DESIGN FOR MANUFACTURABILITY IN CHINA

DESIGN FOR MANUFACTURABILITY IN CHINA: THE 9 RULES

1. DFM is not a Sauce

A basic rule of Design For Manufacturability (DFM) is that 60% of the unit cost of a product is decided during architecture, and 30% in design and testing, leaving only 10% for the NPI stage. As they say at Toyota: ‘‘Improvements at the planning and design stage are ten times more effective than at the manufacturing stage.’’

China’s ecosystem for electronic components is unparalleled in its completeness and price competitiveness. Designing your electronic product without information on what components are available in China means you’re missing a lot of crucial information, which necessarily means sub-optimal decisions.

If 90% of a product’s design is already done, tested and validated, you can hire a really smart China manufacturability consultant, but there is only so much he can do, because 90% of the cost is frozen already.

Titoma-Product-Development-Law-3 DFM is not a sauce

2. Use off-the-shelf Components wherever possible

Standard components are readily available, with stable quality and dimensions. Any engineer should use them wherever he can. Yet somehow quite a few Western companies still wait 8 weeks and pay a $250 K set-up fee for a custom LCD, when in China almost any display imaginable is readily available, mature and at very low cost. It may seem quick to base your design on Digikey’s online catalog, but electronic product architecture done without good knowledge of China’s ecosystem of components suppliers leads to an uncompetitive Bill Of Materials (BOM). This will likely necessitate a drastic redesign later on.

Titoma-Product-Development-Law-1 - Use off-the-shelf components

3. No Country beats China on Custom Parts

Every electronic product needs custom parts, the housing and the PCB for example. China’s ecosystem for electronic components is unmatched for all parts which need to be customized, or designed from scratch. Chinese injection molds are a lot more affordable and faster to make than in the US. The same goes for PCB’s, batteries, camera modules, cable trees, hinges and packaging etc.. However, it can be tricky to select a vendor for custom parts. Often there are no ready products you can compare on quality, price and lead-time, so it can take quite a bit of trial and error to finally settle on a roster of dependable vendors. When manufacturing electronics in China it’s often best to use recommendations from someone you trust, for example your final assembly factory.

Titoma Product Development China Law 2

4. Do final assembly close to your vendors

Each custom part is a new product, with prototypes, pilot runs and deviations to be worked out. When a number of first-run parts from different vendors need to play nice together in your assembly, the possibilities for problems multiply. If you’re in Shenzhen, China you can send a faulty batch right back, and receive new or reworked samples the next day. Design adjustments will have to be made, and somehow most factories feel it’s more convenient if the other vendor takes on the hassle and expense of changing his design, so quite a bit of negotiation is needed. Having everybody around the same table, preferably speaking Chinese, does help to speed things up.

Titoma Product Development Law 4 - Do final assembly close to your vendors

5. Involve key suppliers early in the design

There is no universal Design For Manufacturability, there is only optimization for the particular factory which makes the part. Ensure that each custom part of your design fits well with the machines, capabilities and preferences of the factory you’re working with, and you will save yourself a lot of hassle later on.

No factory knows camera modules better than the factory who is about to make it for you. Not involving them in the customization of your custom camera module would be foolish. The problem is factories will only seriously invest their time in optimizing your design if they trust you to get the job. You need to grow trust and mutual understanding with time and lots of interaction. Rather than jumping to a different supplier to save a few cents, we recommend early involvement of a stable roster of suppliers, close to the assembly factory. This will get you to a reliable product a lot faster.

Titoma Product Development Law 5 - Involve key suppliers early in the design

6. Find a Right-Sized Factory

Final assembly is where everything comes together, including any potential problems. You need to find a manufacturer for whom you are important enough for the boss to show up when you visit. Your annual spend should ideally not be less than 10% of their total sales. And be realistic about your forecast: a disappointed factory will quickly become decidedly less responsive. Any project will have problems starting out, Murphy’s law is in full force here. The speed with your factory will fix the issues depends almost entirely on how important you are to the factory.

Titoma Product Development Law 6 - Right Sized Factory

7. Don’t bank on a factory prioritizing design work

Every factory boss has 1 clear priority: keep production lines humming. Most factories do not have too many manufacturing engineers to begin with, and if an important production order has the slightest problem, these engineers will immediately be assigned to fix just that.

Working endlessly on the bugs of a new product, of a new client, is certainly not their top concern. This is not short-sightedness specific to Chinese factories, the manager of a US-owned factory also needs to meet his quarterly targets. The team you meet on intake may impress you with their experience and skill. But if your “shared resource” Project Manager also works on a Cisco project with manufacturing issues, it will take a long time to get your emails answered.

Titoma Product Development Law 7 - Don’t bank on a high design factory

8. Protect your IP, but don’t over-worry

Protecting Intellectual Property (IP) is an important issue in China. At Titoma and we employ quite a few strategies to ensure this. Since our start in 2001, we have yet to experience a problem. At the same time, you also should not exaggerate the risk. Not all new products become mega-sellers, and so nobody will invest time and money in copying a new, unproven product. Once the product is a market success, everybody can have it copied. Manufacturing electronics in the US can actually work against you here, because the resulting higher retail price signals more margin potential for low-cost imitators.

Titoma Product Development Law 8- Protect your IP, but don’t over-worry

9. Ramp up carefully

There is always a lot of pressure to get a new product on the market ASAP, but ramping up step by step is the only way to go if you want to avoid a Samsung style recall. No matter how much you test a product in the labs, there is nothing like placing real pilot run samples in the hands of actual end-users. Murphy’s law lurks in all sorts of dark corners. It is best to start with 20 pcs, then 200 then 2,000.

To make a pilot run representative, make sure all the components and parts you’re using are supplied by the same vendors used for Mass Manufacturing.

Titoma Product Development Law 9 - Ramp up carefully

INSIGHTS

GET IN TOUCH

United States of America

Taiwan (Headquarters)

Case Engelen - Taiwanese Representative for Titoma Product Development

Case Engelen, CEO
rfq@titoma.com
+886 2 8698 1249
18F, No.75, Xintai 5th Rd.,Section1, XiZhi 22101 Taiwan
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The Netherlands

Stef Traa - Your Dutch Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Stef Traa
stef.traa@titoma.com
+31 6 2939 8629
Camperstraat 14
1091 AE Amsterdam,
Netherlands

Switzerland

Ronald Hartmann - Swiss Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Ronald Hartmann
ronald.hartmann@titoma.com
+41 21 801 63 70
Route de la Gare 9, 1131 Tolochenaz, Switzerland

France

Allain Traverso - Case Engelen - French Representative for Titoma Product Development

Alain Traverso
alain.traverso@titoma.com
+33 954252001
Ter Rue du President Wilson 57, 78230 Le Pecq, France

United Kingdom

Tim Pepper - UK Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Tim Pepper
tim.pepper@titoma.com
+44 7776 142228
Ash House Business Centre, TW2 5RF Twickenham, UK

Italy

Daniele Fulingo - Italian Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Daniele Fuligno
daniele.fuligno@titoma.com
+39 335 307 196
via Carnevali 6, PU 61100 Pesaro, Italy

Sweden

Markus Olson - Swedish Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Markus Olsson
markus.olsson@titoma.com
+46 763187952
Sofierogatan 1, SE-21217 Malmö, Sweden

Colombia

Soleyda Manrique - Colombian Representative for Titoma Product Development in China

Soleyda Manrique Naranjo
soleyda.manrique@titoma.com

+57 312 774 9772

75A-33 Carrera 21, Manizales, Colombia

China

Howell Wang - Chinese Representative for Titoma Product Development

Howell Wang
howell.wang@titoma.com
+86 755 2876 5963
1571, 1002 Keyuan Road, 518054 Shenzhen,China