At the Design for Manufacturing Summit #7, Munro explained that his company works with major manufacturers in almost every field, helping them to simplify designs, reduce variability in parts and increase profit. He gave the event’s keynote, arguing that for people making things, much of the money to be saved can be found in smart design — in designing things right the first time.
Much of what Munro’s firm does, he said, is help companies find ways to use less labor, less material, less time and therefore more profit. Munro worked at Ford Motor Company during the years when it was at its strongest. He made the point that much of this related to design for manufacturing. He illustrated this by showing all the parts for a bumper on GM’s Grand Prix and all the parts on the bumper of Ford’s comparable car, the Taurus. The Grand Prix’s had 104 parts and a manufacturing line that cost $17.2 million. The Taurus’s had 15 parts and a line that cost $2.1 million.
Here are some takeaways from Munro’s keynote:
- Before Ford got serious about design, it would go after the largest cost centers when it needed to boost profitability, whether it was labor or the head of a factory. In reality, the problems lie in the design side, which only cost 5 percent of total costs upfront but yielded a ton of cost problems down the line. “If you want to find the weak link, look at the things that seem to be insignificant,” Munro said.
- “Function is easy. Any moron can make something work,” he said. “Making it so that it’s profitable, that’s hard.”
- As variation is reduced, quality will be increased. The place to reduce variation is in design.
- Walking through case studies, Munro illustrated how design improvements tend to result in fewer parts, less material and less weight.
- Fasteners, bolts and springs are often useless parts. He pointed to stereo lithography (a kind of 3D printing that recently became available as a consumer product) as a way that’s made it possible to turn several parts into one.
Throughout his presentation, Munro cited the work of his mentor at Ford Motor Company, W. Edwards Deming. With nearly 40 years of experience in industry, Munro said he has seen companies get design right and then let their own success steer them back in the wrong direction, saying, “It’s amazing how incredibly stupid we are in learning and forgetting the same rules over and over again.”