The fact that manufacturing is involved in material choice is not so surprising to me. Generally, they will know better than the design department what materials are easier to machine than others (SS303 vs SS316).
The designer who does not consult with the manufacturing department is going to run into trouble, one way or another. Cynically, even if the designer has all the information to make the right choice, involving the manufacturing department is a good political move.
Rich, it is good to see that manufacturing is deeply involved in material choice. It was starting to seem that, with all the outsourcing, that this was no longer the case. If a material is diffucult to use in manufacture of the specific part, then the cost estimates will be invalid. Manufacturing can also often make suggestions during design that can streamline the whole process and improve the product.
I agree, TJ. It's not surprising that manufacturing is involved. I'm also not surprised that cost falls as far down the list as this survey suggests. In most cases, engineers have a reponsibility to first find the material that suits the product's needs in terms of quality, performance and reliability. After those requirements are met, then it's time to take a hard look at costs. Manufacturers who don't do it in that order are notorious for producing junk.
The thing that surprised me the most about the study's results was not just inter-departmental cooperation (at least sometimes), but the fact that design engineers said their expertise crosses multiple disciplines--many listed mechanical engineering, manufacturing engineering, materials engineering and/or electromechanical engineering as secondary disciplines--and that they're involved in multiple job functions beyond product or system design, such as R&D, testing and evaluation, and designing equipment for internal use or quality control. The fact that cost is lower on the list than some might have expected may also be related to the fact that the majority of them said they work in demanding application areas where quality, performance, and reliability are musts: industrial machinery, automotive and trucking, medical and healthcare, military/defense, and aerospace.
Cooperation between departments is extremely important.
Recently, I was involved in a materials substitution project for an injection-molded part that reduced cost by 30%, increased strength by a factor of 3, and eliminated a failure mode that was causing both manufacturing turbulence and field complaints. Win-win-win. Best of all, the new material had the same shrink rate as the old material, so it could be used with the existing tooling.
These kinds of opportunities are out there, but it takes everyone working together to identify them, and implement solutions.
It's important to avoid tunnel vision, both departmental ("I don't need to listen to anyone outside my department") and project-based ("I don't have time to think about anything except the project I'm working on right now").
If I may, I would like to extend our discussion to include those materials used for jigs, fixtures and certainly dies. It seems to me, materials used for the products themselves are much better defined and specified in order to accomplish required product life while providing quality and reliability. The biggest problem I run into are those materials used to make the dies and fixtures during the component fabrication process. Very often, product volumes are grossly understated and those "temporary" dies, felt adequate at the time, do not go the distance--at all. This is mostly due to materials used. Granted, materials used for the actual product are more important than those used to make the product but retooling time after time is tremendously expensive and hampers productivity. Just a thought.
Hello Ann, Sorry to be so long in getting back with you on this one. I have been wall-to-wall with project work and my schedule has really been in the tank. On top of that, my system crashed causing a huge problem for me AND my company. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to work with you on this one. I think, since you published the original work, this one should be your post. Be very happy to furnish "my side of the story" though. Take care and just drop me an e-mail at your convenience. Bob J.
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