Editor’s Note: First of all, you may ask yourself, “Why is a 3PL who helps manufacturers with transportation management efficiency be talking about manufacturing efficiency?” Well, I am glad you asked! The reason, is that we don’t only want to provide content about transportation management, although we do right a lot about that, but we also want to give our customers and potential customers, who are primarily manufacturers, other ways they might gain efficiency. This post talks about DFMA (Design for Manufacture and Assembly) analyses as a way to be more efficient as a manufacturer. Efficiency begets costs savings, and let’s be honest, we are all looking for ways to do that! We hope this helps you in that pursuit.
Finding the fastest route between two points is not as easy as it sounds, and in every industry people will argue about the best way to go about achieving this. When you work in a position related to supply-chain management, you have lot of practice in having to constantly watch over every step of the process in an attempt to cut down the time, energy or costs that it takes to make, ship and sell your product. A thorough analysis of Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) is just one tactic you can use to find success within the constructs of the chain. Many businesses are implementing these features, which may seem complicated at first, but really more involves just devoting the time with the end goal of trying to maximize your endeavors.
This post was inspired by the great article we found over at DesignNews titled, “Is DFMA the Way Forward for Reshoring Efforts?” We wanted to see if DFMA could aid in other ways to save on total costs in the supply chain.
There are two types of design that are woven together with a DFMA strategy: manufacture and assembly. Both obviously aim to be as efficient as possible, regardless of how complicated the process may be. Whether a product is primarily put together by machines or by people, the goal is to ensure that labor cost, overhead and materials are reduced as much as possible. In this way, the company can run at higher profit margins while minimizing waste of all kinds. The design is far more important throughout every step, as it is the forethought which prevents mistakes and not the machines themselves. A machine is only as good as the people working with it. The analysis means getting into the nitty gritty and paying attention to every detail, no matter how small you may think it is.
This involves listing out every single component of your product to reduce the cost of your assembly. For example, your couch is made up of springs, fabric, cushions, nuts, bolts and insulation. You start by listing out all of the parts, making sure that each part has a number, then counting the number of parts and the number of interfaces during assembly. The details matter at this point, and one missed step or part can end up costing you money. Breaking things down is not as easy as it looks either, so you have to be as familiar as possible with the entire process before moving forward.
You’ll need to look at how each part is being made to see what kind of improvements can be implemented. For example, you’re developing certain items that can be more easily adapted to the machines you’re using (adjusting shapes or dimensions, etc). Also, if your parts are asymmetrical then need to change them wherever possible to symmetrical-shaped. Or let’s say that you’re currently making a bolt out of one material, but you can manufacture an equally efficient bolt using another quality material which costs less. Threaded fasteners have been shown to cause more warranty repair work done than any other part on Ford cars, so if you do use fasteners on any part of your product then you need to test them thoroughly and really look at the data when it comes to how well they actually work. Even a few cents saved worth of energy or material can mean huge differences when it comes the bottom line. Breakdown the costs of everything that you use to the fraction of a penny if need by, and then see where you can start making cuts.
It would take a little while to learn the formula, which involves finding your Design Functional Analysis Complexity Quotient, but it’s absolutely possible to start this process off by just becoming more aware of everything that’s happening within your supply chain manufacturing and assembly. Even if it seems like the analysis has already been done, and that the system is by no means broken. If you haven’t done the work to learn it all, and are just taking other people’s word for it, then you need to stop. There could be some really amazing opportunities that you’re missing because of all the day-to-day work that inevitably gets in the way. Once you start to make observations, you can start to cut down on both the amount of steps needed to make your product and the amount of materials you’re using.
The US still has outsources a lot of jobs to the dismay of workers everywhere, and unfortunately efforts to reshore many types of assembly jobs have not been quite as fast or as successful as people would have hoped. Becoming more efficient, and doing more with less can be an excellent way to get these efforts back on track so we can start to see that shift. Cutting through the red tape, labor cost and price per part were the main reasons why companies started outsourcing in the first place, but the correct use of DFMA could conceivably change all of that. Using other resources is certainly still within everyone’s capacity, but limiting the amount of outside help we need can only be a boon to our economy and our workforce.
There are very few things being made out there that are actually being done at 100% efficiency, so don’t be quick to think that you can’t benefit from these tactics today. Whether you make something that require 5 parts or 500 parts, the instructions remain the same. Your goal is to reduce at every turn without sacrificing safety or quality.
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