UK manufacturers are used to working in competitive markets as a result of Political events at home and overseas the UK faces a period of economic uncertainty. It looks likely businesses will see raw material and component costs rise and the challenge will be delivering the same high quality products at a price the customer will pay. Optimising product design for manufacture and assembly is a key contributor to managing costs and gaining a competitive edge.
As a manufacturer of machined aluminium parts we encourage our customers to involve us early in the design process. It is well known that, although design costs consume approximately 20% of the total budget for a new project, typically 80% of manufacturing costs are determined by the design of the product1. However, the days of product design taking place in a vacuum are long gone! Concurrent Engineering, a method of designing and developing products, in which the different stages run simultaneously, rather than consecutively, is the key to achieving a design suitable for cost effective manufacture and assembly. Here are a few key points to consider2:-
Simplifying the design
Reducing the number of parts increases the probability of a perfect part, and reduces costs. Fewer fabrication and assembly steps are required which gives the opportunity to integrate processes and reduce lead times.
Standardise and use common parts and materials
To minimise the level of inventory in the system and standardise handling and assembly operations. An example of this in action is the VW Group3 chassis system which is used across a wide range of vehicles. Known as the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB)4 it is the standardisation of vehicle components and production processes and enables different models and brands to run on the same assembly line.
Design for ease of fabrication
Select materials compatible with production processes. Working closely with Procurement colleagues can result in optimum material selection and sourcing at the best price. Design for ease of fixturing and avoid unnecessary part features that involve extra processing effort and/or more complex tooling.
Design for easy and ‘mistake-proof’ assembly
By ensuring that the assembly process is unambiguous. The ideal scenario is components that can only be assembled one way! Threaded fasteners such as screws, nuts and bolts are time consuming to assemble and difficult to automate. It is worth considering the use ‘snap-fit’ attachment methods.
Design for automated production
By ensuring that the product is easily assembled manually. Automated production is less flexible and considerations vary depending on whether flexible robotic assembly or high speed automation is to be used.
As usual we would love to hear what you think? Are you working closely with your designers? Have your raw material and component costs risen since Brexit? Please give us a call on 01865 883508 or e mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Presto Engineering please visit our website here and if you would like to discuss a project with us please call us on 01865 883508 or e mail Julian at email@example.com.
1Claudio Favi, Michele Germani, Marco Mandolim, 2016. Design for Manufacturing and Assembly vs. Design to cost: toward a multi-objective approach for decision-making strategies during conceptual design of complex products. [pdf] Available at: http://ac.els-cdn.com/S2212827116305741/1-s2.0-S2212827116305741-main.pdf?_tid=18f28f0a-ed44-11e6-a391-00000aab0f27&acdnat=1486478921_9a20816b1f8c938f9ffd5d9556be447f [Accessed 8 February 2017].
2NPD Solutions, 2014. Design for Manufacturability/Assembly Guidelines. [online] Available at: http://www.npd-solutions.com/dfmguidelines.html [Accessed 8 February 2017].
3Dr James Moultrie, University of Cambridge, 2015. A holistic view of design for manufacture [pdf] Available at:
http://www.ifm.eng.cam.ac.uk/uploads/News/2012/15_Feb_Design_Icons_event_comes_to_IfM/DfMevent15-2-12.pdf [Accessed 8 February 2017].
4Volkswagen UK, 2016. Modular Transverse Matrix MQB [online] Available at http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/technology/modular-transverse-matrix-mqb [Accessed 8 February 2017]