Design for Manufacturability (DFM) Kaizen Events

June 1, 2004
By Darren Dolcemascolo

When people think of Kaizen events, they usually think of shop floor improvement. Rarely, if ever, do they think of product design. However, this is unfortunate since one area for which Kaizen Blitz events can be quite powerful is product design; changing the design itself will often result in significant reduction of waste. DFM Kaizen events result in less complexity: fewer parts and fewer operations. Fewer parts to order, plan, fabricate, and assemble result in significant cost savings. Sometimes called Design for Manufacturability Workshops, these Kaizen events typically result in 20% or greater reductions in product cost.

DFM Kaizen events involve design engineers, manufacturing engineers, buyers, quality engineers, and other interested parties meeting for several days and following a process for reducing the complexity of a design. Such events involve six major steps very analogous to the steps of a kaizen event on the shop floor:

Step 1: Training

The team is trained in the concepts of design for manufacturability. Interactive exercises are done to begin the process of helping the team to think differently.

Step 2: Current State Mapping

The team maps out the current state (or baseline) design. This involves mapping the steps required to produce the product in great detail.

Step 3: Brainstorming

The team members, using the tools they’ve learned in the training session, go through a brainstorming exercise. The goal is to generate as many ideas as possible for design improvement.

Step 4: Select Ideas and Create Future State Designs

The team then selects ideas and creates several future state designs, based on probability of successful implementation.

Step 5: Create Implementation Plan

The team develops an implementation plan, which details tasks, dates, and responsible people for implementation of the design. Steps included often involve things like investigation of materials, functional testing, prototyping, 3-D modeling, and working with suppliers.

After the event, the team should meet periodically to status the plan and drive the implementation phase to completion. In 3 – 6 months, the product cost savings should begin to be realized.

Organizations can use DFM kaizen events to achieve their goal of lower cost without sacrificing value to their customers. This underutilized tool can be applied across all industries and typically results in 20% to 30% reductions in cost. Instead of going with their initial inclinations to squeeze suppliers and reduce value to decrease cost, management teams should champion DFM efforts in their organizations to reduce cost and add significantly to the bottom line. DFM Kaizen combined with kaizen on the shop floor make for a recipe for world-class success.

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