The difference between an average product business and a particularly profitable product business isn’t always the end product. Veteran product managers know that the production process and cost have as much to do with profitability as the final delivered product.
But if every product team wants to lower their cost, what is it that sets those profitable projects ahead of the rest? It’s not the intention to cut costs that produces results; it’s the quality of the specific strategies your team implements that determines your outcome.
3 Ways We Reduce Parts Costs
Within the Design for Manufacturing (DFM) framework, engineering goals focus on making the critical manufacturing process more reliable and less expensive to drive profitability.
Your team and any additional consultants should be focusing on reducing part counts by lowering the parts count, reducing the material costs, and improving the assembly process.
Design for Manufacturing Reduces Part Counts
One of the key strategies DFM uses to accomplish lower part costs is by reducing part counts in designs.
Every part requires its own individual steps: unique tooling, multiple fixtures, more individual parts to prototype and manufacture. Each part in a design draws from your existing bandwidth both logistically and financially.
Inversely, every part consolidated in a design removes excess steps, frees up your team’s bandwidth, and accelerates your to-market speed.
That’s why as a team, our engineers are trained to look for opportunities to consolidate part functions. It relies on an extensive knowledge of individual mechanisms, and it’s become a cornerstone of our expertise.
We had one part where we had it in five pieces, and because we were able to develop internal springs, internal latches, internal buttons, we reduced that part down to one injection molded part that folds up, snaps and actually has three different motions going on inside of it.
We can often use our own ingenuity and creativity to simplify the parts that need to be manufactured, or even combine them in a way that you could get many different features and functions out of a single piece of plastic or single piece of metal.
Reducing Material Costs Through Expertise
While you’re working with mechanisms to reduce part counts, you’ll also want to keep an open mind regarding the ideal materials to use in manufacturing.
There is a great deal of nuance in both plastics and metal. Each variation has significant differences as far as their capabilities. Whether it’s heat sensitivity, durability, flexibility - each substance brings with it unique benefits and limitations.
A Design for Manufacturing approach explores these different options with a specific eye on material cost.
When you are able to leverage that expertise in part materials, a few key benefits emerge. You will be in a better position to:
Preemptively anticipate product weaknesses even before testing prototypes
Efficiently improve the performance of your product with innovative materials
Identify capable alternatives that provide cost reducing benefits
The practical end of this is that not every team already has the expertise it needs to productively explore other part materials. If you’re looking to work with a material your team doesn’t have deeper experience with, it may be worth supplementing your team’s resources with an external consultant who specializes in the material you want to use.
Read: Google’s Best Overview of Product Plastics
Reducing Product Costs by Streamlining Assembly
During the assembly stage of your production process, an early emphasis on Design for Engineering enables another way to reduce your parts costs
If you are able to successfully consolidate your part count, you’ll find a smoother, more efficient assembly process.
The first observation is self-evident: less parts equates to less steps, and less steps accomplish a shorter, cheaper assembly stage.
To take things a step further, reducing your part count on the front end also reduces opportunity for mistakes that can happen in the assembly stage. When there are fewer “moving parts” being fastened together, you can enjoy a heightened sense of confidence that the parts going into assembly will result in a reliable product.
Supplementing Your Team’s Resources
Most product engineering teams are already aware of these principles, but it’s the experience and expertise with these principles that makes the difference in outcome.
At Creative Mechanisms, we specialize as a supplemental resource to product teams that need specialized expertise in a specific mechanism like living hinges or a material like ABS plastics.
If you are looking for innovative ways to lower your part count and manufacturing costs, we are available for a free product review to help offer insight that can get and keep your profitable product on track.