Design for X as an approach
When products were crafted one at a time, the design and manufacturing process was often done by the same person. The craftsman would design and build a chest of drawers or carriage.
Some trades would employ apprentices to learn the craft, which included design. Larger projects may include an architect or lead designer along with a team of engineers.
Yet the shop or site for the railroad engineer or bridge was not far allowing close communication between the ironsmith and design team.
With the rise of production systems came the rise of production facilities specializing in the mass production of an array of designs. Clothes, home appliances, and consumer products are examples of products that separated the designer from the day to day manufacturing experience.
The advent of mass production gave rise to the necessity for product design teams to learn about the capabilities and limitations of a production system.
The early design for X systems focused on design for production. A 1952 British report on advances in American design for production, as far as I know, pointed the term “design for production”.
British Specialist Team on Design for Production. 1953. Design for Production: Report of a Visit to the U.S.A. In 1952 of a British Specialist Team on Design for Production. London: British Productivity Council.
Proliferation of Design for X Requires some Definitions
Watson and Radcliffe (1998) notes the increased popularity of “design for” approaches.
In their paper, they attempt to provide a definition and framework for management teams to evaluate and select a suitable design for x method for their particular situation. Plus the framework will assist developers of DFX tools to ensure they are efficient and achieve the desired outcomes.
A DFX methodology is a systematic way to communicate a set of knowledge focused on the successful product design with a desired set of characteristics. For example, design for production includes a set of rules or constraints the design had to incorporate or meet to permit production with the given factory. Design for assembly (Boothroyd, 1994) provides a set of scoring algorithms that guided a design to minimize assembly steps and costs.
Watson, and Radcliffe. 1998. “Structuring Design for X Tool Use for Improved Utilization.” Journal of Engineering Design 9 (3): 211-223.
Watson and Radcliffe notice the range of approaches for design for advice. Some were a set of guidelines while others provide scoring and tradeoff or optimization algorithms. The suggested should include design guidelines and an analysis tool.
DFX Design Guidelines
The guidelines are a set of recommended design practices that include broad design rules and specific implementation strategies.
The idea is to inform the design team of ways to optimize a design or to minimize costs for the life cycle phase under consideration.
The guidelines serve as an input to the design process as a set of constraints. They also provide a means to evaluate a design against a set of rules. In some cases, the guidelines provide unique information that increases awareness of specific desirable design characteristics.
With a design for assembly, for example, the strategy may include creating a tool-less assembly method. A specific implementation element might be the use of snap fit attachment solutions.
DFX Analysis Tools
A DFX method should also include a means to evaluate or judge the design.
This provides the design team with feedback and information concerning the existing design and options to improve the specific DFX set of goals. The analysis tools use the guidelines to form a rubric and in some cases a scoring as part of the output. The analysis could be accomplished in conjunction with the design work, or during a design review process.
Design for manufacturing tools exists to check design guidelines for electronic circuit boards. The design checkers evaluate a design for clearances, dimensions, and other specific guidelines using the design files.
In some cases, the design rules are built into the design tools and provide immediate feedback when a guideline is violated.
A critical aspect of any DFX method is its effectiveness. The structure, the applicability, and the feedback all matter.
- Does the method assist the design to achieve the desired results?
- Does it guide design decision making with timely feedback?
- Does it apply to specific elements of a design and/or the overall system design?
- Does it lead to effective solutions?
The intent of a DFX approach is to become part of the design process with a focus on the specific topic of the DFX method.
Understanding the Design Process (article)
Descriptive Models of the Design Process (article)
Reliability as Part of Every Decision (article)
Also published on Medium.