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Design for Excellence: The Added Value of Early Supplier Involvement

Published: Sjaak Janssen

The employment of Early Supplier Involvement (ESI) enables the design of a mechatronic system that meets standards in the fields of product quality and reliability. Moreover, ESI helps in meeting demanding lead times and achieving lowest possible costs. More specifically, Design for Excellence is a subset of tools that contributes to the optimal result of ESI.


Design for Excellence – also called Design for X or DfX – is a collection of tools with which the design of a mechatronic system is analyzed or designed with one specific aspect in mind. Applicable topics may be: cost price, manufacturability, assembly and quality. In other words, Design for Excellence can be described as the aggregation of knowledge and experience offered by a system supplier, given you involve such company early on in the process (Early Supplier Involvement). The application of Design for Excellence enables MTA to select the best components and the best test strategy, resulting in a highly successful product.

Making the right choices

MTA bases its operations on the V-squared model. This model is unique; product development and the corresponding production strategy are developed simultaneously. Because of this, critical issues arise at the right moment, enabling MTA to make the right choices on the product level. This facilitates the realization of an efficient production process. The Design for Excellence approach applied by MTA ensures each and every variable (The X in DfX) is examined extensively. MTA incorporated the following DfX variables in its approach:

In this blog post, we elaborate on four of the variables mentioned above: Design for Cost, Design for Manufacturability, Design for Quality and Design for Testability.

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1. design for cost

Clearly, design for cost is an important variable when designing a mechatronic system. MTA uses the Kraljic matrix as a guide when examining this variable. The matrix is a tool that considers the financial impact of the products at hand, including the corresponding purchasing risk. It recognizes four different types of purchasing products. By classifying the ‘products to be purchased list’, it is relatively easy to visualize in what ways the products influence costs and in how far purchasing risks are present. For example, are we dealing with a costly part? Is it possible to adjust this part, ensuring the cost price decreases? Is there an overflow of supply of this product, or is there a shortage? Do several suppliers exist, or are we dealing with a monopoly? By making the right choices regarding design in the early stages of the product’s lifecycle, unnecessary costs in later stadia are avoided. In this, not only the purchasing costs of these materials are critical; assembly costs, allowances and investments in tooling are examples of costs that should be considered as well.

2. design for manufacturability

This variable examines the design’s manufacturability. By incorporating this matter in an early stage of the development phase, manufacturing problems are recognized timely. Adjustments in the design prevent problems in this realm. In Design for Manufacturability, important choices are made when it comes to materials, dimensions, shape tolerances, positional tolerances and potential post-manufacturing activities of the materials. Additionally, it is determined what technologies will be adopted. What will be the shape of the product, and what production strategy is linked to this? Design for Manufacturability is a highly important phase in DfX because manufacturability influences the cost price of the machine and the lead time of the production cycle. For example, it might be possible to simplify the design. The result could be that production can be organized more efficiently. In turn, this has a positive influence on cost price and (production) lead time.

3. design for quality

Quality management is an important issue during the complete product development and production process. It is essential to reduce risks early in the development phase. To achieve this, MTA employs a Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA), which is an analysis tool that helps one map the possible risks in a process. Whereas a Design FMEA identifies the potential risks regarding the design of the product, a Process FMEA recognizes risks that may occur during the production process. By applying an FMEA, the probability of failure becomes clear, including the criticalness of the mistakes, how often these will occur and whether these can be identified timely. Subsequently, measures can be taken to minimize the probability of failures. For example, this may be done by adjusting the design or by including control checks in the production process. The latter is related to MTA's Assembly Quality System (AQS). It is imperative to define ‘quality’ on different levels: on the level of parts, on the level of units (subassembly), on module level and on system level. By including quality checks on every level of production, late discovery of failures is prevented. Undoubtedly, this practice saves costs.

4. Design for testability

It is crucial to consider a product’s testing opportunities in an early stage of product development. When the first specifications of a product are defined, it must be determined how these specifications can be validated and what the actual test procedures will be when the system is in production. The production tests are not identical to the validation tests; the former is derived from the latter. It is essential to incorporate testing moments during the entire production process to prevent dysfunction(s) of a specific part or subassembly from being discovered once the module is completely finished. With this, the costs spend on testing are completely justified, since taking corrective actions after the production process is much more costly. Moreover, corrective actions taken after production decrease the added value of the product. The employment of testing procedures will definitely have a positive influence on the total expense.

We hope this blog post helped to clarify your understanding of Design for Excellence. Feel free to read many other blog posts that revolve around outsourcing in the high-tech industry.    


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