How can the products we develop generate maximum profits for our company?
Globalization, stiff competition, and customized products have become the norm in our business environment, driving far-reaching changes in the product development processes. Companies introducing new products to the market therefore face the following challenges:
1. Sophisticated customers with highly focused demands
2. New product teething problems and unfore seen faults
3. Dependence on development, manufacturing, integration, forwarding and
4. A myriad of regulations, primarily relating to safety and environmental
The main consequence of these challenges experienced by companies is a steep rise in operating costs from manufacturing, assembly, conveyance, installation, service and maintenance. In some cases, these expenses may exceed overall profits from sales of the new product in the initial years of market penetration. This trend is now forcing development units to shift their focus from complex product design to ensuring that the product complies with functional requirements. As a result, it has become imperative to create products which are inexpensive, fast and convenient to manufacture, assemble, transport, service and use.
This type of design is known as Design for X, or DFX for short.
The adoption of DFX in a company requires end-to-end action by all layers of the corporation, as illustrated below:
This vital factor underpins the deployment of DFX and provides the business leverage to increase company profitability.
The corporation as a whole needs to adopt a culture of close collaboration between development, operations, service and quality.
Development personnel are no longer the exclusive owners of product development, but instead become the party to lead the development
process. They must remain in constant consultation with other parties and take their opinion into account, while those parties gain power and sway over product advancement for the subsequent stages of development. This step has far-reaching consequences for the enterprise, from a possible impact on the timetable to cultural changes such as concurrent engineering.
Such changes in corporate culture require an unequivocal and active commitment on the management’s part, making it absolutely clear that these are the new rules of the game in this company.
In order to implement DFX, detailed work processes must be defined, focusing on a range of principles:
In order to implement the DFX process and achieve adherence to the above principles, various tools are needed. These will be used primarily by development personnel but also by content experts for control purposes.
Checklists are the first and most basic tool required.
The checklist incorporates the Development for X principles, whereby X stands for manufacturability, usability, serviceability, reliability, etc. This tool helps coordinate expectations between development personnel and content experts and encourages the designer to focus on creating a more DFX-type product.
Another tool, mainly for the project manager, is the trade-off tool, used to make informed decisions based on parameters, such as the impact on the product price, its performance, customer satisfaction, time-to-market, etc.
This tool enables the project manager to define the key parameters for each case and then use them to reach decisions.
Additional tools largely consist of templates that define how DFX is addressed and how it is presented at DRs, PMRs, and other significant points along the development process.
In order to define the various tools, we recommend that teams of representatives from the various disciplines are formed.
For example, a team charged with building tools for DFS (Design for Serviceability) should, at the very least, include members of the various disciplines in the development unit and service representatives from the enterprise.
The teams should then collaborate to define the tools, with the content experts responsible for providing the professional content and the development representatives responsible for approving and validating the tools built.
It is vital that a team charter is defined for each team, specifying the team members, its goals and its main deliverables.
Integrated teams are also very important because they develop an atmosphere of openness and mutual cooperation, creating agents for change, the backbone for implementation of the processes and tools.
Change management activity is essential for implementing a company-wide DFX process. The purpose of change management activities, such as those listed below, is to set the tone of a new, significant process that will contribute to product maturity and take the corporation forward:
Additional activities could include producing a special newsletter on the subject with professional articles flanked by photographs from team meetings.
To ensure that an extensive deployment of DFX throughout a corporation is successful, it is important to define the stages that each department/ discipline must go through. To this end, we recommend preparing a roadmap with the main milestones in the process, so that the progress of each individual department can be tracked, any difficulties can be identified and the deployment status of the overall process can be easily examined.
Due to the workload involved with implementing a DFX process throughout an entire organization and the enormity of the impact on the company, we advise that you start by introducing the process in a limited number of pilot projects.
Selecting a pilot project
It is best to select a project that is in its preliminary stages (concept):
Pilot success is very important
An unsuccessful pilot could cause a negative reputation for the DFX process, which would then make it virtually impossible to persuade the organization to implement the DFX process again.
Note that the DFX pilot does not have to be a full system – a significant module or sub-system can also be selected for that purpose.
We recommend nominating DFX trustees to disseminate the DFX process in the enterprise. These trustees are key representatives from every project or practice team, who are committed to the process.
To examine the success of the DFX deployment in the enterprise, a series of indicators (KPIs) needs to be defined in advance. Let us look at two types of metrics: ones which indicate the extent of DFX deployment in the enterprise and ones which show the DFX requirements in the specific project.
The following is a partial example of possible metrics addressing both the process and the product:
Other metrics can be added to examine knowledge management or authority:
The first stage in a DFX assessment necessitates an examination of the existing situation and the extent of the enterprise’s readiness to define and effectively implement the DFX culture and methodology. To this end, Tefen has developed a model consisting of five levels of maturity that addresses various aspects of implementing DFX in an enterprise and enables formulation of an operative and efficient action plan to implement DFX at the most suitable level. The five levels are:
1. Awareness: general awareness of how important the issue is, few concentrations of knowledge in the enterprise, no defined process for deployment, projects free to address issue or not, management policy supports implementation of DFX but does not mandate it
2. Process: management is committed to preliminary implementation of DFX, a highly flexible process has been defined, a very limited proportion of projects are required to implement a preliminary DFX, without metrics, and with only basic tools (Office templates)
3. Control: the foundations of processes and tools for implementing DFX exist at a deeper level, a knowledge center has been established, integrated engineering has been deployed, the subject is communicated, basic tools are used, support from professional instructors exists, metrics exist, and approximately half of projects deploy DFX
4. Governance: management is very strongly committed to the subject, metrics are defined and deployed, advanced tools are used, instructional training extends across the organization, targets exists at the level of every department and project, and most projects deploy DFX
5. Culture: the processes are fully deployed in all projects, a culture of collaboration and continuing improvement exists, DFX is a key element in the decision-making process throughout the product lifecycle, management is totally committed, and advanced computer-based tools are used
Dell Computer Corporation (Round Rock, Texas), the world’s leading direct computer systems company, has long been recognized as a provider of easily serviced, readily installed, customized computers. By 1998, Dell was associated as well with something else – an explosive growth 2.5 times the industry average. Instead of adding facilities and people, the company took a lessexpensive route: it redesigned its products to make them easier and faster to assemble and to service.
Dell accomplished all of these goals through a methodology known as Design for Assembly (DFA) and Design for Service (DFS)
Despite growing pressure on companies to deliver products that are not fully mature, we should bear in mind that being first out with a product that suffers from numerous teething problems is not always profitable. High operating costs can soon outweigh any competitive edge gained.
DFX is therefore becoming an essential part of the development process in stable and mature enterprises.
In order to implement DFX, attention must be paid to the following issues:
1. Management commitment
2. Change management processes throughout all the layers of the enterprise
It is important to remember that the process is lengthy because it extends across the enterprise, affecting most disciplines in it, and because it takes time for DFX to be imprinted in the enterprise DNA.
However, once this happens, the enterprise and its products work at a different level of maturity, ensuring maximized business profits.
By Zeev Ahronson, PMP Associate Partner, Tefen Israel
Tamar Tal PMP, Senior Consultant, Tefen Israel
Operational Excellence, Lean Six Sigma, Production Optimization, Supply Chain and Purchasing, R&D DFX NPI and Project Management Expert. Six Sigma Black Belt and PMP certified