What to Know About Design for Manufacturing

November 24, 2021

Some of the most innovative, groundbreaking designs never make it to consumers. These ideas fail to become reality when problems arise during the manufacturing process. Even if a manufacturer can build the design, there’s still much to worry about! For example, a design can be considered unsuitable for mass production if it’s unable to be manufactured in a repeatable manner with high enough yield. This is why design for manufacturing (DFM), the practice of optimizing designs for manufacturing and assembly, is crucial in hardware development. Without it, many products would be too difficult or costly to bring alive. Yet, instead of being ingrained in every step of hardware development, DFM is treated as an afterthought. For engineers to iterate faster and better, this mindset needs to change. 

For most teams, the contract manufacturer or the manufacturing team within the organization is in charge of DFM. After reviewing a design, the DFM engineer suggests changes based on the necessary tolerances, processes, and capabilities. These recommendations are meant to accommodate business goals by improving the design’s manufacturability and lowering manufacturing costs. 

However, the revision process is an ongoing negotiation between product engineers and DFM engineers. Product and mechanical engineers design for ideal performance specifications, while DFM engineers focus on the practical specifications of manufacturing. The two need to be synced for a product to be both cost-effective and up to company standards. 

To create that perfect balance, product and DFM engineers must be in constant communication about the design and their preferences. This is easier said than done... 

As with most cross-functional collaboration in the hardware industry, this process primarily takes place over emails and spreadsheets. Each party uses lengthy spreadsheets to list out design issues, screenshots, and feedback responses. Then, they send these spreadsheets back and forth, creating a slow and disorganized flow of information

Communication becomes even more complicated and tedious as additional stakeholders get involved. Product engineers, DFM engineers, and manufacturers aren’t the only parties invested in the design. There are also stakeholders involved on the business side who manage and make high-level decisions for the entire company. Their vision for the product needs to be factored into the equation too. For example, a DFM engineer may want to increase tolerances for a higher yield, while someone from management would rather suffer higher manufacturing costs to deliver a better performing product that aligns closely with the company’s mission. 

In addition to stakeholders in business operations, many big hardware companies will also work with multiple vendors—adding another layer of complexity to DFM. Since these big companies create extremely complex products and sell great numbers of them, multiple vendors are used as a precaution against factory-specific problems. These vendors all have different tools, processes, and capabilities (as talked about in our last blog), and subsequently, will require different updates to the design. They might even have completely contradicting requirements, and it's the engineering team’s responsibility to find a balance. 

DFM is a tricky process between cross-functional stakeholders that’s made harder by outdated systems of communication. Transparency is vital for a healthy compromise between all stakeholders, but it’s difficult to facilitate when stakeholders have different levels of technical knowledge and use different tools. 

Designed to bridge this gap and improve the way engineers approach DFM, Bild is an easy-to-use platform where stakeholders can communicate and review materials. As a central repository of information, Bild allows engineers to effortlessly look back at past builds for information when making important decisions for DFM. 

Bring accessibility and transparency to your team by booking a demo with Bild!