Engineers working around a table

Product Design Engineering: Practices To Love And Practices To Leave Behind

Do you want your customers to love your products or leave them behind? The answer is obviously the former — so what are you doing to foster that love?

Original equipment manufacturers may seek contract manufacturing partners for outsourced manufacturing work to create better, more affordable products or to maintain legacy products without sacrificing equipment and labor on less profitable product lines.

OEMs partnering with a contract manufacturing service provider should do everything possible to ensure their clients continue to love their products.

Whether you’re considering a contract manufacturing solution or looking to improve your in-house processes, we offer you some OEM product design engineering best practices to love and bad habits to leave behind.

Love: More Communication
OEM product design engineering is a multidisciplinary effort, requiring a cohesive mind-meld between engineers, industrial designers, management, manufacturing experts and product designers to get an idea that has legs strong enough to move forward. Because of the lengthy and often fragmented nature of product design, communication between everyone who needs to be involved in the process frequently gets restrained.

Successful manufacturers ensure the right people have enough opportunity to collaborate together on product design.

Any time you’re outsourcing work to a contract manufacturer, also consider how well that team communicates with you and amongst itself. Look for a partner that’s open and honest about their business. Ask about ISO 9001:2008 certification – if their certification is tenuous, look elsewhere for a partner.

To create an effective and agile design and manufacturing environment, you need a unified framework for encapsulating best practices, both formal, such as ISO 9001:2008, and informal, such as a culture of robust communication.

Love: Commitment To Continuous Improvement
Being lean is all about continuous improvement. As an OEM, you’ve likely implemented some lean manufacturing principles into your operation. But continuous improvement, by nature, isn’t a one-and-done process; it’s not a trophy you get to rest on your mantle.

Lean doesn’t just mean finding new ways to shave time from your production cycle and streamline product design — lean principles should be broadly applied to every aspect of your business, from the shop floor to the accounting office. Remember, running a lean office reduces overhead costs and ensures your entire company is focused on efficient operations and bottom-line profitability.

Top management and leadership teams should spearhead corporate goals for improved design practices that embrace a lean, continuous improvement philosophy. Sometimes, the leanest path for OEMs is to outsource some of their products to a contract manufacturer.

Love: Mindfully Innovating
Smart companies are careful not to innovate for innovation’s sake. The urge to come up with new designs and different ways to do things is insatiable, but it’s important to adopt formal product realization processes, including the development of metrics and key performance indicators to measure progress toward goals.

Mindfully innovating means keeping lean manufacturing and continuous improvement in mind every step of the way. Whether you’re partnering with a contract manufacturer or doing all product design engineering in-house, be aware of opportunities to identify and eliminate wasteful elements in the process.

As you innovate and try new processes to manufacture smarter, avoid repeating past mistakes by standardizing the most efficient design elements and manufacturing processes. This way, when problems arise, they are identified and corrected swiftly.

Now you know what to love about smart manufacturing, but here’s what to watch out for and ultimately leave behind.

Leave: Poor Quality Of Execution
In any phase of product design engineering, you must be aware of all aspects of product development and rectify shortcomings. Project execution falters when “new product development processes are deficient, omitted, ignored or erroneous,” according to Best Practices For New Product Development, a whitepaper by Stanski Consulting & Ventures. If you’re omitting any step of the product development process, there has to be a clear, demonstrable reason for doing so.

Leave: Moving Too Quickly To Market
Stanski puts it simply: Taking shortcuts to save time creates errors. When you cut corners, mistakes are made, vital processes are overlooked and the project moves off target. And when this happens, parts of the manufacturing process must be repeated, which costs time and money.

Avoid potential problems with your in-house or contract manufacturing service by taking the time to make sure you’re not overlooking a vital process for the sake of moving to market quickly.

Leave: Not Defining Customers’ Expectations
Manufacturers need to know who their customers are and what they want. This means clearly defining customers’ expectations and proactively managing them. If you don’t do the upfront work to define customer expectations, it puts your customer loyalty at risk. If you don’t deliver on their expectations, they won’t come back to do business with you.

Communication is critical for success in all industries, but in the product design engineering phase of manufacturing, making sure the right people are talking and collaborating defines the success of your endeavor, especially if you outsource your manufacturing work.