Stop, collaborate and listen: The importance of collaboration in DfM

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Design for Manufacture (DfM) is nothing without collaboration. In the automotive industry, the advancement of electric and hybrid vehicles has led to major structural changes to a car’s chassis, placing unprecedented demands on manufacturers to collaborate with suppliers that can meet fast-changing needs.

Typically, partners on a project work across sites, in different companies and countries. For collaboration to be effective, companies need to get the following areas right:

Invest in the right tools

The entire process of transporting an idea to three-dimensional design has been simplified by CAD and simulation software. This makes it possible for suppliers, particularly die casters, to share designs with manufacturers and other tier one suppliers. Advanced tools mean designers can collaborate across sites, rapidly consulting on doubts or issues that might arise from closer studies of designs. But when managing complex and large customer component dimensions and CAD data files, suppliers and partners must invest in the right tools. Upgrading software and hardware or a complete overhaul of systems might be necessary. When Sarginsons’ upgraded our processors last year, we increased computation cores from one to four.  This reduced simulations from 10 hours down to two and a half – allowing us more capacity to provide feedback to customers during their component design stages.

Design for multiple third-parties

Nowhere is the importance of collaboration more apparent than when projects go wrong.

The nature of DfM dictates that the first designs of products are seen by not only the manufacturer, but any tier one suppliers, so that they can have an input at the earliest possible stage. This ensures that each supplier – and there will be many – has the capabilities to deliver on the demands of the design, as well as giving them the opportunity to feedback on any potential shortcomings on the design. It is essential that this happens before designs are frozen, but this doesn’t always happen.

Recently, Sarginsons worked alongside four tier one suppliers for phase one of a project for a major automotive manufacturer. As we’ve referenced before, the tier one chassis assembly organisations had not been nominated ahead of freezing the designs. Problems arose and changes had to be made fast and effectively to avoid incurring any extra cost.

One such complication was the redesign of the rear sub-frame on the chassis. The rear frame had an initial design of four individual corner node castings, but there were concerns about the mechanical loading anticipated on the front section. The design had to be changed to a single piece front and two separate rear nodes, a change that meant we needed to choose a different CNC partner who could meet the challenges of such a complex part. This was a necessarily rapid move that would not have been possible had we not been able to produce designs that could be used by multiple external parties. This is why it is essential that suppliers and partners both keep pace with change and communicate any potential snags early. If necessary, new supplier and/or partners may be required to meet new demands of the design and those designs need to be readily accessible and easily understood by third parties.

Continuously refine planning

It is not just suppliers and manufacturers that collaborate. Another example of an important partner in DfM projects is the assembly site. Do all parties involved in build have sight of build windows? A two-week turnaround to build on site is wholly different from a five, for example, but these details can get forgotten at the start of projects, leading to expensive headaches further down the line. At Sarginsons’ Technology Centre, we adhere to an Advanced Product Quality Planning (APQP) framework that is continuously refined to include any learnings from major projects. These plans, as well as our designs, are shared across partners at the commencement of any project.

Click here to ask us how we collaborate with partners.