DFM means incorporating an understanding of the manufacturing processes into the design of a product, which can reduce costs and time to market. To take it a step further, including inspection methods into the design phase (Design for Inspection, or DFI) can also dramatically reduce costs. In an industry with increased pricing pressures, leveraging design to reduce costs and time to market is smart. Incorporating DFM and DFI is smart design.
Background on Costs and Processes in the Orthopedic Industry
Reducing costs associated with Development and Manufacture of Orthopedic Medical Devices helps companies drive up their margins. Significant pricing pressures exist not just for Trauma and Extremities market segments now but also for the Orthopedic and Spine segments which have always historically had significant margins. In the past, costs may have been a secondary consideration, and OEMs would design products first, then make up for costs in the marketplace.
In addition, the compliance side of the orthopedic industry wasn’t always as challenging as it is today. The focus had typically been on speed-to-market. As a result, companies focused on getting products to market quickly as a top priority and cost wasn’t a primary driver. The result is designs and manufacturing processes that lead to reduced margins and competitiveness. At the same time, it is too difficult to make changes after a product is on the market. This is especially the case for implants, while design changes on instruments are tied to significant costs.
With the changing environment, the thought process around product design is evolving. Now, design engineers have to think about more than adding function, reliability and quality – they also need to be thinking about designing for manufacturability and inspection and to a target price that is becoming increasingly smaller.
There is an increased interest in reducing the cost associated with instrumentation. One way to do this is to simplify designs, whilst retaining needed functionality. Attention however must also be given to instrument life and maintenance as well as reprocessing and distribution costs. Making sure these requirements are correctly specified and met up front will reduce costs later on.
Smart Design: Integrating Product and Process Development
Without DFM the design is frozen and sent out for quoting avoiding design optimization resulting from incorporating manufacturing feedback. The result is that the product margin is often not nearly as competitive as it should be. Designing to a target price is becoming more and more crucial to ensure a business’s success.
DFM often involves the integration of product development and process development into one common activity. It always involves a close collaboration between manufacturing and design experts. Here at Orchid we are a vertically integrated company that can work to support you as you transition your designs into manufacturing.
At Orchid Design, we work increasingly with our customers during the design process and at the same time with our manufacturing experts. Doing these activities early on and in parallel doesn’t have to take any longer if planned into the project appropriately. The result is always reduced project, manufacturing and process costs. As a result, we are able to help you drive your project toward early successful commercialization.
Design for Inspection (DFI)
While many of our customers understand the benefits of incorporating DFM, DFI is often overlooked. Considering how the part is to be inspected and how the drawing or solid model should be completed to enable or simplify inspection. The cost of manufacturing always includes some cost associated with inspection. The traditional approach has been just to inspect more, so the manufacturers are doing things that provide a lot more inspection data. Again this drives up costs unnecessarily, pushing margins down. With the compliance side of our business becoming a larger factor in our industry, design for inspection is just as important as design for manufacturing.
Consider involving your supplier early on in the design process. Encourage engineers to talk to suppliers during the earliest phases of the project. Identify target costs and lean on engineering and manufacturing expertise to drive the excessive cost out of the system by partnering with a supplier that expertly utilizes DFM and DFI.
By approaching both the process design and the product design concurrently, product launch dates becomes much more predictable. The project team will feel more confident in their decisions made regarding the product and the associated processes. This is smart design!