Preston Smith's Corner

Book Reviews: Design for Manufacturability & Agile Product Development for Mass Customization

Design for Manufacturability: Optimizing Cost, Quality and Time-to-Market Second Edition

David M. Anderson; Cambria, California: CIM Press, 2001, 302 + x pages, US$44.95

Agile Product Development for Mass Customization: How to Develop and Deliver Products for Mass Customization, Niche Markets, JIT, Build-to-Order, and Flexible Manufacturing

David M. Anderson (Introduction by B. Joseph Pine II); New York, McGraw-Hill Professional, 1997, 293 + xvii pages, US$37.95
Although the scope of this journal (and of the Product Development and Management Association) covers the full range of product development, it has tended to emphasize the up-front activities of portfolio management, product definition, design and development, and marketing-R&D interaction. Product developers seem to presume that once the product is designed, it will slip into manufacturing transparently and flawlessly, despite the fact that many development projects experience late-stage crises because the product cannot be manufactured smoothly, effectively, reliably, or at target cost. Anderson’s two books (hereafter called DFM and APD, respectively) are among the few that view product development from a manufacturing vantage point. Consequently, they are valuable in sensitizing product developers to the manufacturing implications of the decisions they make.

DFM in particular is a practical, how-to book for product developers and their managers, especially for design engineers, manufacturing engineers, and those involved in purchasing, finance, quality, and product testing. To the extent that marketing is interested in reliable, low-cost products, marketers should also be familiar with this material. APD is not as technical; it concentrates more narrowly on mass customization. Both books apply to discrete manufactured products, both mechanical and electronic.

Chapter 5 of DFM, on standardization of parts and materials, is perhaps the most valuable part of this book. Anderson explains why part proliferation happens, what its substantial but subtle costs are, and what can be done to overcome it. He provides a detailed 13-step process for creating a standard parts list, and he goes on to describe how one can also standardize raw material, part features (such as fillets and hole sizes), and even expensive parts (such as motors, pumps, and microprocessors).

An aspect of the issue that he does not cover is that proliferation is much easier to maintain under control than it is to bring under control once it has gotten out of hand. Another unmentioned dimension is that proliferation is easier to deal with in some industries than others. For instance, at Intel, where Anderson implemented a successful standardization program, products turn over quickly and are not usually used in life-threatening applications. Contrast this with Boeing, where products require spare parts for fifty years, a mistake can cost a few hundred lives, and each ounce of excess weight in a part adds dearly to its life-cycle cost.

APD covers much of this same standardization material (in its Chapter 5), including the 13-step process. In Chapter 3, The Cost of Variety, Anderson presents a strong case for standardization, because it is a prerequisite for mass customization.

Chapters 6 and 7 of DFM address product cost, and the book convinces us that the designer’s normal focus on part cost misses the big opportunity, which is overhead cost. Anderson suggests that to rationalize product cost to the point that we can make intelligent design choices to reduce it, we need a cost accounting system that allocates overhead equitably. He suggests activity-based costing, but unfortunately, he does not explain how one implements such a system. Anderson covers these two chapters virtually word for word in Chapter 6 of APD.

DFM’s Chapters 8 and 9 get to the title—and the heart—of this book, design for manufacturability. Chapters 10 and 11 move into design for quality and design for repairability, and Appendix B offers design-for-manufacturability guidance specifically for printed circuit boards. These chapters are all organized into lists of guidelines arranged by category. For example, one category is assembly, and a couple of its guidelines are

  • Design products so that their parts are assembled from above.
  • Sequence the assembly so that the most reliable parts go in first and the most likely to fail are last.

Each guideline receives a paragraph or two explaining why it is important. For instance, assembly from above allows gravity to aid automatic assembly equipment, such as screw inserters, and it also eases manual assembly. The other categories covered are fastening, motions of assembly, test, standardization, part shape, handling by automation, quality and reliability, and repair.

In connection with these chapters, Appendix C provides useful, specific guidance on setting up a system of design for manufacturability guidelines for your organization. In fact, Anderson suggests both guidelines and rules. The rules are specific yes—no items that must be followed, whereas guidelines suggest a range of practice; the closer one can achieve them, the more manufacturable one’s design will be. Rules will predominate for fully automated assembly, because automation equipment allows little latitude in how the product can be manufactured.

While DFM subsequent to Chapter 7 concentrates on design for manufacturability, APD subsequent to its Chapter 6 focuses more narrowly on development techniques and perspectives for mass customization. Anderson elucidates the key mindset for developing mass-customized products:

“In contrast to the development of a discrete product, developing products for mass customization focuses on product families/platforms or many product families and their evolution over time” (page 202).

Pages 255–63 of APD present an enlightening discussion of the three means for implementing mass customization: modularization, adjustability, and dimensional customization. For instance, if one mass customizes a bicycle, modularization would provide a choice of components such as hubs, saddle, and brakes. Adjustability would allow the saddle’s height, angle, and fore-and-aft position to be changed. Dimensional capability would allow the tubing to be cut to the rider’s size before welding the frame.

I found DFM’s first four chapters disappointing. They broadly extol the virtues of manufacturability, concurrent engineering, and flexibility. Chapter 4, for example, covers “flexibility” by somehow linking it with lean production, build-to-order, mass customization, reusable engineering, and modular design. But none of these terms is defined, so the linkages are vague. More importantly, each of these techniques has its strengths and limitations, but Anderson doesn’t mention the downsides. For example, modular design can be a powerful tool, but it can also raise costs, decrease performance, introduce reliability issues, and complicate system testing. Thus, modular design should be exploited only where its benefits outweigh its disadvantages; otherwise, one should strive for more integral architecture.

APD suffers from the same vagueness. Even the title term, agile product development, is left for the reader to interpret in any of several listed ways (page 215). Although, like DFM, APD is overwhelmingly positive about moving toward mass customization, it does provide a valuable list of both the pluses and minuses of modularization, adjustability, and dimensional customization (pages 262–263).

DFM is a self-published book, and its quality falls short of normal commercial standards. The overall design is uninspiring, the figures are amateurish, references are cited inconsistently, and there are a fair number of typos. Worse, half of the pages had fallen out of this $45 paperback by the time I had finished reading it. (Perhaps this product wasn’t designed for manufacturability?)

Although APD is four years older, its material doesn’t seem dated relative to DFM. For example, of the 125 references cited in DFM, only two appeared after APD was published.

In conclusion, both of these books cover an important subject that has been given too short shrift by JPIM and PDMA. Although they have shortcomings, I do not know of better books on this vital product development topic.

Preston G. Smith CMC
New Product Dynamics

(Reviewed in the Journal of Product Innovation Management, November 2001, pp. 417-18.)

(c) Copyright 2013 Preston G. Smith. All Rights Reserved.

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