What is Design for Manufacturing (DFM)?

Written by: Mark Taber

Read Time: 4 min

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. 

Benefits of Design for Manufacturing

By enabling alignment and close collaboration, products are produced the correct way the first time. This leads to:

  • Higher product success rates
  • Reduced lead time 
  • More cost-effective solutions 
  • Transparency in designing and manufacturing 

Why is Design for Manufacturing Important?

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. 

Design for Manufacturing: 5 Key Principles

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:

  1. Easily make decisions in engineering that are supported by manufacturing /operations. Make manufacturing engineering part of the early phases of product development in a structured way. This includes clearly connecting tasks to process, and enabling better information sharing between designers and manufacturing, down to the project and site level. Critical to this is system support for virtual builds or prototypes and for mass customization.
  2. Increase visibility between disciplines, including earlier collaboration and parallel tasks. Reduce lead time and time to production by enabling correct product manufacturing in early design phases. This is made possible through digital mock-ups and connected processes, products, and resources that help drive fact-based decisions.
  3. Streamline BOM transformation between product design and manufacturing planning, including structures, 3D transformations, and configuration logic. Improve traceability and associativity across plant-specific MBOMs, and streamline BOM reconciliation by leveraging plant-specific MBOM associativity and a unified change process. This yields improved reuse across disciplines, and higher product success rates.  
  4. Create a standards-based data exchange between product development and other enterprise systems. This includes systems such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), APS (Advanced Planning and Scheduling), MES (Manufacturing Execution System), QMS (Quality Management System), and manufacturing intelligence systems. By using common and consistent design and parts information across business processes and people, manufacturers can create and manage downstream deliverables such as documents, process plans, and resource instructions, increasing enterprise efficiency and quality.
  5. Unify change management between product and manufacturing engineering. Any change that design engineers make to, for example, a work procedure or replacement part, has a downstream impact on the factory. With greater visibility into the change process, manufacturers can better assess the impact of that change earlier in the process. Optimizing the implementation of that change will greatly reduce the amount of rework and scrap.

Factors that Affect Design for Manufacturing

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:

  • Manage design files, operational data, processes used, parts used, skills used, documents utilized, work instructions for the shop floor, from engineering through production
  • Leverage logic from configurable BOMs when using process planning functionality
  • Support configuration management around manufacturing process planning
  • Support engineering change management in the context of manufacturing planning
  • Integrate with APS, MES, QMS, and manufacturing intelligence systems
  • Support closed-loop manufacturing, for example, by embedding advanced planning and scheduling and manufacturing operations management
  • Simulate different manufacturing methods or routings through manufacturing work centers

The Role of PLM

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. 


Challenges in Design for Manufacturing

Learn how to address them to ensure products are launched without delay in IDC's report. Read Now
Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)

About the Author

Mark Taber

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.