Design for manufacture

What is DFM and why is it important?

Design for Manufacture or DFM is a term often banded around by manufacturing companies, but what exactly does it mean? Surely, if you have a design it can then be manufactured? If only life were that simple!

A product starts its life as a concept in the inventor’s head – often when said inventor is doing something completely mundane rather than in forced brainstorming meetings organised by a money-driven CEO. These concepts are often planned around how they will change the world we live in and how rich they could make us, but all too often fail to address whether the product can be made efficiently and at a reasonable cost. The concept design will also almost always fail to consider how annoying and time consuming trying to fit a really fiddly part into an irritatingly small component can be to the individuals actually making this world-beating product.

Design for manufacture, however, is the process of designing parts or whole products with ease of manufacturing in mind; by improving reliability, quality and safety, the end result is a better product manufactured efficiently at a lower cost.

This is exactly why design for manufacturing plays such a key role in the development process, not only in the final product but as an essential step in prototype design.

At what point should design for manufacture be considered?

Of course, the ideal answer is ‘right at the start’ of the process, but this is rarely the case as the inventor usually visualises their device as the equivalent of the iPhone in form and function, even though they are only designing a coffee cup. 

Many years ago, after learning from some fantastic successes, and learning even more from some equally fantastic failures, we developed our Innovation2Income framework to help guide ourselves and our inventor partners through the maze of getting an idea to market as quickly and efficiently as possible. A vital deliverable from this framework is that the product is easily manufacturable; crucial for us as we are usually the ones manufacturing it so if we get it wrong we run the risk of upsetting our own team who don’t hesitate to let us know!

How we incorporate DFM and Agile Manufacturing into our work

It makes no difference whether we are working with individuals, small businesses or multinationals. Their product is the most important thing in the world to them, and that is our driving force as soon as we step in to take their idea or concept to reality. Our team of engineers are remarkably agile in their design approaches but our manufacturing design engineer makes sure that their ideas will not only work on paper but will be easy to manufacture.

We are very fortunate at Morgan to have not only expert research and development engineers but also production and test departments which provide the company with manufacturing, assembly, test and fulfilment capabilities in one building. It is so important to us to consider design for manufacturing that all our engineers spend time manufacturing and assembling the products we make and we always ensure that we invite and incorporate input from production and test throughout the design process.

Design for manufacture is such an integral part of the design process that ignoring it can be costly. Focusing on the manufacturing process early in the design process minimises cost and the time it takes to bring your idea successfully to market.