1 Key critical to Design For Manufacturing results


I recently produced a series of posts that have looked at creating good foundations for implementation of design for manufacturing. These have included transitioning from the firefight to improvement (Read Here) and working towards establishing a lean engineering department (Read Here). They have also looked at the big picture (Read Here), how the approach you take with design for manufacturing needs to fit for your company and how decisions made need to be balanced with all other design perspectives (Read Here). Also how it is not just about the individual manufacturing processes but the overall manufacturing systems as well (Read Here).

These are all very important factors with regards to getting prepared and understanding the best approach but none of them are as critical to successful implementation as that 1 critical key. So what is it? What is left, any thoughts?

Of course there are the actual tools, the design tools, methodologies, processes and techniques that you actually use when you are designing for manufacture. At Lean Design For Manufacturing we have defined over 60 different tools and techniques as well as how and when they should be used in the design process. How often do improvement experts ramble on about the big picture, and the theory and not actually talk about what you should be doing day to day, hour to hour to create that big picture.

But that is still not it, to be honest, the tools aren’t that difficult. The key critical to successfully implementing design for manufacturing in your engineering department is the people who are going to be using the tools. The same goes for any improvement process or methodology in any department. I’m sure at some point you have all heard a speaker or consultant or expert describe you or your manager’s role as ‘managing change’. This is wrong! You are not managing change, you are managing the people who create the change!

People vs tools – In my spare time, when I can find some, I enjoy carpentry. When I was starting out and gathering up tools, I picked up a wood plane. For a long time I had only ever found a use for it once or twice and could never understand how it could be such a valuable tool – so it sat and rusted. One day I was given another, different wood plane and I decided I should find out what they really should be used for, how and when. I now own over fifty different wood planes, they all have their use and they have transformed my carpentry. The tools always existed and were easy to get, the information on how to use them always existed and was even easier to get in this information age. My motivation and my decision to learn and change was what made the difference.

You are in a luckier position than most because you, the people you manage, the people in your team are engineers. Since the day they took apart their first toy they have been driven by a curiosity to investigate, to learn, to make things better and to continually improve. Your most valuable resource has spent the last 20+ years making their own decisions, taking their own actions, taking their own risks and learning their own lessons to become that valuable resource – trust them and empower them to continue to do what they do best.

If you have people who by their very nature want to strip things apart and rebuild them to understand how it works and how they could make it better, don’t just give them an instruction and an order. Give them a problem, a target and these 6 things:

Trust – The feeling of someone watching over your shoulder is a very negative and oppressive influence

Support – We are not talking blank cheques but if you believe them to be a valuable resource and trust them accordingly and support them with whatever resources are required

Guidance – You don’t have to re-invent the wheel in order to learn, make the benefit of experience easily available either internally or from an external resource

Flexibility – Remember they are people, not machines. Being flexible with employees and team members is as much a sign of respect as it is enabling and as such it generates loyalty

Opportunity to learn – People have different learning types, some learn better from reading, some from listening, some from practice – sending the whole team on a rigid training course is not necessarily the best approach

Opportunity to make mistakes – we try to avoid this but mistakes are a part of life. They are also one of the most powerful ways to learn so when they happen, embrace them and make the most of a bad situation.

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