What Is Design for Manufacturing?

Larry Ray Palmer
Larry Ray Palmer
Man holding computer
Man holding computer

In the world of industrial engineering, design for manufacturing (DFM) refers to a method of product design that focuses on how the product will be made. The goal of this engineering method is to produce designs for products that can be quickly and efficiently mass-produced. By improving the manufacturability of a product during the design stage, manufacturers can create products that are more cost-effective to produce and, thus, more profitable.

There are a few basic elements involved in product design for manufacturing projects. Engineers focus on common factors such as component materials, aesthetics, and functionality. In addition to these basic factors, special tooling requirements, production costs, time to market figures, and facility compatibility concerns must be addressed in the design.

In design for manufacturing projects, special tooling requirements is one of the first concerns to be addressed. Product engineers can develop unique ideas, but physically producing the concepts is a different matter. Design for manufacturing products must use existing technology, or special tools must be designed. If the available tools and technology are not up to the task, designing and building new technology may lead to the design being too expensive for the scope of the project. Any special tooling requirements will also require additional staff training for these new tasks, which must be added into the overall production costs of the product.

Another major concern in design for manufacturing product creation is the time to market. This term refers to the time period between the design process through manufacturing up until the product is ready for sale. Delays in manufacturing, sometimes caused by problems with raw material suppliers, equipment malfunction, and design flaws, can create major losses for manufacturers and retailers. Engineers designing new products for mass production must consider the time frame needed for economically viable production and anticipate possible delays.

A common choice in design for manufacturing projects is the use of paired components. Instead of creating similar components that fit only one way, engineers often design dual purpose parts. By doing so, the time to market can be significantly reduced because the parts to make a finished product are ready in half the time of a two-line system. An example of this kind of paired component design would be the top and bottom sections of an attaché case. By using design for manufacturing principles during the engineering phase, the various parts may be identical but can be used in different ways.

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