Role of the ME – DFMA Feedback
Last week, we outlined the vast responsibilities of the Modern Manufacturing Engineer. In this article, we will review a specific and critical role for the Modern ME: Design for Manufacturing Feedback.
Summarizing the Modern ME Roles
- Provide Design for Manufacturing Feedback
- Support Strategic Sourcing
- Repair Existing Processes
- Improve Existing Processes
- Deliver New Processes
- Design New Processes
Design for Manufacturing or Assembly (DFMA) Feedback
DFMA primarily focuses on the future – product & processes. Many organizations get the manufacturing engineering team involved in the early stages of product development. Your involvement can be critical because after new products are sold to a customer, and delivery dates agreed upon execution will be critical. If the design is not feasible for the manufacturing or assembly of the product, the impact on the organization will be widespread and harmful to the company’s reputation, profits, and future business. Your process knowledge feedback during design can play a critical role in ensuring the designer’s design a product capable of being produced repeatably. Below are five key areas to focus on when tasked with DFMA.
- Best Practices
- Part Tolerancing
- Assembly Compliance
- Minimal Assembly Steps
- Commonizing Components (fasteners, similar parts, etc.)
If you have the experience, then you know some best practices. If you lack experience, look around your facility or industry for examples of similar products or processes to reference for your application. It has likely been done before. Many alternative methods exist, but all will be variations of the past strategies. It is essential to recognize that every situation does not call for reinventing the wheel.
- Seek advice from senior engineers, line operators, and others that have been involved in the manufacturing processes in which you are identifying best practice examples. In my experience, companies manufacturing companies have years of experienced people that are rarely asked to share their opinion or asked for feedback on applications. The people that do it every day are the first people we should seek out for advice on the new product.
- Look to other industries for examples of similar processes. The internet has opened up vast amounts of knowledge from different industries around the world. Also, utilize LinkedIn to connect with engineers from other industries to share best practices and ask questions. If you are a professional, you will do whatever necessary to gather the information to help your company succeed in the launch of the next generation product.
- Ask industry and process specific experts for examples and feedback. Sales representatives see more process applications in a week than we will see in a year. They are often an untapped reservoir of knowledge that can help identify potential issues with a new design. Utilize the proper NDA and get them involved to help your company design a better product.
The sooner the manufacturing or process engineer can get involved in the review of new product design, the better because they have the experience that could save millions. Too often, we see companies that have developed silos or fiefdoms unwilling to seek input from other disciplines within the organization. Design engineers seem to have a different set of priorities and timelines when it comes to finalizing the design of a product. Working together with the product design group will help to eliminate the silos that often develop. Want to make a better product? Ask the people that have been there and done that. I do have a word of caution, sometimes the been there, done that crew will be incapable of seeing a new way or new design. The design engineer’s job at that point is to get them excited about the new design, the benefits to the customer, and the benefits to the company. The mission should be to work together to build a better mousetrap versus resisting change at all costs.