In the era of generation Y, a famed footwear company saw its growth floundering. What seemed to be a fleeting episode, went on to be a lesson for many (even today). For a two-digit scorer, growth rate at snaillike speed was a matter of concern. From rethinking branding strategies and campaigns to inspecting the supply chain management, no stone was left unturned. But what was to be discovered was beyond the scope of the stakeholder’s wildest imagination-the shoe prodigy was disturbing the mortality rate of a third world country!
Daily wage laborers employed at plants (which closely monitored working conditions) were experiencing prolonged bout of illness, eventually succumbing to death. It initially seemed to be a geographical phenomenon, but growth rates and depleting workforce said otherwise. On inspection, a new line of fast-selling product was found guilty. The material used to manufacture the ‘newest’ line of shoes in reaction to a certain chemical was brutally affecting the worker’s lungs. A ‘known reaction’ which had skipped the eyes of both designers and quality checkers. What followed was only natural- social activists, law suits…prolonged loss. But as the saying goes, “Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit”, the conglomerate started from scratch. Today, they are termed as a company which ‘sustainably innovates’.
Taking a leaf out of their book
But what happened could have been avoided…right at the stage of design. Parameters could have been set, adherence to them could have been monitored, as manual checking always has scope for errors. Some would say, “Let’s blame innovation”. Others would ask, “Are your innovations sustainable?” Some others would even say – “What has design to do with this?”. Questions about compromising dependability for innovation arises. Amidst this roaring debate, the designer has design cycle, achievability, profitability and the like on mind.
Envision this, fixing lubricant strainers is detested by repairmen worldwide. Blistering engines in congested space often has service centers wishing for it to be in an accessible location. Innovating to grant their wish would mean compromising on quality (as gravity pulls down heavy mote of dust, as a result of which, the lubricant strainer would fail to capture them). Which one would you choose-Innovation or dependability?
For a designer, the following is a large part of constant dilemma-
- Your designs would rank your performance. Manufacturability of a part would (partly) weigh your performance. Skipping standard (zillion) parameters would put your designs in bad light.
- Your designs would have to meet the need of the organization (or, customers) and should be able to compete with the competitor’s product.
- Your design cannot propel the product to cross the budgetary boundaries established by the organization. It has to consider possibilities which might add to the cost of the product.
- Your design should be able to meet production deadlines. A repetitive design cycle is appreciated by none.
- Your designs should be able to achieve the calculated objectives established my management.
As if the expectation of being innovative and reliable wasn’t enough!
A big win-win
This constant pressure delays design progress. Revisiting standard and domain specific parameters in the course of design would further detain the cycle of actualization. At times like these, we need to provide design engineers the assistance they need as early in the design cycle as possible to –
- Provide an indication that the design meets the recommended best practices of the organization
- Watch out for any unanticipated errors even experts may with regards to manufacturability, etc. while focusing on functional design and innovation
- Anticipate the constant demanding nature of a designer’s job and therefore, provide seamless upgrades
- Anticipate pressurizing work conditions and therefore, updates designers in real-time….
- Help new design engineers learn on the job
Have you looked at DFMPro?