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Deploying Design Excellence

Product and process design drive an organization’s cost structure and long-term productivity. A simple design will take less time to build and will have higher quality and lower cost than a more complicated one. This will make it more competitive. As an example, I worked for a European manufacturer of direct current motors that turned the read-write head of computer disc drives. Our competitors were in Japan and the United States. Each competitor developed a different design solution to meet customer requirements. The European manufacturer’s motor had a plastic cooling fan glued to one end. The U.S. version had the fan screwed onto the end of the motor. In contrast, the Japanese left the fan off the motor entirely as it was not needed. A braking mechanism was also applied to the motor housing to reduce its speed. The braking effectiveness relied on the housing’s surface finish or roughness. The European manufacturer’s design could not consistently match the surface finish (surface roughness) requirements. Their solution was to polish the motor housing. This rework process contributed to rusting of the housing. The U.S. and Japanese manufacturers met the surface finish requirements of the customer, and their housing did not require refinishing. The relative quality was highest for the Japanese motor, and the European manufacturer had the poorest quality. The Japanese also had the lowest cost, whereas the

European manufacturer had the highest. Over time, the European manufacturer was forced out of the market, and the Japanese firm dominated it. The problem was poor communication within the European manufacturer’s organization. As an example, there were three versions of the motor design. The European manufacturer had the most recent design drawings, our U.S. assembly operation had an older version, and the customer had an even older version of the motor design. This situation was completely unnecessary because the European manufacturer was first to market with their motor.

Design simplicity enables process simplicity and easier communication between customers, producers, and suppliers. Effective product and service design is important because most of a product’s total life cycle cost is committed at the design stage. In addition to cost, time to market is critical for success in many industries. As an example, in electronic manufacturing, the first company to market achieves approximately 70% of the market share for the life of the product, with the other 30% of the market share going to competitors arriving later. The early entrant then can scale production and reduce costs more efficiently than latter entrants, resulting in higher profits.

I was also involved in a design project to develop the high-volume manufacturing application of a specialty adhesive. This adhesive eliminated several manufacturing operations and components. It also introduced a unique and exciting modification to the product design with a potential to increase market share. But the technology was so revolutionary and expensive that, by the time manufacturing prototypes were produced, it was found that the product performance of laboratory samples in the field were marginal and solutions would require higher materials costs. The design simplicity was offset by high process complexity. Groupthink pushed the project forward and its manufacturing process was deployed to several facilities. The project came to a halt only when it was found that, under higher heat manufacturing conditions, the adhesive and component could not be removed from their mold. This situation necessitated the older process be immediately implemented and the new design be halted.

The tools and methods of Design Excellence bring customers and project teams together to prevent poor design practices and behaviors such as that one. Failing to employ best-in-class design principles will result in a non-competitive position. Organizations need to create effective design strategies and execute them for efficient operations.

There are several steps organizations should also take to improve design practices. The first is to incorporate a customer’s requirements early in the design process. Quality function deployment (QFD) helps capture the VOC and align it with the VOB. QFD incorporates key design features and functions related to features and functions. These impact a design’s reliability, maintainability, serviceability, ease of assembly and disassembly, customer usability, how well it can be installed at a customer’s location, its upgradeability, availability, disposability at the end of its life cycle, and the ability to recycle it if necessary. In the second step, a design team is assembled and managed using concurrent engineering methods. The team’s performance is measured using appropriate criteria. These enable the team to meet customer performance requirements and other requirements on schedule and on budget. In the fourth step, design alternatives are selected using effective brainstorming and prioritization methods such as analytical hierarchy process and Pugh matrix methods. These prioritization tools will be discussed in Chapter 4. The final design alternative is the one that embodies the best features and functions of the initial designs.

Integral to the development of design alternatives is consideration of how the production process will be impacted by the final design. Design- for-Manufacturing (DFM) tools and methods are used to simplify and mistake-proof product designs. It is important to consider costs and performance over the total life cycle (i.e., from the time of manufacture, use by customers, service by field technicians, and eventual disposal). DFM will be discussed with examples in Chapter 4.

The final design is tested under expected customer use conditions. Some important analytical tools used for these evaluations are statistically based experiments that help build models to describe the effects of changing levels of KPIVs on the KPOVs to find the best combination of variable levels that meet performance targets. This design strategy helps ensure the final design configuration will optimally perform under all expected environmental and customer use conditions.

In subsequent steps, the design is progressively fine-tuned and evaluated for failure and risk using a failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA), reliability testing, and other evaluative methods. FMEA is a structured brainstorming method to help analyze the ways in which products or services can fail. In an FMEA analysis, KPOVs (outputs or customer performance measures), failure modes, and the causes for failure are methodically evaluated, scored, and prioritized to reduce risk. Countermeasures are placed against each failure mode to reduce its occurrence and to improve the ability of the measurement system to detect the failure mode if it should occur. Reliability testing is also used to predict the likelihood of a design to continue performing over an extend time. After full performance evaluations, the original design is modified to ensure it meets requirements. After the capability of a design is verified, it is formally transferred to production. During the design phase, the concurrent engineering team will have been communicating to the production team to ensure alignment.

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