Who Are The New DFM Consultants?

You are. Or, you should be.


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Design for manufacturability is not new. Still, a healthy number of product designers aren’t applying DFM. Truth be told, some of them don’t know diddly about manufacturing or machining. This may be why DFM is undervalued or effectively overlooked these days.

It’s possible that new designers, especially those whose companies outsource most or all of their production work, simply haven’t rubbed elbows with manufacturing-types very often. As a result, they are less likely to have a handle on what modern manufacturing processes can, and more importantly, can’t do. On the other hand, product development cycles have become so compressed that there may not be sufficient time to consider DFM, let alone fully embrace the valuable design discipline.

Regardless, no doubt you’ll continue to be asked to magically create components from time to time that are 1) impossible to machine or 2) impossible to machine at a reasonable cost. Slight design changes would make machining much cheaper in some cases. However, if you’re presented with a component near the end of the product development cycle that would be nasty to machine, it may be too late to integrate your helpful design tweaks.

Two West Coast shops use their Web sites as vehicles to proactively advise customers and prospective clients about designing parts to facilitate machining. One is OMW Corporation in Novato, California. A page on OMW’s Web site offers machining-friendly design tidbits as well as advice about effectively communicating with shops. Joe Osborn, the shop’s owner who created this material, says that Web page has become the prime entry point to his shop’s site. This suggests that there are some designers, or in his case potential new customers, out there Googling for this type of information. He even offers his material in a PDF format so visitors can download and review it.

Pro CNC, located in Bellingham, Washington, has a comparable Web page that’s similarly popular. However, Paul Van Metre, the shop’s president, takes it a step further—he also e-mails a new design tip to customers in a monthly newsletter. The newsletter assists with his sales efforts, too, because it’s a marketing tool that’s perceived as being helpful, not “salesy.”

Culling and presenting this type of information does take some effort. However, there’s value in demonstrating to customers that you are willing and able to work with them to reduce manufacturing costs for new product designs. It goes a long way toward building customer relationships. If, however, you’re worried about possibly insulting your customers’ seasoned designers, don’t be. As Mr. Osborn has found, they appreciate the input—so will the newbie designers out there.