A Design Engineer’s Perspective on Manufacturability

As a design engineer for more than 25 years, I’ve learned through experience that the best way to protect a new product from risk of failure is through collaboration between the design team and the manufacturing team. Designs can succeed yet the product can still be a failure if it cannot be manufactured. When manufacturability is not considered during the design phase, failures result from high manufacturing costs, low yields or long lead times on critical components.

By nature and by profession, we designers focus on creating elegant designs. Often, our designs are completed then “thrown over the wall” to manufacturing as we move on to the next engineering project. We typically consider challenges that arise during manufacturing to be “manufacturing problems” rather than risks in which we all share. But particularly in today’s economic climate, it’s in every engineer’s best interests to see his or her designs come to fruition and be sold successfully on the market. It’s good for the companies we work for and it’s good for our pay cheques.

We designers can help ensure that this does happen, simply by collaborating with the product’s manufacturing team early in the design process. Adding this step to our process doesn’t have to be cumbersome or terribly time consuming. In fact, we can focus our manufacturing collaboration on three key points:

  • Is this board manufacturable? Has the proper Design for Manufacturability (DFM) review been performed?
  • Do the board(s) and enclosure(s) work together (DFM on a system level)?
  • What can be done to improve the manufacturing economics of the design?

When there’s a gap between design and manufacturing and no one is considering these questions, projects can quickly fall into trouble. When these considerations are made during design, however, the product is more likely to succeed because it will be cheaper to build, will produce better yields and will be turned around faster for the end customer.

At NorthBridge Technology, one of the first questions we ask a new customer is, “Who is your manufacturer and can we collaborate with them?” Another reason to collaborate early is that many EMS providers will not work with SME customers or low-volume products. By addressing manufacturing up front, we can help ensure that our customers are not exposed to these risks. In the end, it’s about empowering designers to make better decisions earlier in the process.

If you have a new product idea, please talk to NorthBridge Technology and/or OCM Manufacturing. Together, we provide turnkey design engineering, manufacturing, assembly and after-market service – and can help to ensure your product’s success.

Andrew Goodwin can be reached at info@northbridgetech.com