Secret Sauce that Doubles Profits

Last month a group of engineers met secretly to reinvent the US economy one company at a time.  Here are some of the players, maybe you’ve heard of them:

Alcoa, BAE, Boeing, Bose, Covidien, EMC, GE Medical, GE Transportation, Grundfos, ITT, Medrad, Medtronic, Microsoft, Motorola, Pratt & Whitney, Raytheon, Samsung, Schneider Electric, Siemens, United Technologies, Westinghouse, Whirlpool.

Presenter after presenter the themes were the same: double profits, faster time to market, and better products – the triple crown of product development. Magic in a bottle, and still the best kept secret of the product development community. (No sense sharing the secret sauce when you can have it all for yourself.)

Microsoft used the secret sauce to increase profits of their hardware business by $75 million; Boeing recently elevated the secret methodology to the level of lean. Yet it’s still a secret.

What is this sauce that doubles profits without increasing sales?  (That’s right, doubles.) What is this magic that decreases time to market? That reduces engineering documentation? That reduces design work itself? What is this growth strategy?

When trying to spread it on your company there are some obstacles, but the benefits should be enough to carry the day.  First off, the secret sauce isn’t new, but double the profits should be enough to take a first bite.  Second, its name doesn’t roll off the tongue (there’s no sizzle), but decreased time to market should justify a taste test. Last, design engineering must change its behavior (we don’t like to do that), but improved product functionality should be enough to convince engineering to swallow.

There are also two mapping problems: First, the sauce has been mapped to the wrong organization – instead of engineering it’s mapped to manufacturing, a group that, by definition, cannot do the work. (Only engineering can change the design.) Second, the sauce is mapped to the wrong word – instead of profit it’s mapped to cost.  Engineering is praised for increased profits (higher function generates higher profits) and manufacturing is responsible for cost – those are the rules.

With double profits, reduced time to market, and improved product function, the name shouldn’t matter. But if you must know, its name is Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DFMA), though I prefer to call it the secret sauce that doubles profits, reduces time to market, and improves product function.

4 Responses to “Secret Sauce that Doubles Profits”

  • It is a mystery that DFMA has not caught on like wildfire, just on its merits, even with it being treated as nearly a secret among the successful players. I often wonder how so many people can pore over newsletters on penny stocks, hidden oil reserves in hidden states, follow every word from financial gurus on cable stations, buy so many books on getting rich, attend conferences for helping inventors–and then overlook years of solid published data on how to double profits in product design. Sure, there are the cultural barriers between departments, I guess. But if we believe as a nation that we are innovators, then why have an OEM-supplier bidding system, for instance, that belongs to the early part of the last century and doesn’t reduce costs, improve design and generate profits right at the concept stage? Anyway, more education is apparently necessary—as is more effort at finding the language that will make people sit up and notice the real opportunity DFMA presents. Good job, Mike.

  • Mike, A well written article, it kept my attention and gives a great perspective of the importance of DFMA.

    Rentapen is a machine design company that helps companies increase profits through economic fixture designs.

    We are also finding that manufacturers are more often trying to make their weld fixtures easy to change over for production of more than one product line. So the product engineers are often having to keep in mind producing product B on the same fixtures as product A as much as possible.

  • Francois Houde:

    Just recently joined the DFMA discussion group. and I have some questions. Mainly on how best to get started in learning about DFMA and eventually working on implementing DFMA practices in our company. The idea of DFMA (or any of the DFM___,S for that matter) has been making its way around our company for some times now but apart from agreeing on it being a lot of Common sense we have problems overcoming the silo effect between departments and all the communication problem related to it. Any advice on these matters would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Mike:

    On learning about DFMA, here’s a link to a short paper with some definitions:
    What is DFMA..

    On breaking down silos, here are a couple links :
    What is a DFMA culture?
    What we can learn from balsamic vinaigrette
    Who owns cost?

    Please send an email with more questions ( or reply to this comment.

    Best regards,

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Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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