Life Sciences

DFM Strategies Save Time and Money

05 January 2017

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It is not unusual for top-notch engineering teams to complete the research and development (R&D) phase for their new products, but then find they cannot make the leap into product development (PD). That might be due to staffing, expertise or even time constraints. In such cases, partnering with an expert in design for manufacturability (DFM) can help get those brilliant product ideas off the drawing board and onto a production line.

Prepping a product for manufacturing takes time, effort and experience. Mass production requires that all the components necessary for assembly are easily available. Specifying scarce, rare or unique parts in a prototype may seem acceptable, but to produce large quantities—and be profitable—more mainstream pieces must ultimately be used. Putting a product on the production track too early can also be an expensive mistake, because revisions to ensure manufacturability cost time and money.

Communication with their customers' partners is a characteristic that sets manufacturers—such as MW Industries and its divisions, as well as Economy Spring, specialists in medical solutions—apart from their competitors. The manufacturer has found that regular and honest discussion between parties is the foundation for a successful manufacturing strategy.

For example, Economy Spring assisted with developing numerous components of a new 3 mm laparoscopic device platform for a major OEM. Clear communication to build the device was imperative: initially the manufacturer's involvement comprised three components, two of which were complex assemblies. One assembly led to the development of a completely new heat shrink process. The second assembly had to leave Economy Spring’s factory as a completed, ready-to-use product, suitable to be added to MW Industries' FDA device listing page.

Project management needed to be firmly in place. Weekly conference calls were scheduled for the three components, assuring that engineering, manufacturing and management were on the same page. As the new device project progressed, additional metal components were added to the development bucket. In total, 19 individual components and four complex assemblies were developed for this new device platform. Economy Spring engineers created seven new manufacturing processes and launched a new “state-of-the-art laser cell” that expanded their capabilities. Additionally product-launch timing goals were met.

Products that are designed with the express goal of being manufactured do not just stumble into production. The goal for every business that creates and sells devices should be to design products that are easily and economically manufactured. When an advanced development team includes DFM thinking in its output, the technology proposal is transformed into a cost-efficient and high-value product that can be built quickly and efficiently. A DFM strategy, with the expert guidance of a firm such as Economy Spring, makes it easier for the product development team to take a conceptually proven design and make it actually happen. In fact, sourcing Economy Spring for developmental services at the earliest stages of R&D provides greater opportunity to design components into existing and available materials, thereby saving cost and time.

Not just any team can meet that goal. Team members must be highly technically educated, and preferably have some work history as part of either a product development team or a manufacturing engineering team. This type of experience provides the engineer or designer personal knowledge of the pressures and issues involved with creating and delivering a "manufacturable" design.

Economy Spring headquarters in Connecticut. Economy Spring headquarters in Connecticut. Learning from the Economy Spring example

Partnering with a knowledgeable, experienced team saves the customer money. In this case, the ability to fabricate assemblies and document them in the FDA device listing system reduced the need for additional clean room assembly lines being created at OEM facilities. Because the necessary project management was well established at Economy Spring, the new product development cycle was accelerated, reducing the device launch time by 10 to 12 months. In addition, Economy Springs’s project management eliminated the need to add five new suppliers, which would have required additional validation and quality system audits for OEM-quality system acceptance. Accordingly the cost savings to the OEM are substantial.

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