Design for manufacturing (DFM) should be your first port of call when launching a new product or considering changes to an existing one.

Each component in your hardware platform offers an opportunity to:

  • Gain efficiencies and reduce costs
  • Speed time to market
  • Improve performance
  • Reduce risks
  • Extend product lifecycles

Does that sound dubious? Consider this: Your customer takes delivery of your turnkey solution and everything matches the tested bill of materials from the prototype. But when the system goes into mass production, it isn’t working right. Turns out some of the hard drives became dislodged during shipping — a simple oversight and yet one that can cost thousands of dollars from delays to the installation.

That tiny detail had a big impact for Scale Computing, a provider of hyperconverged and edge computing solutions. Some of the company’s earliest hardware appliances arrived at customer sites with non-working hard drives. It turned out that some of the drives were becoming dislodged during shipping. During the design process, AHEAD engineers recommended installing an inexpensive rubber spacer between the backplane and the hard drive to prevent shipping vibrations from damaging the hardware platforms.

“This one-cent spacer has made the difference between reliability and unreliability in the chassis,” said Craig Theriac, Scale’s Vice President of Product Management. “That means the world to our customers and, of course, our reputation.”

The Devil is in the Details

Really, the devil is in these details, and that’s why design for manufacturing (DFM) should be your first port of call when launching a new product or considering changes to an existing one.

The right partner with industry manufacturing experience would be able to review and offer design suggestions through DFM that would significantly reduce your risk of issues or cost going into production. An experienced partner would give a holistic look at your product for availability and product lifecycle of the bill of material, manufacturability of existing design, functional tests, quality inspection points, tooling concerns, and packaging solution. These factors can make or break your ability to meet customer deadlines or increase cost efficiencies to make you more competitive in the market.

Advantages of DFM

  • Cost efficiencies. DFM can help reduce total cost of ownership. Consider medical carts: The systems must be physically rugged, portable, and reliable. They require high-performance graphics cards for image processing and analysis. By integrating DFM into the process, hospitals can reduce power needs by incorporating the latest-generation memory cards and CPUs. That GPU support bracket? Missing the need for that one component can increase labor costs, and have downstream effects on patient care due to delayed use of equipment. Intentional design accounts for proper reinforcements and factors in how each component can lead to efficiencies.
  • Performance. Life-science organizations, biotech companies, and medical device makers require fast processing capabilities, and that need is increasing with the adoption of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies for data crunching and analysis. The DFM process takes into account these types of use cases to ensure the right hardware meets these high-compute requirements. Also, there are mechanical issues such as power supply, thermal design, and portability to consider. Each component contributes to the overall performance of the hardware system.
  • Quality. Training devices are often out in the field – either literally on the military battlefield or at flight instruction locations, where repeated use and exposure to the elements can degrade components. Also, the transportability of the system is crucial. The right DFM partner will not only advise on the best-quality components to meet these criteria, they will also prototype the system and test it for reliability and consistency.

Another consideration is the need to reduce complexity. Each hardware platform contains multiple components — from the motherboard to the memory card. Keeping track of each product’s lifecycle can be overwhelming, especially when multiplied by potentially dozens of platforms.

DFM and Product Lifecycles

The right DFM partner can help ease this pain. For example, AHEAD has developed an industry-first toolset called Hatch™ that intuitively and proactively helps organizations stay on top of product lifecycles and end-of-life considerations. It’s a cloud-based solution that gives instant visibility into individual components, including manufacturer info, lifecycle, environmental controls, certifications, country of origin, and more.

Hatch also provides insights into the supply chain, so organizations can track products from the manufacturing floor to delivery. Here again, the DFM process has an impact. By designing the right packaging for shipment – such as including rubber bumper guards – the entire chain avoids the costly ramifications of damaged equipment due to unprotected shipments.

AHEAD has a dedicated team of engineers that can design the right solution to meet your needs. Our experience and expertise extend across use cases, hardware architectures, and product lifecycle management. Discover how AHEAD can help your organization gain efficiencies, improved performance, and more with design for manufacturing.

Whether you’re launching a new product or updating an existing line, talk to AHEAD about how our design for manufacturing process can make a difference in the hardware challenges you’re facing.

Contributing Author: Roger Lam, VP of Engineering


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