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When it comes to optimizing the manufacturing and assembly of a product, it's important to have the right design consultancy on your side. At Mindsailors, we help our clients do just that—with our team of experts in design for manufacturing and production line optimisation, we can help you streamline your process and save money. In this blog post, I'll be explaining some basic terminology and concepts about manufacturing and design, as well as how our team can help you review your production line or product design. So whether you're looking to upgrade an existing product or want to ensure a smooth production process from start to finish, Mindsailors is here to help.

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WHAT IS DESIGN FOR MANUFACTURING (DFM)?

Design for manufacturing is a design philosophy that aims to make the design of a product manufacturable in the most desired manner. Meaning, a product that's designed for manufacturing is designed keeping in mind such aspects like production costs, assembly difficulty, using readily available technologies and components, etc. This, of course, differs from product to product as some companies might want their products to include custom-made parts, technologies, or materials, but usually that's not the case. When designing for manufacturability, it's important to keep in mind both the technical and economic constraints of manufacturing.

Although this may sound simple, it never is. There are many factors, and every single step of designing a product and committing to a manufacturing line, that may cause problems or might even be accidentally omitted if the team responsible for the DFM process does not have the required experience, like using outdated components or technologies, or even using over-the-top components or rare technologies (with expensive vendors). The biggest challenge for the DFM process, though, is usually a poor initial design. One that might be designed with no consideration for manufacturing whatsoever, which forces the engineers performing the DFM process to redesign the product as a whole, instead of just adjusting the design details for manufacturing purposes.

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WHAT IS A PRODUCTION LINE AND WHAT DOES IT DO?

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A production line is a set of machines and tools that are used to create a product. The line begins with the raw materials and ends with the finished product or an assembly line, where parts are assembled into the final product. In many cases, parts made on the production line are then transported to a different facility for assembly. Most of the time, the machines on the line are set up in a certain order so that the product can be made as quickly as possible.

Although this process is always carefully designed, due to its complexity, it is not always optimal. Optimal means it might perform faster, be cheaper, or have better quality, once reviewed for optimization. It is crucial to understand that while major optimisation efforts can usually take place once or twice in a production line's lifetime, constant optimisation of details is necessary in every production line.

 

WHAT IS A PRODUCTION LINE REVIEW AND AN ASSEMBLY LINE REVIEW?

It is important to understand that we do not interfere with the production process—each production line should have its own process engineers specialized in optimizing the process itself. So, when reviewing a production line, we move within the frame of the process in place. Within that horizon, we consider every link in the production chain as well as the overall concept for the production line, e.g., on the detailed level, one of the things we look at is the possibility to simplify tools, while on the broad perspective, we examine the technologies used and see if perhaps there are more suitable technologies on the market.

Optimizing a production line may, in extreme cases, necessitate inspecting vendor companies and how they meet their obligations, but this rarely occurs. A lot more often, we need to look at production volume and how the production line is on par with business expectations.

A production line review also looks at the assembly process. This might lead to coming up with more efficient solutions for the assembly line, like designing new assembly tools or accessories, but it may also lead to the conclusion of a necessary product redesign. Sometimes you can tell a production line should be performing better, but the core of the problem is not in the production line itself, but in the product design. Performing a production line and assembly line review can help identify and accurately describe design issues to be tackled by the design team.

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WHAT IS A PRODUCT DESIGN REVIEW?

A product design review is a process by which we analyze and evaluate the design of a product. We look at things like the form and function of the product, how well it meets the needs of the customer, and how feasible it is to manufacture and assemble. This process helps us to identify areas where we can improve the design of the product and make it easier to manufacture.

Mostly, though, it focuses on the technical aspects of the design. We inspect materials and components used for price, function, availability, quality, and sustainability. We inspect the mechanical design for e.g. the number of parts necessary, parts complexity, and assembly difficulty. We research alternative solutions to the ones incorporated in the initial design. It is often that a design is not faulty itself, but for example, new technologies have been made more available since its initial introduction. It is important to remember that a good design rarely stays good these days, as even the simplest of products tend to be complex or elaborate in their design. Not only do manufacturing technologies change, but also new production materials are popping up on a regular basis, as well as, of course, updated PCB components.

Even if your first design was the best it could be at the time, you should look for new ways to manufacture it in the present, new materials to make it out of, or new ways to put it together.

 

HOW CAN A PRODUCT REVIEW OR A PRODUCTION LINE REVIEW BENEFIT YOUR COMPANY?

The most obvious reason why a production line review or a product design review can help you is that it can save you money. That comes to mind every time a company can see something's not quite right. That is true, but what isn't so obvious is that often it's also the case when everything seems just right. Even with well-established solutions, we frequently find room to innovate or optimize when working on our clients' products.

Some companies are used to "how things have always been" with a product and are in turn blind to the fact that optimizing a design and a production line is a constant effort. Every now and then, someone develops a new material, a new tool, or a new technology that can help you increase your profit, save time on assembly, or improve the quality of your product. What we learned is that it's crucial to have experienced and skilled engineers or vendors who can spot a space for improvement and pair them with a design team who can approach this space creatively and squeeze the most out of it.

In the end an up-to-date product is a product that remains up-to-date in your clients' minds. Every company's dream is to deliver products with such qualities, that when a new competitor appears on the market, their clients aren't happy to feel "a breath of fresh air" and immediately switch companies. Form follows function, and the demand for a product is often dictated by price. You should constantly work on all three of those aspects by cultivating a habit of periodical production line reviews and product design reviews.

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CONTACT MINDSAILORS IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO REVIEW YOUR PRODUCT DESIGN OR PRODUCTION LINE

If you're looking for a product design company that can help you optimize your production line and assembly line, then look no further than Mindsailors. We offer a range of industrial design services that can help you improve your product design and make your production process more efficient. You can contact us directly from our website.

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