How Engineers Help Optimize Production

Fostering open lines of communication between engineering and manufacturing is just one way

23 November 2018

For most companies, getting a product from concept to production is a long and winding road. Sometimes that journey is easy while other times it is not. There are countless ways to manage the process. The one goal that every company shares, however, is to get new devices to production quickly and efficiently. Engineers are crucial to guiding the process and ensuring design for manufacturability, which optimizes production and decreases time to market. Ultimately, a streamlined, optimized production process can lead to higher profits.

WHAT GOES INTO OPTIMIZING PRODUCTION?

Here are some ways engineers can improve production time and quality:

  • Design for assembly (DFA): Engineers minimize the number of parts needed for assembly operations. The individual parts tend to be more complex as a result.
  • Design for manufacture (DFM): Engineers focus on reducing the overall cost of part production.
  • Design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA): Combining the two above strategies reduces materials, overhead and labor costs, as well as the product development cycle time.

Product design dictates roughly 70 to 80 percent of price, quality, and cycle time. Some principles that engineers apply to help reduce those factors include:

  • Minimizing part count
  • Designs using self-locating parts, which reduce assembly errors
  • Designing parts with self-fastening features
  • Standardizing parts
  • Encouraging modular design, in which the smaller parts (modules) can be independently created and used in different systems
  • Emphasizing “top-down” assemblies

It is essential for engineers developing an optimization strategy to perform a functional analysis. They must not only identify parts that can be standardized but also determine part count efficiencies. In addition, they must determine which parts are non-essential such as connectors, fasteners, and washers and whether they must be a separate part or if they could be combined with an essential part.

No matter how well the planning process goes, the occasional change will be required. Fostering open lines of communication between engineering and manufacturing is important to create a standardized system for initiating, evaluating, implementing and reviewing manufacturing changes. Formal ways to document and share manufacturing changes helps streamline the change process.

Companies that encourage engineers to work with manufacturing from the early stages quite often find that the strategy prevents costly production reworks. Engineers should share prototypes with manufacturing to learn how they would build them. That's how problems are caught early, before they impact production, saving significant time and money. As a result, top-notch engineers not only design with manufacturability in mind, but they are also acutely aware of the assembly and manufacturing process, helping to ensure optimal production.

Content sponsored by Digi-Key Electronics

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