Improving Design, Manufacturing and Assembly Teamwork


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Many electronics manufacturers tend to compartmentalize or "silo" their departments, such as the design team versus assembly-related functions. Design directly affects them all, which means the costs of manufacturing are ultimately reflections of both the design and engineering methods used to create the products.

Unfortunately, the relationship between design and manufacturing can too often be disconnected or otherwise poor, which stalls productivity and increases bottom-line costs. By identifying and addressing these gaps, this financial hemorrhage can be reduced, and profitability increased. Profitability can grow even more when the design process is as streamlined as possible. By having a specific methodology of principles and steps, the design team can envision a quality product at a lower cost. In turn, this can help the manufacturing department do its job more efficiently as well.

Where are the Disconnects?

When there’s a rift between design and manufacturing, the resulting dysfunction can be crippling. There are usually two root causes:

  • The individuals in these teams aren’t on the same page.
  • There’s a lack of cohesion or mutual respect between workers on the two teams.

A lack of communication and respect can lead to higher costs. If the absence of respect leads to the two departments demeaning each other’s work, the issue can involve much more. Not being confident in one another can lead to quality issues that later translate into a reduction in sales.

When such conflicts occur, it’s best for management not to take sides. When finger-pointing, squabbles and other disagreements come about, it’s time to resolve the underlying issues. While the design department is important to manufacturing and assembly, manufacturing and assembly are likewise vital for bringing the design to life and creating a viable, reliable product.

Even when there’s no outward bickering, not being on the same page can become costly down the line. It’s important for every team member to understand that everyone is working in the overall best interest of the company and that top performance from both teams is necessary. It’s also important for the design team to understand the profound impact the designs have on the costs of manufacturing.

Designers must consider:

  • Very tight tolerances which must be precisely specified.
  • The importance of eliminating the need for revisions because each, in some form, becomes costly.

These two points can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Using a collaborative approach among design, engineering and manufacturing teams can produce valuable innovations, as well as save money. Designers learn to create products that use the least number of parts without sacrificing quality or functionality.

The Solution: Getting and Staying on the Same Page

Through healthy communication and collaboration, superior results can be achieved. It starts with the design team. The following are elements from product conception to incubation that will help streamline the process and increase profitability:

  • Carefully define design requirements with the product team.
  • Develop specifications.
  • Gather market data and review this data with the department so everyone is in the loop.
  • Select the proper technology to complete the design.
  • Determine the most cost-effective and efficient route to achieve the design.
  • Complete a working prototype.

Once the prototype is perfected, it’s time to get the product ready to be mass produced. This is done by evaluating the design to ensure it’s ready for flexible-volume production. Identifying potential assembly problems and eliminating them from the start saves time, which ultimately saves money.

In the end, it’s all about streamlining the process from the very start. Departments must communicate, work together and respect one another’s roles. The design team has a lot of pressure placed on it because it’s up to them to ensure the manufacturing process is structured around maximum efficiency. This keeps the manufacturing department running as smoothly as possible, while they in turn will become more confident in the work completed by design. With that level of teamwork, you can drive down costs beyond the cost savings achieved in a methodical and well-thought-out design process.

This article originally appeared on the Syrma Technology blog, which can be found here.

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