Design for Excellence, (also known as DFX or Design for X), is a systematic method of applying certain principles and criteria to ensure quality during the product design stage. In this article, we explain exactly how the DFX methodology works, look at the different types of DFX, and analyze why DFX is such a crucial part of the product development process.
The Design for Excellence methodology involves systematically scrutinizing every aspect of the product development process from the design stages to the manufacturing phase. With every task they undertake, stakeholders must strive towards achieving a clear objective. In this way DFX helps to eliminate errors, reduce waste, and ensures efficiency and quality throughout the entire development process.
The X in DFX stands for Excellence, but this concept can cover any number of parameters. X can represent any objective that a design team wishes to accomplish. You can, for example, Design for Manufacturability, for Reliability, Quality, Sustainability, or Ease of Assembly. You can even substitute X with a more precise goal, such as Design for Kickstarter. Whatever parameter you set for X will provide your team with a clear objective to focus on.
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The first time the terms Design for Excellence and DFX were formally used and recorded was in 1990. Remarkably, two different authors wrote two different papers and submitted them to two different industry bodies at the same time.
The terms Design for Excellence and DFX first appeared in two papers submitted to the Keys Conference and the AT&T Technological journal respectively. Even more surprisingly, it seems that the two authors were not aware of each other at the time they wrote and submitted the papers.
This shows that the design and manufacturing industries were both independently moving toward the philosophy of DFX. With the adoption of Lean manufacturing and Lean management techniques becoming more widespread throughout the 1980s, the development of DFX as a concept was inevitable.
The DFX methodology represents a complete break from traditional methods used in product development and manufacturing. Historically, using a traditional approach the design team is separated from the manufacturing process and the supply chain. Using a DFX methodology, stakeholders at all stages are required to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate to achieve the goal of X.
Looking at how the traditional engineering process is different from a DFX process can shed some light on why so many companies are now choosing to implement Design for Excellence systems.
The traditional engineering process begins with identifying a problem by observations, surveying, experimentation, or a mixture of all three. The team will then research the problem and try to come up with solutions. The solutions are evaluated and the most optimum solution is selected.
The design is then made based on this option. A prototype is created which is then put through various tests to ensure it can solve the original problem. Refinements and improvements are made before the product is released for production.
The traditional engineering process is a linear progression from one step to another. In a traditional process, issues are detected after a design has been made. DFX aims to reduce waste by eliminating problems as they occur. DFX concentrates on resolving issues during the design stage, not afterward.
With DFX methods, simulations are used instead of physical prototype tests. Design iterations are done before production is set in motion. While traditional engineering processes require the use of several tools, DFX seeks to use as few tools as possible.
With a traditional engineering design, functional requirements are paramount. Using DFX methods, the product life cycle is the main focus. DFX also allows for collaboration between teams at every stage of the process.
The design team needs to communicate and collaborate with suppliers and manufacturers during the initial stages of the process to ensure that the optimum design is reached with as few iterations as possible.
DFX can greatly reduce time to market, eliminates waste, and improves productivity. DFX uses Lean manufacturing and design thinking to focus on continuous improvement. This leads to better employee engagement across all levels, encourages supplier collaboration, and enhances product usability, product safety, and, ultimately, customer satisfaction.
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As we noted before, the X objective in DFX can be set as any type of parameter that you like. DFX acts as a general philosophy that can be used to enhance productivity, eliminate waste, reduce environmental impact, lower costs, and enhance the robustness, safety, and overall quality of a product.
Experts have written papers outlining 48 different ways to implement DFX methodologies. We’ll now take a short look at some of the most common DFX approaches.
DFM concentrates on ensuring that the end product can be manufactured in the most cost-effective, efficient, and environmentally friendly way possible. It is one of the most frequently used DFX methodologies.
DFA places the focus on product maintainability. The goal is to reduce maintenance issues by creating a product with as few parts as possible.
DFR is used to produce a product that can perform its functions under predetermined conditions for a certain period. Without careful management, DFR methods can lead to budget overruns, as there is no set standard for the concept of reliability.
DFMA combines the techniques of DFM and DFA. The aim here is to develop a product that can be manufactured and assembled easily and for less cost.
DFQ seeks to enhance the performance, reliability, durability, serviceability, and aesthetics of a product. Rigorous quality checks are implemented in every stage of the design and manufacturing processes.
DFSC aims to reduce supply chain issues and bring a product to market in the shortest time possible. Optimizing logistical concerns such as transport, packaging, parallel processing, and the standardization of parts are the main focus.
The DFT method requires testing procedures to be implemented at every stage of product development to ensure that a set of criteria is achieved.
When using a DFM method, the goal is to design a product that is easy to maintain and repair.
DTC methodology places cost management as a design parameter. Designers need to consider the various hidden costs of manufacturing a product and getting it to market.
DFS focuses on lowering the environmental impact of a product. Careful choices need to be made concerning logistics, materials, and manufacturing methods.
DFPLC takes into consideration changes that may be required to be made in the future. The product itself and the manufacturing process are designed to accommodate any future changes with as little impact as possible.
Lean Six Sigma is a team-based Lean management technique. Like all Lean techniques, Six Sigma aims to eliminate waste and enhance efficiency. It focuses on achieving optimal output quality by reducing product defects.
Lean Six Sigma concepts can be built into a DFX methodology. This approach is known as the Design for Six Sigma method or DFSS. DFSS uses a range of statistical tools to determine what the needs of customers are and what the goals of the business are. Using DFSS, customer needs must be considered when making any decision at any stage of the product development process.
DFX approaches have considerable benefits for both companies and customers. By reducing waste and focusing on efficiency at every stage, companies can shorten the time to market and concentrate on fulfilling customer needs.
This results in higher quality products that are available sooner, have less impact on the environment, are safer, more robust, and are tailored to deliver exactly what the customer expects of them. DFX techniques also ensure regulatory compliance which enhances quality, reduces warranty costs, and prevents product recalls.
Creating a quality product that is efficient, reliable, and durable requires a deliberate and methodical approach to the design phase. Design for Excellence, or DFX, is a methodology that was developed to specifically address the issues of waste involved in traditional engineering processes.
DFX aims to provide a method where you can optimize your products during the initial stages of their development. Using the DFX methodology means that you can avoid having to make expensive and time-consuming changes during pre-production or even at the post-production stage.
Implementing a DFX system requires a significant change of mindset within a company. All team members across all levels must communicate and collaborate at every stage of the product development process. Achieving DFX goals also requires the use of sophisticated CAD software and technology.
Achieving the goals of DFX requires employees across all levels of a company to be in constant communication. With today’s fragmented remote working models, this can be difficult to achieve. The 3DEXPERIENCE is a cloud based digital environment where colleagues can collaborate and work together securely and safely.
Easily accessible using any type of internet-enabled device, the 3DEXPERIENCE Platform allows team members to share and store files or work on projects simultaneously at anytime, anywhere on the planet.
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DFX methods focus on reducing waste at every stage of the product development process so overall costs are much lower than traditional engineering and manufacturing processes.
DFX increases efficiency and productivity, so products can reach markets in less time and for less cost.
DFX techniques ensure that the main X objective is the focus of every stage of product development and manufacturing process. If X is defined as designing for the circular economy, then stakeholders across all levels will work towards this goal.