Design-Led Manufacturing and Design for Manufacturing; two terms you might hear us use quite frequently. If you’re not as familiar with the concepts as many designers and manufacturers would be, you might think they are one and the same. It’s important to understand the distinction between these concepts and that, in our world, one cannot exist without the other.
What is Design for Manufacturing?
Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is the process of optimising the design of a product to facilitate the quicker, more efficient and cost effective manufacture of a component, part or product. DFM is conducted during the product design phase, whereby designers and engineers take consideration of every element of the production journey to work out the best-practice methods to output the desired product.
It is easier and less expensive to lock-in manufacturing procedures during the design-phase, instead of reactively iterating parts or components of a product post-production. Doing so requires a strong understanding of machinery capability, material tolerances, factory workflow, and staff skills.
The ability to envision the movement of parts through the various elements of production comes with experience and is what makes a good designer great. The goal of any manufacturer should always be for improving efficiencies and one of the most effective ways of doing that is through the principles of DFM.
Often, when this phrase is used it is referring to Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA), a more holistic term for an engineering methodology that intends to optimise time-to-market and limit manufacturing process production costs during early design phases. However, previously, this referred to two distinct practices, DFM and Design for Assembly (DFA). Design for Assembly prioritises the ease of the process of assembling an object, and is concerned with reducing the cost of the assembly process, whereas DFM has a wider focus on concepts such as the parts’ design, and so is able to also reduce the manufacturing cost of the parts themselves.
Why DFM is Beneficial
Cost Efficient – Lower production costs result from products spending less time on the factory floor and less material being used and wasted. The only way to guarantee that is to ensure the manufacturability of parts and components of a product before a piece of material is ever cut.
Reduced Lead Times – When designing with an eye towards manufacturability, one of the main considerations being made is the speed at which a part can be manufactured. Part design as well as production procedure can be closely examined and optimised to increase the rate of production during the design phase.
Higher quality – Design can be refined and enhanced at every stage with an eye towards ensuring the quality of outputs are as desired with as fewer iterations and additional touches as possible.
What is Design-led Manufacturing?
Design-led manufacturing (DLM) does not differ from design for manufacturing, rather it encompasses elements of the product lifecycle beyond production. Design-led manufacturing, most simply put, is the practice of designing-in product attributes for manufacturing that not only improve cost and lead time but also have an effect on the lifetime use of the product.
For instance, design teams that are taking a design-led approach would be balancing the consideration of materials between manufacturability and recyclability, if the target level of service calls for it. It is all about envisioning the product experience you are tasked with delivering and scoping what is needed to deliver the target level of service.
Design-lead manufacturing goes beyond the design requirements of visual appeal and ergonomics. DLM involves the implications on supply chains, the circular economy and effects of global events and shifts. In this sense, it stipulates that manufacturers need to consider design from a much broader context. Where design for manufacturing requires a deep understanding of machinery, processes and staff, DLM calls for a deep understanding of the ecosystem in which a product will be deployed. Who are the users? How will they use the product and how long for? How can the product be integrated with modern systems and what does the products end-of-life look like?
“Investment in and ongoing best practice in professional design today can enable manufacturers to become more competitive, more efficient and more sustainable. More importantly, a design-led manufacturer can grow their export offerings and contribute to a vibrant economy.” Dr. Brandon Gien, Good Design Australia
When it comes to the benefits of design-led manufacturing, it goes beyond cost and time efficiencies and improved quality. The goal of DLM is to develop smarter products with a longer circular life-span that are demanded globally. Overall, increasing the value of the product to more stakeholders.
With that considered, can we differentiate design-led manufacturing and designing for manufacturing? The simple answer is yes; DFM focuses primarily on the manufacturing process, where DLM focuses on the outcome of producing the product and the value it has the potential to deliver. However, it’s imperative to remember that for manufacturers like Black Lab Design, the concept of DFM represents a crucial element of design-led manufacturing and it’s impossible to take a design-led approach without optimising the production process per the principles of design for manufacture.