If you want to take cost and complexity out of your products, a design-for-manufacturing-and-assembly (DFMA) analysis can help. But at what point in the product development cycle should you apply that analysis?
The earlier the better, judging from the 2006 Design For Manufacture and Assembly Forum held by last month by Boothroyd-Dewhurst. The forum featured detailed presentations on the DFMA efforts undertaken by OEMs both small and large--with the latter category well represented by Boeing, General Dynamics, Harley Davidson, and John Deere.
As different as the individual presentations were, one recurring theme emerged: Implement DFMA as early as possible in the design cycle to get the big reductions in cost and improvements in product quality. Sounds obvious, but it's sometimes easier said than done.
Consider the forum's most popular presentation, the one given by John Allen of Celestica Corporation, a large electronics manufacturing service (EMS) with more than 200 OEM customers. Allen notes that EMS companies have not traditionally been brought into the OEM design cycles until mechanical assemblies reached the physical prototype stage. "EMS providers, considered primarily as assembly houses," have traditionally been brought into the picture late in the design cycle," he says.
Even at this point, though, DFMA is worth the effort since it can flag "potential assembly difficulties prior to production," Allen explains.
But to get even more out of DFMA, Celestica has recently developed the capability to offer it much earlier in the design cycle, long before physical prototypes have been built.To do so, the company adopted software tools and techniques that enable DFMA reviews based on design data. Allen identified Boothroyd-Dewhurst's DFMA software as playing an important role in the early-stage reviews, but adds that Celestica also developed its own methods for managing the disparate CAD data from its many OEM customers and for automatically generating DFMA reports for its customers.
Electronics manufacturing isn't the only industry where some of DFMA responsibilities have diffused through the supply base. John Gilligan, Boothroyd Dewhurst's president, notices a similar trend taking place in the automotive industry. "It used to be that we'd have presenters from each of the automotive OEMs," he says. "But now you see more from the Tier One suppliers because they're responsible for an increasing amount of design work." This forum, for example, included presentations on how Borg Warner links DFMA to its other analysis tools and how TRW Automotive uses DFMA to help understand the cost structure of its products.
For more information on Boothroyd-Dewhurst's 2006 DFMA Forum. Printed versions of all the papers are available at the site for $95 dollars.