Most of the cost of a product is determined in its initial design. Many experts say that up to 85 percent of the core cost of any new product is set in stone once its first design and assembly drawings are complete.

Ponder that for a minute.

Since many efforts go into reducing the cost of existing products that have a high-cost DNA built into them, it is essential that design and innovation teams use all the resources they can to eliminate designs that are costly to build.

Make no mistake — one designer can create more waste in a day than an army of Lean gurus can remove in a year.

The seven deadly wastes are well publicized: transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overprocessing, overproduction and defects.

All of these wastes can be built into a product design by using too many parts, too much detail and too many features. One of the more famous stories of success in reducing cost is IBM’s printer design. Years ago,  IBM reached a decision to either redo the printer designs and costs or get out of the business entirely. After much research they discovered they could automate the assembly of the product and could reduce the part count to 50 parts from the existing 200. When they had reduced the assembly complexity to this degree, it was discovered that it was not necessary to automate at all since the manual assembly time was reduced to three minutes. The cost of the printer was dramatically reduced, but it kept the features the customer needed.

The elimination of waste in the product build is difficult and time-consuming, but it is one of the most high-value activities your group can invest in. A quick ten-point checklist for your evaluation of waste elimination:

  1. Safety first — design parts to eliminate hazards during assembly;
  2. Design for ease of assembly — make sure parts are oriented and simply inserted;
  3. Reduce fasteners — weld, adhere or snap parts together;
  4. Minimize part count — every part you don’t create does not have to be handled;
  5. Eliminate adjustments during assembly — pre-set the sub-assemblies;
  6. Design components with tolerances that fit the assembly — bad fits slow down assembly;
  7. Common parts should be used across different products — lowers cost;
  8. Mistake-proof it — make sure parts can’t be installed wrong;
  9. Use off-the-shelf components — this reduces the development cost, and;
  10. Use modular design techniques — final assembly time will be reduced.

Your innovation team will be challenged by this protocol and it will take more time for the development of your new products. Just remember that the 85 percent rule is in effect and you can save many hours of difficulty in your assembly operations by using these simple techniques.

Keep innovating!

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