Editor's Note: This post was updated in July 2021.
Design for manufacturing is the process of designing to account for manufacturing constraints. This design process considers the assembly process, testing, and potential factory constraints in early design stages which helps prevent mistakes and makes the overall manufacturing process more efficient. This is on the radar of every manufacturer seeking to drive efficiencies while delivering higher quality products. Through this practice, R&D and manufacturing engineers are aligned and working collaboratively, helping to eliminate the issues that stand in the way of delivering innovative products to market faster.
By enabling alignment and close collaboration, products are produced the correct way the first time. This leads to:
In a typical manufacturing environment, engineers lack needed visibility into how their designs might impact the manufacturing process and line. Most manufacturers are not involved in the design process which leads to underrepresented production characteristics in engineering decisions. This results in manufacturers incurring extra cost and time, especially in the ramp-up phase and when going to market.
In other words, manufacturing is often hit by surprises with designs that are difficult, time-consuming and/or costly to implement because they can’t access product engineering information early in the process. Complicating matters is that product engineering and manufacturing planning rely on different systems, tools, and file formats. Plus, the serial process of transferring designs to manufacturing differs from plant to plant.
This lack of consistency and interoperability means manufacturing calls upon multiple sources to access needed data, including BOMs (Bills of Materials), CAD (Computer Aided Design) drawings, digital mock-ups (DMU), etc. Without tools that provide a holistic view of these resources, transforming them into an MBOM (Manufacturing Bill of Materials) becomes a frustrating and lengthy exercise.
With each department and plant leveraging individual and isolated processes to create and maintain their deliverables, the result is significant manual work as engineering designs are transferred and translated into manufacturing plans.
The practice of Design for Manufacturing helps address these problems by enabling access to the right data at the right time. It does so by adhering to five key principles:
To satisfy these principles and realize the promise of Design for Manufacturing, manufacturers must be able to manage variants in routings and/or manufacturing methods for the same part or product in different factories. This involves the ability to:
Manufacturers can address all these requirements and comply with all five principles using Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. PLM brings together the two worlds of engineering and production, providing a common view of shared data. More specifically, it connects manufacturing requirements to products, processes and resources and makes them easy to access and visualize.
With the manufacturing process planning capability in PTC’s PLM software, Windchill, manufacturers can create and administer process descriptions in a robust and change-sensitive repository. Process plans, created from an associative manufacturing BOM, provide a view into how a product is assembled (resources and processes). By leveraging 3D and connected data, manufacturing can define and validate processes incorporating options and rules.
With Windchill, manufacturers dramatically reduce time to market as developers reuse previous designs. Manufacturing performance becomes seamless with configuration-specific/plant-specific process plans that include multiple sequences of operations. Planners create optimal flows that improve efficiency, deliver higher quality products with feedback and manufacturability.
Mark Taber is Vice President of Marketing. In his current role, Mark is focused on helping manufacturers drive digital transformation, with a foundation of PLM and the digital thread, within the enterprise and across enterprises.
Mark has more than 30 years of experience working in the areas of process automation, application integration, cyber security, and development. Prior to PTC, Mark was CEO of Active Endpoints (acquired by Informatica), a process automation firm. A graduate of the Wharton School, Mark currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.