:
- Emerging technology
- Digital innovation
- Moving away from traditional innovation
- Human-centered thinking
- Embracing the tension between old and new
Many markets are being disrupted because they're moving away from traditional models toward those that achieve innovation at a lower cost, since experimentation is becoming more popular. Digital imaging is playing a larger role, as 3-D visual models can easily be transformed into a physical product. Creating a digital image that can generate an accurate prototype and tighten measurements is also more affordable.
Another area of innovation is looking for solutions that work well in developing and economically poor countries, then adding certain capacities that allow companies to move products into the more established economies. Those products tend to target the poorer people living in the first-world economies. This strategy plays an important role in design for manufacturing and assembly in the most affordable way possible. In other words, the people at the "bottom of the economic totem pole" are being targeted instead of more affluent consumers.
The Harvard Business Review suggested in the June 2008 issue that thinking processes should literally start with a blank sheet of paper before deciding the direction a product should take. Everything from human behavior to innovation should be factored into this "from scratch" development process. Human-centered thinking will help realize those specific insights that help produce innovation that focuses more on what consumers demand.
An example of focusing on consumer demand is delivering better sustainability. Customers expect green design in the way of more environmentally friendly materials that don’t sacrifice quality or usability. Twelve S&P Global 100 companies experienced a 91% increase in revenues after increasing their offerings of green product options.
Innovation and the Future of DFMA
Overall, breakthroughs will continue to disrupt many markets, which will have an impact on DFMA practices for years to come. Some of these advances will increase the need for DFMA expertise while, in other ways, they will actually decrease that need.
Sustainability, in particular, will result in design optimization for improved recyclability and environmental impact.
This article originally appeared on the Syrma Technology blog, which can be found here.