By Edward Vinarcik
Product cost stems from design. A skilled manufacturer may be able to reduce scrap and optimize production processes to achieve near ideal efficiency, but the cost of a product never can be reduced further without improving the design. Major reductions in product cost only can be attained through critical and intentional design efforts.
During design, the best way to minimize cost is to keep the design simple by first minimizing the number of unique components and then assuring that the remaining components are easy to manufacture and assemble. Engineers and designers must be aware that every time a part is integrated into another, at least one manufacturing operation or process is eliminated. In most cases, several operations are eliminated along with the support activities associated with each component.
Hidden Costs in Every Part
Every component has a cost associated with it. Often the cost is quantified by looking at the price of the raw material, but this quantification is over simplified and leaves out much of the true financial burden. When looking at the life cycle of a component from a total cost standpoint, every component is:
- sourced to an internal or external supplier;
- assembled into the final product.
Once a product is no longer being manufactured, the financial burden continues. Products in the field must still be serviced. Service parts must be packaged and warehoused—sometimes for years—before they are shipped to the customer.
From a quality standpoint, every component adds risk. Fewer parts means fewer things can go wrong during manufacturing, and fewer things can go wrong once the product is in the field. Every quality issue or problem carries a financial burden whether it is fixed or not.
When determining product cost, remember to look beyond the material cost. The total financial burden of every component is made up of much more.
Analysis methods have been developed to assist engineers and designers in the evaluation of products to determine if components may be integrated. The application of these methods is commonly referred to as Design for Assembly or Integrated Design.
Three key areas affect component integration:
- movement for function;
- material type for function;
- service needs.
Component Integration Via Metalcasting
Choosing a manufacturing process often is the next hurdle to component integration. Many manufacturing processes are limited in their ability to produce complex geometries. Some processes require the use of many individual parts, which must be assembled into the final component. Other processes require costly secondary operations. In order to realize the benefits of integration, a flexible process is required.
Few manufacturing methods offer the flexibility obtained using cast metal technologies. All casting processes produce near net shape components and offer engineers the ability to go to a finished component in sometimes as little as one step. Extremely complex component geometries can be cast in one piece. As a result, secondary operations, such as machining, may be minimized or eliminated entirely. METAL
Edward Vinarcik is a product engineer for a major automotive Tier One supplier.