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Design for X


Design for X (DFX) Basics A knowledge-based approach for designing products, Design for X, or DFX, focuses on a desirable characteristic or design constraint. These characteristics, or Xs, put constraint on the design process. These characteristics, or Xs, can include lower cost, manufacturability, testability, and maintainability, as well as safety, user friendliness, and concern for the environment. And the list of potential Xs continues to grow:
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Design for cost requires you to find alternative materials, processes, and methods to achieve your cost goals for the product but still meet other design criteria. Introduced in the 1960s, the term manufacturability – also called producibility – means simplifying the manufacture of a product by reducing its number of parts and the number of manufacturing operations required to make the product. Testability means that a product's performance characteristics are easy to measure. This often requires that the features of the product that are to be measured can be quickly and easily accessed. Designing for maintainability means that the product performs satisfactorily over its life span with minimal downtime and expense. Generally, you achieve maintainability by using reliable components. Designing for safety means that you ensure the product won't cause harm to anyone during its manufacture, use, or disposal. Products must be user friendly. Their functions and controls should be intuitive and easy to use, and instructions should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Design for the environment requires you to "think green" and minimize any pollution that could result from manufacturing, using, and disposing of the materials associated with your product.

To meet the design objectives for DFX, you need a vast and varied toolkit. Fortunately, DFX provides one. Unfortunately, the toolkit is so large that it's overwhelming. So you need to learn and use only those tools that are specific to the Xs that are the focal points of your DFX effort. To achieve success with DFX, your organization must have three critical factors that establish a foundation for informed decision making:
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Understanding of requirements – To create products that have benefits and value for your customers, you must know their needs and requirements, in addition to your industry's requirements for the products or services you create. Access to data about development – To make the right decisions, full and detailed information must be available to the right people about the development process, including time, costs, and the processes themselves. And to control costs, you need to be able to break down your processes and understand the requirements and outputs of each subprocess and component. Buy-in from teams – Product development is a team effort. When you have full buy-in, you have everyone's commitment to the process and the product. Commitment is essential to achieving an efficient and effective design process.

To achieve understanding of requirements, access to data, and buy-in from teams, DFX users create multifunctional teams, drawing on the various disciplines involved in product development. By sharing viewpoints, team members learn to think about what's best for the organization, instead of making decisions from their own perspectives, which could affect the big picture in positive or negative ways. Organizations can maximize their use of multifunctional teams by adopting an appropriate development methodology that will also help them achieve design effectiveness and speed-to-market. A product development methodology that is used successfully with multifunctional teams has two parts: a front end in which teams brainstorm and sort their ideas, and a back end that has a more structured series of new product development activities.

The front end, or fuzzy front end (FFE), is the time before structured product development begins. Team members brainstorm new product ideas, perform research, negotiate features, and prioritize their ideas. Often messy and chaotic, the FFE is also a source of product innovation. The back end is called New Product Development, or NPD. NPD consists of five structured activities that build on the best ideas identified during FFE:
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Team members undertake a concept study to identify the unknowns associated with the product for example, unknowns regarding the market for the new product, new technology required to produce the product, and potential new manufacturing requirements. Research, in the form of a feasibility study, is conducted to answer three basic questions: Is there a real market for the new product? Can the organization be successful in this market with this product? What are the real costs involved and the potential return on investment (ROI)? Often, a formal business case is prepared to document the results of the study. Product development is when the product is created. It involves the identification of product specifications, customer requirements, and target markets. Multifunctional team members are identified for remaining development stages, and key phase gates (go / no go decision points) are defined. After the product has been developed and shipped, maintenance tasks are performed to keep the product functional over its life span at minimal expense to customers and the organization. Continuous learning is achieved when data is collected about the process and the product and fed back to quality analysts, engineers, and designers so they can incorporate it into their knowledge about the product.

Conflicts are inherent in a process as complex as product development. Process constraints often clash with the wish lists of functional areas. One tool for managing conflict is known as process-specific diagnosis. By making sure that each member of the team has access to information on requirements of the other disciplines, you can keep conflicts to a minimum. One technique to accomplish this is to have each discipline identify its most important preferences as process constraints, and then make everyone else aware of them. Making team members aware of everyone's constraints can prevent people from making unilateral decisions that cause downstream problems. A DFX process involves creative exploration of different design approaches. The guidelines presented in Design for X are rules of thumb that can help you focus on desired characteristics and strategies. But they shouldn't be used to constrain creative exploration. DFX tools are designed to be used one at a time. Anything else can cause confusion and be very costly. When you select the tools for your project, be sure to keep these considerations in mind: you need performance metrics to assess the DFX tools you use, you need to understand the structure and use of the chosen DFX tools and techniques, and you must know how the DFX tools affect each other in design and development contexts. Design for X, or DFX, is a knowledge-based approach for designing products to maximize as many desirable characteristics as possible, such as low cost, manufacturability, testability, maintainability, safety, user friendliness, concern for the environment, and many others. DFX provides a vast and varied toolkit to help you achieve all of its objectives. To succeed with a DFX approach, you need an understanding of customer and industry requirements, access to data about the development process, an ability to break down processes into subprocesses and components, and a full understanding and buy-in from managers, marketing, and development teams. DFX tools and techniques are guidelines that are meant to spur creative solutions by suggesting broad strategies. They aren't intended to constrain creativity. They are used one at a time. In selecting a tool, you must know its appropriate use and how it interacts with other DFX tools and techniques, and you must have a way to assess the tool's performance as you use it.

Course: Common Design for Six Sigma Methodologies, Design for X, and Robust Design Topic: Design for X (DFX) Basics


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