Help Your Customers’ Engineers, Help Your Shop

One way to build customer relationships is by clearly demonstrating how your design-for-manufacturability advice is helping your customers’ engineers.

We’ve essentially reached a point where the ability to machine parts to specification and deliver them on time to customers is a given. They’re expecting more, but that expectation creates an opportunity. If your shop can provide the type of added value your customers value, there’s a better chance that you can secure long-term relationships with them, serving more as an extension of their operation than just a machining vendor.

One helpful capability shops can provide is design for manufacturability (DFM) advice on suggested changes to the design of machined parts and assemblies that will make them easier and less expensive to produce. DFM is becoming increasingly important as more companies look to outsource their machining work. In these cases, their product-design engineers don’t have access to internal manufacturing engineers who can suggest ways that new designs can be modified to facilitate production.

For example, designers might call for component tolerances that are overly precise. While an assembly might have a variety of components, there might be only one or two interfaces that require very tight tolerances. Similarly, changes to part materials that are easier to machine can also facilitate production and reduce overall costs.

Many shops base their DFM changes on their extensive machining experience, while others are bolstering their own engineering staff to help in that regard. In a story I wrote for our August issue, I highlight how Parametric USA (Santa Clara, California) is leveraging finite element analysis (FEA) as a means to provide a more sophisticated level of DFM consultation for its customers. The goal is not just to refine customers’ new-product designs to speed, simplify and lower the cost of machining work, but also to build solid, long-term relationships with its customers’ engineers.

To that end, Parametric USA creates summary infographics for those engineers that quantify how their efforts in streamlining part designs via DFM have saved their companies time and money on various projects. The shop encourages them to share this information with their managers. This gives the engineers personal wins in their workplaces by clearly demonstrating their added value while providing leverage in negotiating higher wages, earning more respect within their companies and so on. As a result, those engineers are more likely to approach the shop early in a new-product design cycle and recommend to other engineers that they tap the shop’s machining and DFM services.

In the end, these relatively simple efforts can result in a win-win-win situation for your customers, your customers’ engineers and you.