When you have an idea that you believe belongs in the marketplace, what do you do with that knowledge? Do you tell your closest friends? Write it out? Draw a sketch? Do a quick Google search? More importantly, what should you do? What is the process of bringing an idea to market? And what is the process that makes the most sense for you? This is what I am going to cover today bo comparing notes with, engineer, author and design for manufacturing expert, Dennis Shaver.
DFM= Design for Manufacturability
Sure, there are a few routes you can take to bring your idea to fruition, and eventually market, but I am all about efficiency. I want to know what's the most effective, most efficient, most cost-conscious, most time-saving method... and DFM is all of those things.
What does DFM mean for the inventor/creator?
When you are designing for manufacturability, you are beginning with the end in mind.
- You are taking into consideration every element of creation of your idea/product, to understand how you can most effectively build this product.
- You are reducing part production cost, and iteration cost.
- You are identifying flaws early in the process, which is the cheapest time to find flaws and address them.
- Because of this, your development cycle becomes shorter, which reduces the cost of time in, materials, and any other overhead you may have.
Short answer- this design process saves time and money.
What does design have to do with this?
An engineer or industrial designer, can provide quality design and production insight that is limited to the scope of knowledge engineers generally have. You know I always recommend working your strengths and hiring your weaknesses, and in this case: you don't know what you don't know, and that could hurt your design process. An expert can come in and get you brainstorming on elements you hadn't considered, or can get you iterating sketches from angles you didn't think were important. And when you take all of those pieces and put them together pre-production of prototypes or samples, what you will have is a more refined first iteration.
Follow through + Collaboration
If you decide the DFM process is right for you (it probably is) then the next step is to choose the expert or firm you will work with. PSA: Don't pick an engineer or designer with no product design experience. You need someone who will work with you the entire way, and when you get to manufacturing, that person should stick around, in case there is a flaw or something that won't work. They should be reviewing with vendors before the final product file is complete. There have been so many times I've turned over a final file and the manufacturer has come back to me and said something like, "If you just do this, we can reduce the cycle time, which reduces the cost." And we take that knowledge back, and makes those small tweaks, and the result of this process and the result of collaboration is a more refined, higher quality, more cost efficient product.
You have to be open to feedback + change.
The most important is to be open to feedback. Without that, you'll have limited success. You might get lucky and hit the home run, but it's so important to be very open to modifying that idea so it does become successful. And that feedback will come from multiple directions, whether it is marketing, design, engineering, manufacturing... all of those add up to the most important feedback, which is from the end user. I have experienced a number of inventors who have not been flexible and none of those people that I know have gone anywhere with that.
Success is collaborative.
To be successful, so many things have to come together. Design is so important, the research is so important, the intellectual property is so important, the marketing is all important and it's not just one of these being successful, all of these things have to be successful. Don't let fear keep you from iterating and growing what you dream of building. If you can go into this with an open mind and an open heart and be open to growth, the sky is really the limit on where you can go as an inventor.